Heritage of the GreenWay

The lands that the GreenWay now stretches across belong to the Gadigal Wangal people of the greater Eora nation.

Large parts of the GreenWay are on lands now also recognised by the Indigenous name Djarrawunang (Magpie). 

Heritage features along the GreenWay corridor and within the GreenWay catchment include:

  • Aboriginal archaeology and sites along the Cooks River.
  • The central sandstone arch and the balustrade from the original Battle Bridge (Parramatta Road, Haberfield). This is listed as an item of State Significance on the New South Wales Heritage Register.
  • The heritage-listed cast iron sewer pipeline at Hawthorne Canal crossing the pathway at Cadigal Reserve which was built in the 1890s.
  • The two 1880s Whipple Truss bridge sections from the railway viaduct at Lewisham which, when constructed, was the longest in Australia.
  • Depression-era brickwork and stone pavement gardens at Summer Hill Street, Lewisham and Hoskin’s Park.
  • The Rocket in Johnson Park - one of the few remaining examples of this iconic play equipment in Sydney.
  • Remnants of the original bridge in Fred Street.
  • Lewisham West Light Rail. The last remaining siding of the original Goods Line.

Aboriginal country

The cultural history of the GreenWay began tens of thousands of years ago, when Australian aboriginal clans began living in the area.

The GreenWay’s waterways (along with the nearby harbour and Cooks River) would have been a source of water and food. The Long Cove estuary was said to be abundant with oysters. As a physical breach in the geography of the area, Long Cove also formed a natural boundary between the country of the Gadigal and Wangal clans.

As part of the Inner West Council Gadigal Wayfinding project, a study of Aboriginal landscapes, land use, culture and history in the Inner West is being prepared to help guide art installations and other programs and projects, including the GreenWay.


After colonisation, the area assumed importance as a key place along the overland route connecting the earliest settlement at Sydney Cove and the agricultural production land around Parramatta. Initially, and as depicted on the earliest colonial maps, Long Cove Creek was a cartographic feature, representing both a boundary crossing (a creek to be traversed when moving people and goods along the Parramatta route) and a highly sought-after resource (fresh water for agriculture and industry).

For these two reasons, many of the earliest land grants made by the colonial government to military officers and others working in service to the colony were established in and around the Cumberland Lowlands: proximity to the colony’s major trade route, and the fresh water available in the Long Cove Creek and its tributaries.

In the Cooks River catchment at this time, the area around the GreenWay was established as market gardens, relying on fresh water in the creek.

Industrialisation and its infrastructure

Manufacturing and processing operations established themselves in and around the network of pastoral and agricultural properties, continuing to take advantage of the location, and its ease of travel and shipment between Parramatta and Sydney. The diminished environmental state of the Creek and associated lands in the catchment invited more and diverse industrial uses, such as brickworks, tanneries and other equally impactful uses.

However, these industries and businesses also established several overlapping networks of industrial infrastructure and built fabric in support of these enterprises, as well as the growing population in the area.

The first was the creation of a centralised water supply network for the city which, along with a comprehensive sewer network and stormwater enhancements, offered significant improvements to public health and sanitation in and around the Long Cove Creek catchment. Remnants of this infrastructure remain in the GreenWay, including remnants of the first water main from the Nepean, and the earliest transformations of the creek into a concrete stormwater channel.

These improvements to stormwater management eventually led in the 1880’s to the construction of what is now known as the Hawthorne Canal, a navigable channel running from the Harbour to as far south as Marion Street in Haberfield.
Concurrently, increased traffic (both goods and passengers) to and through the area led to more and larger bridges spanning the valley of the creek, for both rail and road traffic – these robust structures contribute to the character of the GreenWay, as it passes under them along its length.

Another major infrastructure development was the construction of the goods line alongside the creek, which commenced operation in 1914. This created the continuous rail corridor that runs from Iron Cove to Dulwich Hill, while also opening up the adjacent industrial and agricultural lands along the catchment of the corridor to increased industrial development.

The Dulwich Hill Public School site was a timber mill in this period. Along the GreenWay, the construction of the myriad mills, silos and factories created a dense industrial fabric that is another one of the defining characteristics of both the Inner West and the GreenWay to this day.

Decline of industry & rise of community stewardship

Eventually, as freight traffic and industrial activity along the Goods Line and in the surrounding catchment declined, the now densely populated neighbourhoods along the corridor were confronted with unused infrastructure and vacant buildings.

Rather than turn their backs on this derelict area, individuals and organisations along the corridor instead increasingly started to view the GreenWay as a community asset, for its industrial character, its heritage significance and its qualities of space and vegetation, both assets in short supply in the Inner West.

Community efforts in bush regeneration and landscape remediation established the corridor as both a genuine connector between various neighbourhoods along its length, as well as the location for active community participation in landscape improvements.

Once again, the physical geography of the corridor has contributed to the formation and operation of the GreenWay, this time with the surrounding communities providing the energy and imagination.

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Page last updated: 07 Oct 2021