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The Chestnuts of Arthur Circus

Take any walking tour of Hobart and chances are you will find yourself in Battery Point wandering around Arthur Circus, a quaint little village green, surrounded by a circular row of historic cottages.

It’s as English as a cottage garden can get, with two huge chestnut trees and a pretty little garden, surrounded by a tiny one-way circular street.

However, it wasn’t too long ago that it was a treeless bit of lawn, with power pole, a few seats and a children’s swing. The old photos show that you could also drive right through it.

The two horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) are a beautiful addition to this old world setting and look like they have always been there. Planted around 1960, they have a beautiful form and have grown to be a significant feature of the park.

The trees are listed on the significant tree register and protected for the values they bring to the historic area and the local community. The third chestnut which unfortunately died, has been replanted with the original species, and although small, by comparison, is growing well.

It’s a common misconception that to be on the register a tree needs to be of historic value. However, trees can be added because they are recognised for the use, character and value that they bring to an urban environment. A tree can be added because it has local significance, because it is rare or unusual, or because of outstanding aesthetic significance. Anyone can make a nomination for a tree, groups of trees or hedges on public or private property, as long as the tree or trees are within the City of Hobart municipality.

Many trees have been successfully added to the list based on the nominations from members of the public, a process which is undertaken every three to five years. In the last round of recent applications, an additional 66 trees have been added to the register, which adds protection through the planning scheme.

Although the old historic photos are fascinating to look back on, they are also a stark reminder of just how barren a streetscape can be without trees in it. The chestnut trees of Arthur Circus are a wonderful example of just how different the village green would have looked today if they had never been planted.

Planting the right trees in this urban environment has not only added more charm to an already charming location, but the protections afforded by the significant tree register ensure they can remain a feature of this area for generations to come.

Image credits: Arthur Circus – UTAS Dennison Collection and Libraries Tasmania Digital Online Collection