Dictionary of Sydney

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Spring Farm

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Spring Farm

Spring Farm is one of the newer suburbs on the south-western rural-urban interface of metropolitan Sydney. It is part of the traditional lands of the Dharawal and Gundungurra people, and is within the Camden local government area. Spring Farm is surrounded by Elderslie to the north, Narellan Vale to the northeast, Mount Annan to the east and South Camden in the south. In 2006 the population of Spring Farm was 287, predominantly made up of young families, with 44 per cent of the population under 25 years of age. The suburb will grow in coming years as an increasing number of new arrivals progressively take up the new land releases for housing.

Spring Farm is predominantly located on the northern floodplain of the Nepean River, where the river forms the southern boundary of the suburb. The westerly flowing river turns northerly in a sweeping bend and creates a picturesque scene from the hills rising from the floodplain. The river frontage Spring Farm floodplain is the pondage from the Camden Weir, just downstream of the Cowpasture Bridge. The tranquil waters are a haven for canoeists and local fishermen after eels and mullet. The gallery of forest along the river's edge provides a haven for bird life and softens the harsh edges of the Macarthur Bridge. And occasionally the lazy mood of the river changes to a torrent in flood after a drenching upstream from moist easterlies. The Camden Bypass, which runs across the Macarthur Bridge, makes up the northern boundary of Spring Farm, while the boundaries to the northeast follow a series of low ridges between Spring Farm and Narellan Vale and Mount Annan.

Early landholders

Spring Farm covers the southern section of John Oxley's land grant of Elerslie (1816) (later Elderslie) of 400 acres (161.8 hectares) and the south-western section of William Howe's grant of Eskdale (1818) of 1214 acres (491.3 hectares), which was later known as Glenlee. There were also nine land grants to smallholders along the floodplain in the western area of Spring Farm (out of a total of 13 small grants in this area). They ranged in size from 40 to 100 acres (16 to 40.4 hectares). The most famous of these smallholders was Thomas 'Paddy' Galvin who, according to Alan Atkinson, had accumulated 270 acres (109.2 hectares) in the area by 1828 – his house was the focal point for Catholic worship up to the 1830s. By the end of the 1820s the remainder of these independent farmers had been wiped out by 'combined forces of free enterprise and drought'. [1]

The Galvin farm is still owned by his descendants and 'is one of the oldest examples of continuous family ownership in Australia', according to one of them, Adrian Nesbitt. The house, dating from the mid-1800s, is built with bricks hand-fired on the property and has a corrugated iron roof and brick chimneys. He states 'the cottage gives me a tactile connection with my ancestors'. Mr Nesbitt recently revisited the house after a number of years' absence and recalled spending many weekend visits with his father during the 1980s. He maintains that 'the closeness to the past does get overwhelming at times'. His son is the seventh generation of the family to come to the cottage. [2]

Farming and industry

Spring Farm has had a long history of industrial, mining and agriculture activity. In the twentieth century (1930s–1970s) there were extensive apple and stone fruit orchards and vineyards along Springs Road and the adjacent floodplain of the Nepean River. The Spring Farm Nepean floodplain has been an ideal location for grape production from the 1800s. Martin Thurn, a vine-cutter who was brought out from Germany by the Macarthurs in 1852, originally put grapes on the site now occupied by Camden Estate Vineyards. In the 1930s and 1940s table grapes were grown and sent to the Sydney markets, as they were from other parts of the Elderslie area. The deep alluvial soil and mild climate are ideally suited to Chardonnay grapes, which were planted on Camden Estate between 1975 and 1988. Greg Penman, the estate owner in the late 1990s, stated that the grapes yielded between four and six tonnes per acre depending on seasonal factors, although he said that the March rains could be an issue. Most of the grapes from the estate vineyard were sent to the Hunter Valley for processing, after which they are blended and bottled. [3]

One of the principal land uses has been the production of poultry: chickens for eggs, and both chicken and turkeys for meat. The Tegel family was one of the major operators from the 1950s, when, according to the Camden Advertiser, they owned eight farms and a breeder hatchery. During the 1970s and 1980s they supplied most of the breeding stock for Inghams, one of Australia's largest poultry producers. Tegel's exported to China, Fiji, New Zealand, New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Other poultry producers included Neville Clinton who owned a turkey farm in the area for over 30 years. The heritage of poultry farming is remembered in the area as several streets carry chicken-related names, including Bantam, Freerange, Cockerel and Dorset, and names of poultry producers, including Tegel and Ingham. [4] Camden Council has had a policy of encouraging themed street names in new suburbs, using Australian native plants in Narellan Vale. [5]

From the early twentieth century, before Camden township was connected to town sewerage, the area along Springs Road was used for the dumping and treatment of night soil. There has been extensive sand mining along the Nepean River floodplain for the Sydney building industry, an activity which still continues today. The Spring Farm floodplain currently contains an area of opencast mining for alluvium adjacent to vineyards and turf farms. Land users would do well to heed the lessons of history that the river taught early settlers and respect its sudden change of mood during flood times.

Spring Farm has also been subject to gas exploration and low pressure gas extraction from coal seam gas. One of the principal industrial activities has been Jacks Gully waste disposal facility which has landfill and a large recycling centre. For many years Springs Road was used for heavy vehicle access to the Glenlee industrial area, which in the past was a major coal washing and loading facility. Currently the site is a local government collection and processing point for garden organics and green waste. Concerns about potential odours were aired at Camden Council in mid-2009 when Landcom was given approval for 166 houses as the Macarthur Resource Recovery Park became fully operational. [6] These industrial and mining land uses have not been without conflict in the past and may pose challenges for users, residents and government in the future as the number of new residents adjacent to these activities increases over time.

Suburban development

The first urban development in Spring Farm in an otherwise rural setting was in the Ettlesdale Road area in the 1960s. The most recent urban development is a series of urban villages conforming to the local environmental plan. [7] The area is planned to have around 3,900 housing lots divided between three separate developers, the Cornish Group with 1,100 lots, Landcom with 1,400 lots and Mirvac with 450 lots. The first estate was opened in 2007 off Richardson Road. By mid-2009 about 50 per cent of new home sales in Spring Farm were to young families who were first-home buyers. The house builders represented included Cosmopolitan, Eden Brae and Masterton, which were erecting single-level houses of between 105 and 210 square metres. [8] These more modest dwellings are a move away from the 'McMansions' which are typical of some of the master-planned estates in the area. The Cornish Group representative Colin Lake has claimed that the new arrivals were attracted by the rural landscape of the Nepean River floodplain, [9] an appeal that still pulls at the heart-strings and plays in the imagination of the city-types who are attracted to a location where 'the country looks like the country'.

Spring Farm also has a number of bushland corridors along the floodplain and the northeast boundary. The bush corridors are linked between William Howe Reserve and Gundungurra Reserve, which in turn connect with the Nepean River. They are intended to protect endangered ecological communities, including Elderslie banksia scrub forest and Cumberland Plain woodland. [10] The bush corridors provide a picturesque setting on the floodplain and along the high points of the ridges and will prove valuable open space as the locality increasingly becomes an extension of Sydney's suburbia.

Spring Farm has been identified by heritage consultants as having a number of built and landscape items of potential heritage significance. Apart from Galvin's farm cottage there are several other cottages, areas of special character and a number of Aboriginal archaeological sites. The western extremity of Spring Farm has been identified as an important cultural landscape within the broader rural environment along the Nepean River floodplain with significant vistas across the floodplain to the Blue Mountains, the Razorback Range, Camden township and the historic colonial property of Camden Park Estate. [11]


Alan Atkinson, Camden Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1988


[1] Alan Atkinson, Camden Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1988, p 30

[2] Adrian Nesbitt, 'A renovation with conviction', Sydney Morning Herald, 14 January 2010, http://www.smh.com.au/action/printArticle?id=1036546, viewed 15 January 2010

[3] Greg Penman, 'Camden Estate Vineyard', Address to Camden Historical Society, 9 June 1999

[4] Alicia Bowie, 'Spring Farm put chicken on the map', Camden Advertiser, 19 September 2007, p 18

[5] Joseph Correy, 'Spring Farm streets pay homage to a plucky past', Macarthur Chronicle Camden Edition, 13 November 2007, p 14

[6] Alicia Bowie, 'Minimal stink as council gives Landcom approval to build houses', Camden Advertiser, 22 April 2009, p 22

[7] Camden Local Environmental Plan 121 – Spring Farm 2004 (NSW)

[8] David Campbell, 'New kids in town', Macarthur Chronicle Camden Edition, 7 April 2009, p 5

[9] 'Spring into autumn', Camden Advertiser, 4 March 2009, p 13

[10] Camden Local Environmental Plan 121 – Spring Farm 2004 (NSW)

[11] Camden Council Development Control Plan 2006, Spring Farm