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The rich past and promising future of the Hills District

by Domain on 01 12 2017 in The Orchards

Sydney’s Hills District is well known for its agricultural history but there are some fascinating lesser-known aspects of the northwest region’s past.

The area that stretches from Baulkham Hills in the south to Wiseman’s Ferry in the north was also a place that saw convicts rise up in battle and where a Nobel Prize-winning author resided.

Patrick White lived for many years at Castle Hill in his home known as Dogwoods, which he bought in 1948. White sold the property in 1967 and became Australia’s first recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973.

Castle Hill is also the site of Australia’s first uprising, known both as the Castle Hill rebellion and the Second Battle of Vinegar Hill. In 1804, a group of Irish convicts rebelled against the British with the aim of returning to Ireland to rejoin the struggle against the English. However, the rebel leaders were captured and some were hung without a trial.

Sydney’s third government farm was also built here in 1801, on a site where Castle Hill Heritage Park still exists today. But it is the area’s agricultural heritage of market gardens and orchards for which it’s still best known. This history is reflected in a new development from Sekisui House.

Baulkham Hills-based development, The Orchards is a masterplanned community that will comprise one, two, three and four-bedroom apartments.

Paul Wainwright, sales and marketing operations manager with Sekisui House, says the site is home to one of the first citrus plantations in Australia.

“When we were looking for inspiration, we wanted to pay homage to that history,” he says. “It’s where the name ‘The Orchards’ comes from and you’ll see this history throughout our masterplan. We always design to the natural features of the land and try and make our masterplan sit within nature.”

Wainwright says two rows of orange trees were planted at the display suite and these have been expanded throughout the entire estate.

“Within the apartments on every second level, there are orange trees planted for residents to enjoy,” he says. “And on the roofs of some of the buildings there will be smaller orchards planted. We also show a historical connection through the many walking and cycling trails on the site.”

Sekisui House, senior development manager George Gesouras says the company’s strategy is to regenerate, maintain or plant new trees each year across the globe.

“This is the perfect site to continue with this,” he says. “There are a couple of hundred mature trees that we are maintaining and we are using those natural elements in our design. This ties back to the previous farming and citrus growing of the past.”

The first stage of The Orchards is the Imperial, which is expected to be ready by late 2018. It will feature 121 apartments over two buildings and will be followed by six stages of around 1300 apartments. In keeping with the site’s historical significance, the building will feature vertical orchards that immerse residents and visitors in nature.

“Community amenities include landscaped gardens and rooftop terraces,” Gesouras says. “A rooftop dining area also offers incredible views over the Castle Hill Country Club golf course. We’ve also incorporated the mature and heritage-listed Bunya pine trees near the Country Club that were planted by one of the early pioneers of the citrus industry. These create a boulevard and gateway on the side of the hill.”

The Orchards also features a one and a half hectare public park, playgrounds, green spaces, a lagoon pool, fitness and wellness centre, music room and outdoor cinema. Gesouras adds inspiration in terms of the water and reflectivity was also found in the creek that runs through the site.

Gesouras says the site has been designed to grow with the community and to reflect the northwest region’s expanding social and professional communities. According to the Greater Sydney Commission, the population of the Hills Shire is forecast to grow by 125,350 to 294,000 by 2036.

To cater for the rise in population, the area is undergoing massive infrastructure changes. A new rail station and rail corridor are being built along with commercial and retail developments.

“Within The Orchards we’ve drawn inspiration from many of the natural elements of the site,” Gesouras says. “However, the masterplan not only responds to the changing nature of the area but also to the future needs of the community.”