“River Birmingham” – a powerful environmental history in a poem

This image courtesy of www.geograph.org.uk, has a caption that reads: The River Rea alongside Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham This section of the Rea is canalised, and has a walkway alongside that nobody uses, people preferring to walk through the park instead.

This image courtesy of http://www.geograph.org.uk, has a caption that reads: The River Rea alongside Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham
This section of the Rea is canalised, and has a walkway alongside that nobody uses, people preferring to walk through the park instead.

In my exploration of different ways of writing about our relationship with the environment, I embarked on a search for poems about rivers. First and foremost, my interest was in poems describing New Zealand rivers, but then I stumbled across a poem by English poet Roy Fisher. Entitled “River Birmingham”, it is the story of the rivers (the River Tame and the River Rea) that run through the highly industrialised city of Birmingham.

This poem is an environmental history. Continue reading

Ikawai: a revelation

lamphrey

A lamprey or pirahau. Photo by Stephen Moore, Department of Conservation

I came to the world of Ikawai rather late. I had dipped into the hefty 800 page volume some time back. What I read was very interesting, but thinking that it was basically an encyclopedia about fish, I had not ventured much further than the introductory chapters.

Recently, my interest in the impact of acclimatisation on Maori led me back to the book. What a revelation! Well actually a series of them. Continue reading

Wild rivers

rafting

River rafting. Source: http://www.riverrats.co.nz

I recently had the great pleasure to read John Mackay’s book “Wild rivers”, published in 1978, in which he recounts with remarkable descriptive detail the rafting adventures he and his mates had during the 1970s. He describes adventures on the Upper Buller Gorge, the middle Clarence, the Motu, the Wanganui, and the Karamea – all undertaken on home-made rafts, constructed using inner tyre tubes, timber and ropes, with accessories such as life-jackets either borrowed or improvised. Continue reading

Treasure in a charred survivor

Bruce Park Reserve06

The kahikatea in which the geocache is hidden. Note the brown char marks around cavity.

On our way back from a recent trip to the Ruapehu Mountain district, we stopped at Bruce Park Reserve, near Hunterville. This was a forest reserve that I had read about in David Young’s conservation history of New Zealand Our Islands, Our Selves, and I had long wanted to visit it. To help entice my husband – an avid geocacher – to stop, I declared “there is sure to be a geocache in there!” Somewhat reluctantly, he relented, but his acquiescence paid off, because this turned out to be his favourite geocache of the trip. Continue reading

The story of the “solitary little trout”

Mr Clark with trout. Ref: 1/1-005184-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

Mr Clark with trout. Ref: 1/1-005184-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

One of the great advantages of the Internet age is that not only is it possible now to find peoples’ PhD theses online, but graduate theses too. In my quest to better understand the acclimatisation of trout and salmon in New Zealand, I came across an honours dissertation by a Canterbury University history student, Jack Kós. Entitled “A most excellent thing”, it documents the introduction of trout to Canterbury in 1867 (the first successful introduction in New Zealand) and the subsequent dissemination of trout throughout New Zealand. Continue reading

Ravaged Beauty talk: Wellington National Library, 23 October

coverA few people have been inquiring whether I will be doing a talk in Wellington about Ravaged Beauty and the environmental history of the Manawatu. The answer is yes.

Other upcoming talks include the following:

  • Kapiti Forest & Bird: 7:30 pm 24 September (today!), Presbyterian Church Hall, Waikanae
  • Otaki Historical Society: 7:30pm 7 October, Otaki
  • National Library Author’s Voice Series: 12:10pm 23 October, National Library, Wellington
  • Mina McKenzie Memorial Lecture: 7 pm 5 November, Te Manawa, Palmerston North
  • Kapiti WEA course: 10am 8 November, Paraparaumu

Continue reading

The illustrious history of canoeing on the Manawatu River

Woman paddling in dugout canoe in Jone's Lagoon, Karere, c1905. Palmerston North City Library, 2007N_Lo27_BRW_0609

Woman paddling in dugout canoe in Jone’s Lagoon, Karere, c1905. Palmerston North City Library, 2007N_Lo27_BRW_0609

One aspect of the Manawatu’s environmental history which I completely neglected in my book Ravaged Beauty: an environmental history of the Manawatu, was recreational canoeing on the Manawatu River. Yet I have since discovered that it had a most illustrious history, according to Murray Fyfe’s history of recreational canoeing in New Zealand, published in 1972. Continue reading