George Dear in Dear's Bush

George Dear standing on the “bridge” across Maire stream, which runs through one block of the bush preserved by his grandfather in the 1870s.

A few days ago, I had the privilege of visiting a piece of remnant forest on the plains between Manawatu and Rangitikei Rivers [click here to view location]. The bush was set aside by George Dear, an immigrant from Bedfordshire, England, who became one of the first settlers in the Rongotea district. (more…)

My son (3 and a half) requested that we go for a drive this afternoon. I asked where he would like to go, and he said he would like to walk in the forest. (Truly his mother’s son!)

So, we headed into Reikorangi Valley and followed Mangaone South Road, where the southern end of the Mangaone Walkway is accessed. The last time we had explored this track (when my son was about two), we only got as far as the swing bridge (50 metres in), before becoming ensconced by the river, experimenting with the myriad different ways stones can be thrown into the water (<– irony). So no actual bush-walking was undertaken on that occasion. (more…)

It was a rainy afternoon on the last day of 2011, so the family and I went out on a drive into the countryside to get out of the house. We ventured into the Reikorangi hills to the east of Waikanae, and just at the junction of Ngatiawa and Kents Road [click here to view map], came across this paddock with a few scattered kahikatea in it. The trees are too small to be original, but are likely to have spontaneously regenerated after the forest that clothed the hills here was cleared. (more…)

“Round Bush”, an unassuming reserve near the coastal town of Foxton, Manawatu, is a place of great significance – though a casual passer-by would barely notice it, let alone have any sense of this significance.

A description of this remnant swamp forest is thought to be the first recorded account of the botany of the Manawatu. The account was made by E. J. Wakefield, when he passed the mouth of the Manawatu River by ship in February 1840.

He wrote:  “As we ran along within two miles of the shore I saw a remarkable grove of high pine trees, near the mouth of a river called Manawatu, or ‘hold breath’, which flows into the sea about twenty-five miles from Kapiti.” (more…)

I came across this photo on the Manawatu Memory Online site the other day, while looking for an image of early Manawatu history. I was immediately captivated by the image. It is the 1881 photograph of the now long-gone Awapuni Lagoon, located in what is now the south-western corner of Palmerston North city, about where the Awapuni racecourse is today [click here to view map]. (more…)

Driving the route east of Lake Brunner, then back to the coast via State Highway 73 through Taramakau Valley [click here to view map], I was struck by the palpable human imprint even on the most (at first glance) wild and rugged looking landscapes. Through the Taramakau Valley, the hills and mountains on either side of the Taramakau River are so steep that landslips are frequent events, sometimes missing farmhouses perched precariously at the bottom of these slopes by a breathtakingly small margin. (more…)

To call it an “odyssey” is, without question, embellishing slightly, given that it was less than a day. But today, I had the great privilege to travel to the West Coast (Hokitika and Greymouth) for work reasons, and although our time there was regrettably brief, I relished every moment of this beautiful, complex and historically rich landscape. [Photo above: A solitary kahikatea standing by the roadside just before the entrance to the Hokitika Gorge Scenic Reserve (click here to view approximate location).] (more…)

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