Our "front lawn" today

Our “front lawn” today

In New Zealand, we have recently experienced one of the most prolonged periods of drought since records began, and a number of regions in New Zealand have now been declared as officially in drought. We live in Kapiti, a coastal area where there is less rain and more sun than many parts of New Zealand. On top of that, we have very sandy, porous soils, which makes growing some things quite challenging. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

rat eating egg

Black rat eating a thrush egg

This dramatic photograph shows a black rat eating a thrush egg. This common rat species (Rattus rattus, otherwise known as a bush, roof or ship rat) is one of three that has long made its home in New Zealand. (more…)

Christchurch, 1860, showing Avon River in the middle ground and Worcester Bridge in the background. Alexander Turnbull Library, ref. 1/2-022720-F

Christchurch, 1860, showing Avon River and Worcester Bridgein the middle ground. Alexander Turnbull Library, ref. 1/2-022720-F

I have been trawling historic newspapers in Papers Past in my efforts to research early European attitudes to New Zealand’s rivers. In the course (unintended pun) of doing so, I stumbled upon a report on the drainage of the city, submitted to the Christchurch City Council in 1864 by the City Surveyor. It is illuminating given the city’s struggle with flooding following the Canterbury earthquakes. (more…)

Avon River, Christchurch

A “pleasant” river, complete with punts: Avon River through Christchurch

Reading Andrew McRae’s paper “Fluvial Nation: rivers, mobility and poetry in Early Modern England”, I was struck by its opening statement.

In 1665, the speaker of the House of Commons, addressing the King and Parliament reflected that: “Cosmosgraphers do agree that this Island is incomparably furnished with pleasant Rivers, like Veins in the Natural Body, which conveys the Blood into all the Parts, whereby the whole is nourished, and made useful.” (more…)

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