Drama and history in a southern Wanganui farmscape

This photo of a pastoral farm is taken from the roadside of State Highway 3, about 10km south-east of Wanganui City [click here for location]. Hollows in the irregularly formed hillsides attract shadows which gives the landscape an alluring sculptural form, and hints at an intriguing geological history … perhaps the effects of volcanic activity? Like most of New Zealand’s landscapes, these contours would have only begun to be revealed when the thick forest that clothed the lowlands throughout the country was cut and burnt by European settlers to make way for farming and settlements from the 184os onwards.

Scatterings of indigenous trees and crack willows hug a small stream which flows through the valley through the pasture, while sheep graze in the foreground.

This farm is only a short distance north of Marangai, where a blockhouse (a defensive fortification built to protect against Maori warring parties, complete with musket firing holes) was built by settler John Cameron in 1868, and still stands today [click here to see photos]. Marangai was also the scene of a momentous New Zealand first: kiwifruit – now a major horticultural export – were first grown at the Allison family homestead from seed brought from China in 1904. Today this landscape is no longer the setting for such momentous events, but its landscapes have retained the ability to impress with their own intrinsic qualities and history.

Photo: C. Knight

Source: East of Whanganui, Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand

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