Turakina – does the Celtic tradition live on in the landscape?

Though I am not entirely sure what it is, there is something about the landscape south of Wanganui that I find quite alluring: perhaps the sculpted curves of the hilly terrain, which is largely pasture, but scattered with clusters of indigenous bush. My attraction to this landscape was explored in another post Drama and history in a southern Wanganui farmscape. This photo was taken just south of the southern Wanganui town of Turakina [click here to view location].Turakina was an old Maori settlement; its name derived from the Turakina River, which cuts its passage to the sea after its journey west from its source in Mount Ruapehu. Turakina was developed into a small town after government purchased the Rangitīkei Block in 1849, and was renamed Lethbridge after a local settler, from 1876 to 1925. The first European settlers were Gaelic-speaking Scots, who started settling in the area from the early 1800s, and the town still has a strong Celtic feel. Rightly or wrongly, the Scottish are known in New Zealand for their conservationist values, and it could be that it is for this reason that pockets of indigenous bush have still survived in the hollows and small valleys created by the hilly topography.

Postscript: After writing this post, I dipped into David Young’s environmental history tome, “Our Islands, Our Selves”, and noted this passage in an inset on page 117: “Descendants of the Scots who settled in the Wanganui area left a number of outstanding reserves. There are several up the Turakina Valley and more at nearby Hunterville. None is insignificant and one, Sutherland [Scenic Reserve], is almost 70 hectares.”

Photo: Bush remnants among the pasture of a farm beside State Highway 3. The effects of the prevailing wind from the sea, cutting along the ridgeline, can be seen in the small trees – probably manuka – standing isolated on the ridge (photo: C. Knight).

See also: Were the Scottish really greener? The place of an echo – Putaringamotu (Deans Bush)

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

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