The school that moved: Wildbore geocache no. 1

Awahou South School 1909
Teacher and pupils at Awahou South School, No. 4 Line, 1909. Palmerston North Library. Left to right: Norah Callesen, Annie Millen, Eileen Lynch, Kate Henson, Agnes Spelman, Kathleen (Gay) Spelman, Adelia (Delia) Spelman, Olive Hunt, Mary Leamy, Eileen Spelman, Mary Wellock, Albery Henson, Oscar (Tui) Callesen, Bernard Spelman, Unknown (Delph Spelman?), Tom Leamy, Cliff Spelman, Unknown x2, Henry Hunt. Teacher: Mr Lewis.

In 1977, an entire school house moved from its existing location on a country road in the shadow of the Ruahine Range in the Manawatu to the main street of Palmerston North City, nearly 30 kilometres away. To be fair, it was just a one-room school house, one of just over 40 square metres. The school was built in 1902, to take pupils within a 10-mile radius, who travelled to school by foot or pony. When it opened, it had a roll of 20, and by 1907, the number had increased to 32. Many of the early teachers were young and inexperienced. One teacher was only 16 years old, just two years older than the oldest pupil. As transport improved and numbers of children in the area declined, the roll dwindled and had reached single figures by the 1970s.

In 1972, it was closed, when it was amalgamated with Komako School on the Awahou North School site as Awahou School (which is still operating today with a roll of 40-plus students). In 1977, the school house was moved to the Manawatu Museum location as a typical example of one-room country school, where it remains today (Wildbore geocache 16).

Awahou South School in situ.jpeg
A child sitting on the war memorial at the entrance to the school. Likely taken between 1972, when the school was closed and 1977, when the school house was relocated. Manawatu District Library.

It has a high stud and steep roof, a fireplace, a porch in which children hung their coats, and windows so high that inattentive children could not gaze out. The classroom was tiered with the primer children sitting at the front. Behind the school there were outbuildings and a shelter shed in which the children could eat their lunch and play in wet weather. The horse paddock occupied one side of the grounds (and still does!)

Today the site is marked only by a World War One memorial, where the community holds Anzac commerations most years.

There is a geocache hidden near this site, one of a series celebrating the life and photography of Charles E. Wildbore.

Wildbore Cover webNever tried geocaching? You can join for free at – it is a great way to spend some time on a weekend, with kids or without! To find the coordinates and other information about this geocache on the site, click on “Filter” and search for “Wildbore 1”. If you are quick, you may even get the prized FTF (First to Find)!

Find out more about Wildbore: A photographic legacy and how to purchase a copy at the Totara Press site (scroll down to bottom of page).

Sources: New Zealand Museums website and Awahou South School information sheet, Palmerston North Archives.

See also: The story of how we discovered geocaching for the first time: Hidden Treasure at Otaki Gorge

6 thoughts on “The school that moved: Wildbore geocache no. 1

  1. envirohistorynz July 8, 2018 / 10:49 am

    Wow! This cache was found only a couple of hours after going live – by long-time, globe-trotting geocacher, Huhugrub. Good job, Huhugrub!

  2. huhugrub July 8, 2018 / 9:56 pm

    We are delighted to be the First to Find of the Wildbore 1 geocache. We were staying in Palmerston North, so it did not take us long to travel to Ashhurst this morning, taking the route likely to be the reverse of the journey the schoolhouse took back in 1977. We enjoy geocaching, since it takes us to interesting places we would otherwise not know anything about. Our first time to visit Awahou South Road … learning the history and admiring the scenery as we go.

    • envirohistorynz July 9, 2018 / 11:20 am

      Thank you for your comments, Huhugrub. Yes, geocaching is indeed a fantastic way to explore the country (and others too), get off the beaten track a bit, and learn about a place’s history and other features. We like the fact that it is something we can do with the kids too. We discovered geocaching completely by chance a number of years ago (at Otaki River’s “scary bridge”), see: and have been into it ever since. Hopefully you have the opportunity to come up this way again to find our other Wildbore caches once they are up and running.

Do you have any thoughts about this post or image?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s