A farm of scorched forest – Wildbore cache no.7

No. 1 Line
The Neilson Farm on No. 1 Line, Awahou in 1896. Photographed by Charles E. Wildbore. Palmerston North Library.

Number 7 in the Wildbore geocache series is on No. 1 Line on the eastern side of the Pohangina Valley.  It was on No. 1 Line that Charles E. Wildbore took one of his earliest surviving landscape photographs, in 1896. The photograph starkly captures the brutal transformation of the landscape by fire. A farmhouse is surrounded by the incinerated limbs and trunks of the forest trees, that until only a few years previously covered the hills and river terraces of the entire valley. While we cannot see this from the photograph, this would likely have been a landscape of oppressive silence – any birds that were able to escape the conflagration would likely have taken refuge in the nearby Ruahine foothills, while introduced birds, such as the sparrow, thrush and blackbird were yet to colonise the valley in substantial numbers. Continue reading

“Ghost bridge” – Wildbore cache no. 2

Old and new Raumai Bridge 1973.jpg
The old and new Raumai Bridges in 1973, before the old bridge was demolished. This view is looking north-west from No.4 Line. Palmerston North Library courtesy Manawatu Evening Standard

Those who have travelled up the eastern side of Pohangina Valley, to visit Totara Reserve, for example, will have crossed the Raumai Bridge. Those with more life experience may also the old Raumai Bridge, a bridge with a troubled past. Continue reading

Reading the landscape via photographs of the past

In a post last week I talked about my next book project, a book entitled WILDBORE: A photographic legacy, showcasing the photographs of pioneering farmer and bee-keeper of the Pohangina Valley.

One of Charles E. Wildbore’s most evocative images (in a desolate kind of way) is this one of men getting ready to cart sleepers from Crown-owned reserve land in Pohangina Valley to the nearby railway station at Ashhurst. This road borders what is today known as Totara Reserve (originally set aside by the government for its timber), and is in fact not far from where I live. The other day, I drove up to the road in an effort to find the exact place he took the photograph – and was excited to locate it with relative ease. Well almost – judging from the terrain, the alignment of the road today is just to the south of its original route, on slightly higher ground.

Opawe Road 1904 Continue reading

‘A vision to restore the environment’: how history helps us make sense of the present

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Minister for the Environment, David Parker, speaking about his passion – the environment – at last month’s launch of “Beyond Manapouri”

Earlier this month, the Minister for the Environment David Parker made an address to the Forest & Bird annual conference entitled “A vision to restore the environment”. I was delighted to see he made reference to my book Beyond Manapouri, and how history helps us put events today into context.  Here is an excerpt of his speech, which can be read in full on the Beehive website:

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at the launch of Catherine Knight’s new book Beyond Manapouri – 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand. Continue reading

Exploring our environmental history though the remarkable photos of Wildbore

Bush-whacker camp

Now that ‘Beyond Manapouri’ is safely out into the world, some of you may have been wondering what my next book project is.

Well, since you asked ;-), it is a book exploring the life and works of a man called Charles E. Wildbore, who emigrated to New Zealand as a boy in 1874, and settled in the newly-opened Pohangina Valley, in the Manawatu. Wildbore was unremarkable in many ways. Like many other settlers of this era, he and his wife Jane owned a small farm, with a small herd of dairy cows, and some chickens. He also had an apiary and produced honey for the local market.

But what does make Wildbore remarkable are his photographs. Continue reading