The church that moved: Wildbore cache no. 4

St Aidans Church Awahou.jpgThe fourth cache in the now “Wildly-Famous-in-Pohangina” Wildbore geocaching series is at the top of Church Hill, near the site of the eponymous church.

By the end of the 19th century, the  population of Awahou, on the eastern side of Pohangina River, had grown to a healthy number, and the community felt it was high time for a church to service the Awahou community.

St. Aidan’s Church was opened in November 1902, a modest but attractive timber church accommodating 74 people. Continue reading

Hauling logs across Te Awaoteatua Stream: Wildbore cache no. 3

Hauling log Te Awaoteatua Stream.jpg
Horses pulling a milled log across the Te Awaoteatua Stream bridge at the bottom of Church Hill, Awahou. The man sitting on the front of the log is Mat Mai, Wildbore’s brother-in-law. The brakeman at the back is Trevor Madson. Date unknown. Palmerston North Library.

The third cache in the Wildbore geocache series is hidden near the site of this photograph, taken by Charles E. Wildbore, showing two Valley men  pulling a milled log across the Te Awaoteatua Stream bridge at the bottom of Church Hill, Awahou.

The road down to the stream was realigned in the late 1960s/early 1970s, but it can still be seen in the face of the hill when looking north from the bridge (it is also visible as a contour in Google maps). 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

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

Environmental history in NZ: seven reasons why it’s important

This image taken by Charles E. Wildbore circa 1907 shows the rural mail delivery that operated in the Pohangina Valley. The background of scorched, leafless tree trunks and limbs draws the eye of the environmental historian. Palmerston North City Library, ID 2007N_Poh2_RTL_0852
This image taken by Charles E. Wildbore circa 1907 shows the rural mail delivery that operated in the Pohangina Valley. It is the background of scorched, leafless tree trunks and limbs that draws the eye of the environmental historian, rather than the mail cart or people in the foreground. Palmerston North City Library, ID 2007N_Poh2_RTL_0852

Why should we study New Zealand’s environmental history? and how is it different from “conventional” history?

These are the questions that Paul Star asks in his essay entitled Environmental history and New Zealand history, first written in 2008, but recently republished on Environment and Nature in New Zealand.

Star offers seven compelling reasons why it is important. And of course, the key difference between environmental history and history is that while people are the central players in conventional history, the relationship between people and the environment is the focus in environmental history. Continue reading

Views of Kapiti 9: clouds over bush-clad hills

Clouds over WaterstoneIn another instalment in the sporadic series “Views of Kapiti”, this was a shot I took from the housing estate I live in, while out walking my baby daughter (to sleep).

I found the vivid “tri-colour” effect of this shot pleasing: the green of the regenerating bush of the Paraparaumu Scenic Reserve [click here to view map]; the white of the cumulonimbus cloud against the blue of the sky. Continue reading