Scorched forest farm – 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

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

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. 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