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

Talk: A history of the Manawatu River

ashhurst-libraryI will be doing a talk about my book Ravaged Beauty, with a focus on the Manawatu River, at the historic Ashhurst Community Library (seen here in its original form as a post office), on:

Thursday, 20th October at 7pm.

This will possibly be my last talk about my first book, which is fitting, because I lived in Ashhurst when I first conceived on the idea of doing a history of the Manawatu. I also have the last few books left, so it may peoples’ last opportunity to purchase one (at discount, of course).

Look forward to seeing some of you there. Download flyer for talk here.

Ravaged Beauty receives award

coverOn Wednesday night, I received an award from the Palmerston North Heritage Trust for my book Ravaged Beauty: an environmental history of the Manawatu.

From the Heritage Trust’s media release:

“Environmental historian Catherine Knight has won the Palmerston North Heritage Trust’s inaugural award for the best work of history relating to the Manawatu. Ravaged Beauty: An Environmental History of the Manawatu was described by co-judge Jill White as an outstanding winner from the 2013-14 publications considered. Continue reading

Ravaged Beauty talk: Wellington National Library, 23 October

coverA few people have been inquiring whether I will be doing a talk in Wellington about Ravaged Beauty and the environmental history of the Manawatu. The answer is yes.

Other upcoming talks include the following:

  • Kapiti Forest & Bird: 7:30 pm 24 September (today!), Presbyterian Church Hall, Waikanae
  • Otaki Historical Society: 7:30pm 7 October, Otaki
  • National Library Author’s Voice Series: 12:10pm 23 October, National Library, Wellington
  • Mina McKenzie Memorial Lecture: 7 pm 5 November, Te Manawa, Palmerston North
  • Kapiti WEA course: 10am 8 November, Paraparaumu

Continue reading

New book: “Ravaged Beauty” – an environmental history

coverThe long-awaited Ravaged Beauty: an environmental history of the Manawatu is available June 2014
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Ravaged Beauty tells the story of one place, from prehistory to today. But its themes are universal. What motivates the human desire to modify and exploit their natural environment, and have people learned anything from the consequences? Read this new book to find out.
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Only a century and a half ago, the Manawatu was a heavily forested hinterland: the floodplains were a sea of swamps and lagoons, teeming with birdlife, eels and other fish; the hills and terraces were covered with thick impenetrable forest, refuge perhaps to a few lingering moa. Continue reading