Touring New Zealand 2019 - part 7
Our intention was to only present a brief summary of the North Island sections of our tour as we expected little new material. However a couple of new themes have developed during our journeys. Firstly New Zealands role in our wars which has lead to visits to some of the coastal defences, museums etc. A second theme has emerged concerning New Zealand Cathedrals and their links through Bishop Selwyn to Lichfield. Both of these areas get full coverage in North Island.
Cook Strait: The weather had improved and the crossing was uneventful, Pete spent most of the time on the computer writing up the last few days
Wellington: We had epic rain in the morning (inches) so we did not go out till after lunch when it started to clear.
Te Papa in the special exhibition "Gallipoli: Spent a fascinating time in Te Papa in the special exhibition "Gallipoli: The scale of our war which tells the story of the Gallipoli campaign in World War I through the eyes and words of eight ordinary New Zealanders who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Te Papa have joined forces with Weta Workshop to create an exhibition like no other combining the world of museums with the world-class creative artistry of Weta Workshop to immerse you in the eight-month Gallipoli campaign. The most eyecatching part is the captures of a few moments of time on a monumental scale – 2.4 times human size. The giant sculptures took a staggering 24,000 hours to create, and countless hours were spent researching their rich histories. But the most interesting to us were the 3-D maps and projections showing the progress of battles along with a multitude of miniatures, models and dioramas that brought New Zealand’s Gallipoli story to life. This was largely the result of use of cutting-edge technologies developed by Weta Workshop best known for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings animations. In total, 2,779 Kiwis lost their lives on Gallipoli, and many others were scarred for ever. Gallipoli: The scale of our war takes you to the core of this defining event. We plan to return in December before it finally closes at the end of 2019 having first opened in 2015 for the Centinary and then extended multiple times.
A fairly long day as we stopped in Palmerston North to see Esme, who with Colin, used to own the Tokomaru Steam museum we have writen about many times in the past. Unfortunately Colin died and Esme has moved into a very nice house in retirement village on the outskirts of Palmerston North.
The majority of our activities and details of where we stay already forms part of a dedicated page Taranaki, Walks in the Mountain House & Stratford Area, and the Forgotten World Highway which covers our stays at Mountain House and the Stratford area, walks on Mount Egmont/Taranaki from the Mountain House area, Dawson falls and scenic drives on the SH43 from Taranaki to Taumarunui, known as the Forgotten World Highway which passes through the independent Republic of Whagamomina which will be updated with this years extra details and pictures. Parts may appear here whilst we are updating.
The SH43 Forgotten World Highway Leaving Stratford we were back on one of our favourite scenic roads, the SH43 from Stratford to Taumarunui which we had come part way on a few days ago in the other direction. This is a superb scenic road which was the subject of the first of the Heritage trails in 1990. It is now labeled the 'The Forgotten World Highway' on many of the boards. Apparently it Doreen who had conceived of the name as a way of making it more popular and getting people to Stratford and she did the original booklet which we still have a copy of somewhere covering the SH43 and a few other less memorable trails. They latest version is now very freely available as is a booklet of walks round Taranaki. There are also big introductory boards at either end and signs to further comprehensive boards at most of the main points of interest. It is a fascinating trip on one of the early roads and cut across the grain of the countryside over a number of saddles giving commanding views. It is a road which is only 150 kms from end to end, some of it still unsealed, which merits (and takes) plenty of time. We have previously done the journey a couple of times from both ends but we never tire of it.
Douglas Brick Kiln: The first suggested stop is at an old Douglas Brick Kiln which is listed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It is situated a couple of hundred metres off the main road then down a gated farmers track. It is in poor condition and protected by an external roof but proved much more interesting than we expected and we were there for 20 minutes.
Strathmore Saddle One next passes over the series of saddles. The first Saddle, the Strathmore Saddle can give superb views and on a clear day like we had it gives a vantage of the four main North Island mountains, Taranaki (Egmont), Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. It was a favourite site for Keith's paintings.
Te Wera has a Forest and Recreational Camp which does not seem to be available for normal camping but there is an Arboretum which we have walked round a couple of times. We did the walk which was rather overgrown and took nearly half an hour -their ten minutes is very optimistic
The Pohokura Saddle is named after a Maori chief from when it was settled first in 1880 - in those days the road was so bad it took three days to pack in supplies. As with many other points on the trip there are interpretation boards at the viewpoints. The Whangamomona Saddle has a walk leading off from the viewpoint which looks sufficiently interesting we will schedule it for a future trip.
Whangamomona Village: Next comes a highlight of the trip, Whangamomona Village.Whangamomona, the Valley of Plenty, was first settled in 1885 and quickly reached its full size of about 200. It has always been controversial and had difficult access - in 1903 the Prime Minister, Richard Seddon was tipped into a pothole by the inhabitants as a protest at the road conditions and eventually improvements came.
The community spirit still survives, although to some it now looks little more than a ghost town. In 1989 the village declared itself an independent state in protest at changes in the regional boundaries which removed it from its home in Taranaki. Independence Day celebrations are held every year on the Saturday closest to November 1st. One year as we passed there was a big sign saying the President was holding court in the Hotel. We were tempted to stop and seek an audience. Another year we found we had been standing next to him in the pub at lunch time but had not recognised him. There is a signposted walking trail round the village which we followed part of - much of the village is like a time warp which has led to it being used for several films.
This time we found that there was a car rally and the the hotel was overflowing. It was a shame as they have a lot of the local history on the boards on the walls and they serve some very sensible value food and the local beer.
The Tahora Saddle is the next high point and was where the Kaieto café used to be. It has now closed but they still seem to have the"camp site" perched on the peak - a wooden platform on the peak doubles as a view point and helipad.
Tangarakau: On a couple of occasions, (the last in 2009) we have taken a side trip to the ghost village Tangarakau, 6 km from the main road. The village was set up in 1925 for railway workers and their families. It quickly grew to a population of 1200 with a full street of shops. It's life was extended for a few years by work on power lines but then it quickly declined and now there is nothing left to show - the current population in the area is 8 probably the owners of the adjacent and very deserted camp-site and a farm which looked busier than last visit.
Morgan's grave comes next. Joshua Morgan was a well known surveyor who died in this remote area at 35 from peritonitis and is taken as a memorial to all the men who played a part in opening up this difficult country. The grave is well preserved and only about 700 metres from a small car park with toilets which are well signposted unlike the grave which is easy to drive past.
The Tangarakua Gorge, carved by the river into sedimentary sandstone is very spectacular and redolent with luxuriant native bush but beware when driving through as this 15 km stretch of slippery gravel surface has led to State Highway 43 being ranked as one of the 10 worst highways in New Zealand by the Police.
Mt Damper Falls: There is a side trip down a gravel road to see the Mt Damper Falls, which are one of the highest inland falls in New Zealand at 76 meters. It is well worth the 20 minute walk to see the falls are a narrow stream cut deeply into the side of a huge "bowl" eroded into the mudstone - quite unlike anything we have seen before. Part way down the road is a large picnic and parking area for the Moki forest tracks with a few old steam boilers from the logging days. There is also a small caravan site just down the road - there seems to be no good place for a tent but there are three or four slots for caravans or campers. The Moki forest is the home of the endangered Kokako bird but we have never had the time to go in search.
Tatu mines Pete wanted to take the side trip down the Waro road which used to lead to the Tatu mines as last time we had to turn back when we got to major earth moving equipment and a working area we did not even feel it would be possible to safely walk through. We had found some pictures of the Tatu coal mine at the Tawhiti Museum. Unfortunately Pauline was not so keen and somehow we missed the turn!
Nevin's Lookout is always worth a walk up to Nevin's Lookout, about five minutes, to a magnificent 360 degree view even with relatively low cloud base. With good visibility it is spectacular.
Maraekowhai Reserve and Ohura Falls: We were definitely short of time for the side trip off to the Maraekowhai reserve but one we have done in the past. The site has been of interest to us for several reasons. Historically it was a stronghold for the rebellious Hauhau warriors who in 1864 built a "rongo niu" with arms radiating in four directions to call the warriors to the cause. They danced round it chanting to make themselves invincible to musket fire. It and the later rere kore (peace pole) are still preserved in the reserve. We have been told the area has a considerably wider history also involving a flour mill, a pakeha who was shot, missionaries, notional roads and inter-tribal fighting. At the time of our first visit we knew little of this and our main interest was that it was the site of the Houseboat which was provided the second overnight stop for the Whanganui river boats on their way to Taumarunui. The site is about 18 kms off the main road down a mostly a slow and narrow gravel track. When we eventually arrived the first time we found we could not reach the poles or the site of the Houseboat mooring as a swing bridge was down but in exchange discovered there were a super set of waterfalls, the Ohura Falls which are worth a trip in their own right
Ohinepane: One passes a little publicised DOC camp site just off the SH43 at Ohinepane that forms part of the Whanganui Journey - although a river journey the Whanganui Journey is of New Zealand's network of "Great Walks", perhaps because of the huge number of shallows and rapids! The Whanganui Journey is a 145 km journey by Canoe from Taumarunui to Pipiriki taking about 5 days. Ohinepane is one of the few camp sites on the journey accessible by land and about one day into the trip to Pipiriki.
The Otunui River Boat Landing is also on the Whanganui and has a new canoe landing below the picnic area. The boards have a marked up picture to show where the old landing was as there are no signs of it remaining. You can still get to the original location via a derelict style.
The Te Maire Reserve A recommended exploration off the main route is the Te Maire Reserve - there is a 10 minute walk on our first visit, with a nice river crossing on a small suspension bridge, to reach a loop walk which takes a further one hour forty minutes to complete. The initial section is in very good condition and makes an excellent forest walk through Podocarps but with so much undergrowth growing on and up all the trees it is reminiscent of the 'goblin forest' round Mountain House at Mt Egmont (Taranaki). Again time was against us but we have made a note to repeat the loop track which takes one through some lovely stands of mature trees, some stretching 200 feet upwards with clean straight trunks, probably the tallest were kahikatea (white pine) along with rimu, totara and matai. The lookout is always higher than we expected and the climb gives some good exercise. My notes from earlier trips say it can be done in sandals but boots are desirable.
Herlihy's Bluff: On the final stretch towards Taumarunui one passes Herlihy's Bluff which consists of alternating layers of course sandstone and fine mudstone laid down to a total thickness of about 1.3 kms when the region was below the sea about 15-25 million years ago.
Taumarunui is an interesting town, it came to prominence at the turn of last century because of the railway and because it was the end of the riverboat service linking to the rail network and because it was at the confluence of the Whanganui and Ongarue Rivers. It's history goes back a lot further - it was the converging point of three Maori tribes, the Maniapoto from the Ongarue, the Hauaroa from downstream on the Whanganui and the Tuwharetoa from upstream. The tribes still exist and can trace their lineage from four of the great migration canoes, Aotea, Tokomaru, Tainui and Te Awawa. There are several interpretations of the name depending on how one splits the syllables. One is Taumaru - shade or shelter and nui - large. Another is that Maru, a great leader defeated local inhabitants and the town is named in honour Tau (you), Maru, nui (great or large). It is in the heart of the King Country and was closed to Pakeha until the 1880s. The town has not only survived, unlike so many towns along the Forgotten World Highway but grown as a regional centre. The rail links are now less important and the station now serves mostly as an information office and few trains other than freight pass through. There is however an excellent working model of the Raurimu spiral which was a fascinating way that the trains were brought up the steep slopes.
Taumarunui Holiday Park: We stayed at the Taumarunui Holiday Park 4 km outside Taumarunui - we first stayed there in 2003 when we dashed in to see the end of another defeat for Team NZ sailing in the Americas Cup. The site is good and they have the Whanganui River right at the bottom of the grounds, a forest walk at the end of the site and another longer walk along the river to Cherry Grove where the riverboats moored in Taumarunui.The owners have been gradually doing it up since we have been using it. The cabins have been doubled up by enclosing the car ports and turning them into new cabins and we had one of the larger converted carport ends. This time we had their .
Went through Taupo rather than the new byepass as we had not been into the centre for a while. Admired the Dakota which is now part of the McDonalds, sat and looked at the Lake before heading on towards Rotorua past the various thermal areas without stopping.
The Manhattan motel is now mainly full of long term customers and we transfered to the Kowhai also currently owned by Young Park who we have known for a long time. (Kowhai Motel +64 274 881 692) for bookings. Very nice room with aircon and capable of having a personal spa pool although we used the communal pool to save him filling ours.
We had a walk through Kurau Park and lakeside path to Polynesian pools for icecream and the sculpture trail and returned through town stopping to to check the bookshops.
Used the Paes Pa Road from Rotorua to Mills Reef for lunch. Stopped briefly in the Mangorewa Gorge. After lunch did a wine tasting and stocked up with an excellent red for the rest of the holiday. Then on to Thames and Dicksons Holiday park where only accommodation was in one of their on site caravans
Stayed with friends who we took to lunch on St Patricks day at The Patriot before starting our journey to Sandspit.
Sandspit Motor Camp: We had three lazy days at Sandspit doing little but catching up and watching the kingfishers. We always try to get one of their waterfront kitchen cabins and this year we had Bay. The Holiday Park at Sandspit, or more correctly Lower Matakana used to be a farm and was turned into a campsite in 1930. Many of the old buildings still exist. A few years ago the owners created a "pioneer village" with shop windows full of cameras etc and a cinema doubling as a TV room for children. It is a very friendly place with kayaks at the waterfront. When we started coing the toilet blocks always had fresh flowers and were adorned with the most fantastic seats with shells and Starfish cast into transparent plastic unfortunately they they have been closed now and replaced by a very nice new block with kitchens, open air seating as well as toilets and showers and the old block is now a dedicated laundry.
Bay is right on the sea front with its own tiny private beach marked off by low breakwaters - it started life as one of four ex American Army cabins and was obtained locally. The old schoolhouse from the 1870s forms the games room and library. The first cabin we had many years ago, Willow, started life as the chook house, then became the shower block and finally a cabin. For those who are unaware what chooks are, they are a NZ chicken that does not cluck but goes chook, chook, chook, Eh! Over the years we have stayed in most of the waterfront cabins. Nikau that was the home of Uncle Jimmy and built just before the turn of the century. Norfolk, named after the huge Norfolk pines that tower over it. Norfolk is one of the biggest cabins and has a huge deck which has only a couple of feet separation from the wall which drops vertically to the sands and is lapped at high tide. It has now been made en suite. Kauri has been another favourite. There has also been a lot of investment over the last few years, with the addition of six brand new self-contained units, some of which are on the waterfront and there is the intention of converting one or two of the larger old kitchen cabins to become en suite as well.
Sandspit Giant Sculptures Walk One feature of the site is the sculpture trail which takes one high above the site and can be continued to the next bay which one can walk back from at along the beach at low tide.
Bay of Islands The following morning we had an early start to head up to the Bay of Islands to stay with some friends who we originally met on the Queen Victoria. We took the back road as we had plenty of time before we could check in at the Russell Top10 which was fairly quite and we obtained a spacious cabin which served as one of their disable access cabins when required.
Russell is an old favourite of ours and is where much of the history of New Zealand started. Russell is now a delightful, quiet town with almost an island character as it is only accessible via ferry from Opua or by long back-roads which until recently were mostly gravel. Its original name was Kororareka named after a local Maori chief whose last words were "How sweet (reka) is the flesh of the little blue Penguin (Korara)". It used to be the major port in New Zealand for whalers and traders and was known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific. At one time it had 24 Brothels and 30 Grog houses mostly run by escaped convicts and deserters. Maoris brought their women and pigs for the along with other goods to trade for primarily tools, and above all muskets, of iron. The expanding lawlessness was one of the reasons why the missionaries, based the other side round Kerikeri influenced the Maori to seek the protection of Crown and Great Britain which eventually and reluctantly sent Hobson and set up the Treaty of Waitangi, which was closely based round the Magna Carta.
The lawlessness in the area was far from restricted to the new immigrants; the missionaries had bought large tracts of land for a few dozen axe heads on paper but with less well documented agreements to provide muskets and other weapons and to arrange for transport of major chiefs to the UK with the prime purpose of obtaining weapons. The Maoris had always been a warlike race but the introduction of muskets led to an imbalance and slaughter on a previously unknown scale. We were to see further examples on our friends property.
Bay of Islands Gamefish Club: In the evening we went down to the Gamefish club to eat. You have to be signed in by a member but we had previously found that was very easy and they are very welcoming. It has the perfect site on the sea front with a long balcony with views right out over the Bay of Islands. We got a table on the Balcony and sat down with a beer and a huge plate of ribs to watch the sun go down.
The Pompallier Hous at Russell We had plenty of time in the morning to walk round Russell and we went to the Pompallier House where the French Missionary Pompallier set up the first printing presses to produce bibles and other books in Maori. The fears of an increasing French influence were another factor in Britain eventually agreeing to an increasing involvement in New Zealand. The Pompallier House is now part of the Historic Places Trust and has a tannery providing demonstrations of how hides were turned into high quality leather for bookbinding and upstairs has demonstrations of printing and bookbinding. There is a lot of associated history in the exhibits and information on the methods used for building the Pompallier house, a typically French method of highly compressed mud walls giving a result not far from concrete in hardness but without the resistance to weather hence the wide overhanging eves to keep rain from the walls. We have done the tour many times so we only walked round the outside and up to the viewpoint. Of particular interest was the heritage orchard where we spent some time talking to one of the gardiners.
Waipiro: It was then time for a drive on the back road to Waipiro where we stayed for two days with our friends who we had originally met on the Queen Victoria. We covered the area and their work on regeneration round their properties and at Wairiki very fully in our 2014 write-up so we will say little more than our time with them was one of the highlights of the holiday and to report on progress on the enormous regeneration work that Philip has undertaken round their properties and at Wairiki.
Wairiki: When purchased the property at Wairiki it had a multiplicity of exotic plantings and even more weeds. His lifetime plan has ben to re-establish a native forest largely resembling that prior to human occupation. Philip believes the range of species now planted is likely to be wider than would have been found in one spot - he estimated five years ago there were over 250 native varieties with a total of 100,000 new plants added in the first 15 years and a network of walking tracks were being added. The plantings have speeded up even more and many hundreds of thousands more natives have been planted in the last five years. It is an incredible achievement and work on restoration of their house at Wairiki is also proceeding quickly.
The Ferry to Opua, Paihia, Mangahui Fish and Chip shop, Whatuawhiwhi Campsite and Maitai Bays for a swim. All have been writen about in the past so will not be covered in this summary and likewise our visits the next day to the and Puwheke Reserves.
DOC Lake Ohia Gumholes Reserve, Gumdiggers Park, Waipapakauri Airfield memorial, backroad to Rawene Ferry and campsite. All places and activities we have writen about in the past.
We had booked the same cabin as last time and again went to the Gamefish club in the evening so there is nothing more to add!
We spent several days out round Waiheke mostly packing and in the case of Pauline doing some of her OU work. We had one day out with a trip to the east of the island to Stony Batter where there is a big underground fortress built in the Second World War to defend the approaches to Auckland. I am going to cover this more fully as it turned out to be the first part of series of visits to fortifications built to protect Auckland through the years.
Stony Batter was the last of the major fortifications built, most were started much earlier when there were concerns about Russia's intentions, the so called 'Russian Scares' which I cover more fully below. Stony Batter had three 9.2-inch ex battleship guns allegedly capable of firing a 1500 kg shell 45 kms cover out to beyond the end of the Coromandel. They were only fired once on test to 20 kms but never in anger. Somewhat poetically they were reputedly sold to a Japanese scrap firm after the war. On a previous visit we spent a long time talking to Pam who has been one of the main instigators in the restoration and we learnt all about the progress in bringing back typical engines to drive the generators, hydraulic systems etc. Various parts have been obtained from similar batteries round the world, such as Gibraltar and the massive diesel engines (called Tom, Dick and Harry) which on our first visit were under tarpaulins in the local supermarket car park awaiting an offer at the right price to transport them the last few kilometres are now on the site and installed. The pictures below are from our last visit when museum was thriving and we spent a long time underground in the tunnels, now we found both the museum and tunnels have been closed.
The guns were intended to fire on targets well beyond the line of sight so a series of observation posts were established forward of the gun positions. These relayed back information which was converted into ranges and bearings for the guns. It required a far greater degree of sophistication in terms of range-finding, communication and calculation than had been used before in any New Zealand battery. Last visit they were progressing well in restoring the plotting room, deep underground in the complex, which processed all information to train the guns from the various spotting stations that relayed the targets and shot fall and provided the information to train the guns.
Auckland Coastal Defences: Digressing slightly, the Waiheke battery was only one part of a larger coastal defence system protecting Auckland Harbour and its approaches from enemy ships. Two other counter bombardment batteries were located at Whangaparaoa (9.2 inch) and Motutapu Island (6 inch), and a network of observation posts were established at Rangitoto Island (the command post), Tiritiri Matangi Island and other locations. There were also close defence batteries at Castor Bay, Whangaparaoa and Rangitoto and further batteries at North Head and Fort Takapuna which we decided to visit in the next few days.
There are three gun sites but usually only one was open for access to visitors through the tunnels - under certain weather conditions mist can rapidly spread through the tunnels if anybody leaves several doors open. It is apparently quite unpleasant when the visibility suddenly drops to a few metres and you only have a torch to find your way around. We walked round the top to the gun sites and had views right out over the Hauraki Gulf - the guns could cover right out to the tip of the Coromandel to the East and Tiritiri on the West side and one could see why spotting stations were required but could not go underground as aparently DOC are concerned have become concerned about safety and have closed the tunels and will only reopen them tunnels when they have a new management arrangement in place to "ensure people viewing the tunnels are kept safe". The previous arrangements were with the volunteers who had masterminded, funded and carried out the restoration who must be a bit cut up about it. We were very disappointed as we had always enjoyed our time underground and had no warning it had been closed.
We then went down to Man-o-War Bay which is close below the battery at the end of the island - we often moor there whilst sailing. There is only the one 'loop' road round the 'Bottom End' and it passes through Man-o-War Bay before climbing back up. The visibility had been gradually improving during the day and we had some excellent views over Rotoroa and Pornui Islands to the Coromandel behind. The Ruthe passage was very easily identified and also all the reefs in front of Rotoroa Island could be clearly seen the tide was unusually low. Many of the roads at the 'Bottom End' of Waiheke are gravel and have not improved with time, we were glad the van was now empty!
Jenny and Kev were away in Japan and Chris was in Gurnsey and everything was packed so we decided to leave Waiheke and spend our last couple of nights in Takapuna which would give us a chance to look at some more of the coastal defences and was close enough to drive into Auckland - even passanger ferries are quite expensive from Waiheke. We had nothing left apart from what we were flying with so we had an upmarket cabin with a nice view and everything included in the Takapuna camp site which we had not used previously. It is undergoing some major changes and most of the on site caravans had been sold and were being taken away on trailers. It is very convenient for the night before flying: we always worry about ferry problems and bad weather although the Waiheke ferry service is normally excellent - not like Guernsey. We took an early ferry which allowed us plenty of time to go to the Auckland Holy Trinity Cathedral. Fortunately we managed to park right opposite as it was epic rain.
Auckland Holy Trinity Cathedral: Bishop Selwyn, who we have writen about earlier spent a lot of time in Auckland when he was Bishop of New Zealand, and that presence is reflected in the cathedral. The first church in Auckland, Old St Mary’s was built in 1860 on land purchased by Bishop Selwyn in 1843 who moved from Waimate to settle in Auckland in 1844. This church quickly became too small and in 1886 work started on land opposite to build a new Cathedral Church of St Mary. This beautiful wooden church was also designed by Benjamin Mountford and was completed in 1897. One traditional stained glass window commemorates Bishop Selwyn’s wife Sarah, who died in Lichfield in 1907. The building served as the Cathedral Church of Auckland until 1973 when the Chancel of Holy Trinity Cathedral, for which the foundation stone was laid in 1957 on top of stone from Lichfield, came into use. The Holy Trinity cathedral also included the Marsden Chapel. The Nave of Holy Trinity was opened in 1995. In 2014 the first sod was turned for the new Bishop Selwyn Chapel by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the cathedral was finally completed in August 2016 when the Bishop Selwyn Chapel was opened. This modern glass-walled building at the east end of the cathedral has a curved gilded ceiling with views of the new garden cross. Holy Trinity was now completed and it was consecrated on 28 October 2017 and fulfils the vision of Bishop Selwyn who, 174 years earlier, had hoped for a future cathedral “of spacious dimensions standing on an area where it would be seen to advantage”. The Bishop of Lichfield attended the consecration, acknowledging the strong links between Lichfield and Selwyn. Pictures and information are at http://www.holy-trinity.org.nz/consecration-journey. We met the Dean, the Very Reverend Anne Mills, who pointed out stone from Lichfield near the glass font and directed us towards the other Lichfield stone in the Bishop Selwyn Chapel.
St Marys: The now adjacent St Marys church had been Aucklands Cathedral from 1887 and the Queen attended a Christmas service there in 1953 on her Coronation tour. However after the first part of Holy Trinity was completed in 1973 and the Cathedral functions were transfered it was little used and started to fall into disrepair. When the next stages of development of Holy Trinity was being discussed the idea was put forwards of creating a cluster involving the move of St Mary, across the busy Parnell Road to lie alongside Holy Trinity. Moving houses is commonplace in NZ but this was more of a challenge as it was planed to move the entire 395 tons of wooden building intact. There are some fascinating pictures of when it was dragged across the road having been lifted off its base onto steel girders. The main Parnell Road was only closed for a day during which the 'railway' was assembled, the building moved undamaged and the road cleared. The church was then jacked up further and 24 house moving trailers were slid underneath and their wheels carefully aligned to allow the building to be rotated 90 degrees before being lowered onto its new foundations. It was worth it St Mary's is now a beautiful classic Gothic revival wooden church complementing the more modern sections of the Holy Trinity. The inside glows and the organ is another highlight, it has has been fully restored and the pipes painted.
Devonport The weather was still not good but we had time to go to Devonport and have a look round and a chance for Pauline to indulge herself in the quilting shop before going to search out the well known dairy which claims to build the largest ice-cream cones in New Zealand, they advertise up to 8 scoops - we kept to our usual doubles. It was then on to see the fortifications in the North Head Reserve.
North Head (Maunguika) Reserve is strategically located on a headland at the entrance to Auckland's harbour and commands sweeping views over the Hauraki Gulf and its islands. It has a long history, first of Maori occupation, and then as a coastal fortification and is arguably the most significant coastal defence site in New Zealand. North Head became the site of the first pilot station in 1840. In 1878 the area was set aside as a public reserve but shortly afterwards it was taken over for defence purposes.
The 'Russian Scares' In the 1870s there was a growing fear that the Russians were planning attacks on the country's ports. This was part of a larger worldwide concern known as the 'Russian Scares'. The government had already purchased large coast defence guns including 10 disappearing guns but these had never been installed. In 1885 the Russian war fears reached crisis point and a series of forts were built around the coast. At North Head three large gun batteries were built: North Battery to defend the Rangitoto Channel, South Battery to defend the inner harbour and Summit or Cautley Battery on the top of the hill. The forts were supported by a torpedo boat based in Devonport, and a minefield that stretched across the harbour from North Head to Bastion Point. Searchlights were stationed at various points around the coast with power supplied from
For the next 25 years up to 40 prisoners were kept busy rebuilding the fortifications at North Head They lived in a prison on the summit created from an army barracks. This building, constructed in 1885, is still in place together with a small stone kitchen block built at the same time. The prisoners dug tunnels, mixed and poured concrete and laid bricks. Most of the tunnels, searchlights and underground engine rooms and magazines were built at this time. Other gun emplacements were added at the turn of the century and in the 1930s, with war again possible, parts of the old fort at North Head were modernised. New engines were installed and more searchlights were built.
By 1900 North Head was initially well defended with three 8 inch Disappearing Guns as its main armament. In 1886 when these guns were made they were the most up to date weapons of their type available. The barrels alone weighed over 13 tons and they were designed to retract underground using the forces generated by the recoil of the gun when it was fired. Once hidden in their pit the guns could be reloaded under cover before being returned to the surface for the next shot. One of the few remaining guns of this type left anywhere in the world can still be seen at South Battery and another, we have also visited, is in pristine condition at Taoroa Head on the Otago peninsular and forms part of the Royal Albatross Colony Experience! In 1905 two additional 6 inch Mark VII guns arrived from England and were the main armament throughout WWI. But technology advances and by WWII, with ship's guns were able to fire much greater distances, new batteries were built at Motutapu, Castor Bay, Whangaparaoa and, of course, Stony Batter on Waiheke Island, and North Head was relegated to the centre of administration. The 6 inch guns at North Head were moved to Whangaparaoa and were replaced in 1941 by two old 4 inch guns as part of the 'Examination Batteries' which controlled the entrance to the harbour. These 4" guns had been originally fitted to the WW1 battle cruiser HMS New Zealandwhich was scrapped in 1922. 'Examination Battery' was not a term I had met before but some seaches reveal that Examination Battery were used to protecting Examination Vessels with naval inspection officers on board who would be sent out to check incoming ships or they could fire warning shots at vessels that did not identify themselves. I have not found how this was implemented at Auckland or the location of the 'examination line' although Wikipedia has a list of the examination vessels at Auckland. I could find no record of warning shots being fired. During WWII North Head was also the site of the anti-submarine boom and two guns at sea level, to protected the harbour from sneak attack by submarine.
One can still visit almost the entire set of fortifications and there is a Self Guided Walk introducing you to the full complex of tunnels, guns, searchlight emplacements and other fortifications dating from the late 1800s up to the time of the Second World War. There are a large number of excellent boards. We did the whole walk and investigated every tunnel and underground facility as well as all the gun emplacements. The tunnels were much shorter than at Stony Batter and high power torches were redundant although we did resort to the torch on the phone on the odd occasion. As far as we could tell there were no areas which were inaccessible and one was positively encouraged to explore. It was a much better experience than Stony Batter although there are no obvious plans to collect and restore any of the associated machinery as was initially occurring at Stony Batter. There is a very full brochure explaining the site with a map of the walking tour. They indicated it would take an hour but we spent much longer exploring every nook and cranny. The brochure is available on line and much of this write up is a summary of the DOC information sheets - see the North Head historic reserve pdf and the North Head self guided walk pdf . We will let our pictures speak for themselves [when we add them].
The Torpedo Bay Navy Museum: After spending several hours at North Head we went to the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum which is on the coast very close to the entry to the North Head Reserve - they are very complementary. The museum is comparatively small but very interesting and well worth visiting. It started in 1974 but was initially only available to Naval personnel. In 2010 the Museum moved to larger premises at Torpedo Bay in Devonport and is now open to the public at no charge. Torpedo Bay itself is a site of exceptional significance, having been a key part of Auckland's early defence system as well as having been continuously occupied by New Zealand military forces since 1880. Torpedo Bay is the most substantial and intact 19th century mining base to survive in New Zealand. The museum is housed in the very buildings constructed in 1896 to control the naval mines at the mouth of Waitematā Harbour. This was not a convention minefield where proximity or contact of a ship exploded the mines but instead the mines were blown by shore command when a ship was detected. In theory a powerfull technique but dependent on continuous availabily of highly trained operators which proved a problem.
We were fortunate as we were given an extended guided tour by one of their senior staff who was not only very knowledgable about the museum site and contents but was happy to discuss much wider issues and there were several stimulating interchanges where we learnt a lot.
The main exhibits on display at the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum trace New Zealand's naval history since the Flagstaff War in 1845. One of the first displays covers the New Zealand-funded British battlecruiser HMS New Zealand, and includes the piupiu (Māori warrior's skirt) which was presented to the ship's commanding officer during the vessel's visit to New Zealand in 1913. The piupiu was worn by the battlecruiser's captains in battle during World War I as a good luck charm. Displays on World War II cover topics such as the cruiser HMNZS Achilles and there is a lot on the battle fought between the small minesweepers HMNZS Kiwi and HMNZS Moa and the larger Japanese submarine I-1 on 29 January 1943 off the island of Guadalcanal. The 5.5 inch gun on I-1 had a range of 20 kms and it could easily have annihilated the smaller ships with a single 38 kg shell ( It rate of fire was 6 shells a minute). The gun still had a live shell in the breach when recovered and the gun now forms the centrepiece of the museum.
The museum also has displays on the RNZN's role in the Korean War, Malayan Emergency, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and the current War in Afghanistan, as well as the navy's contribution to the New Zealand peacekeeping force which was deployed during the Yugoslav Wars. Other displays cover the RNZN's peacetime roles of fisheries protection, search and rescue, disaster relief, and conducting hydrographic surveys. These displays are counterbalanced by several memorial areas. On researching further after our visit I was surprised to find the total collections has in excess of 400,ooo items. Many thanks to Simon for all his time.
Auckland War Memorial Museum: On our last day we decided to start with a visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum which until the formation of Te Papa was the senior museum in New Zealand. Although it has lost some important artifacts to Te Papa it is to me still the better museum. It is a true museum with real objects and does not depend on video screens and modern copies like so many do. Unfortunately it now gets little central support and depends on large entry fees from visitors from abroad unlike Te Papa which is free. The entry of $25 nearly put us off visiting when we only had limited time but a helpful assistant decided that as visitors who had in NZ for over 3 months we really qualified for the locals free entry and we did not argue! The museum merits far longer than the bare two hours we had and to some extent it was reacquainting ourselves with areas we had visited before and a few areas we had missed, in particular those to do with the wars since we had spent the last few days in various forts and military museums. I did not recall the Spitfire Mk 16 and the Japanese Zero from previous visits.
Cornwall Park: We then visited Cornwall Park. Sir John Logan Campbell is often referred to as the father of Auckland, a philanthropically-minded businessman and one of the first European settlers to Auckland. Along with his business partner William Brown, Sir John purchased Cornwall Park - then known as Mount Prospect Estate - in 1853, renaming it One Tree Hill. He gifted it to NZ by placing it into a trust that would establish and manage it as a park for future generations to enjoy and furthermore he gifted the surrounding land to fund it. In 1901 this land became ‘Cornwall Park’ in honour of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York who were visiting New Zealand at that time.
Acacia Cottage: We went into Acacia Cottage which was built in 1841 by Logan Cambell and is the oldest remaining wooden cottage in Auckland. We then spent some time in the adjacent Huia Lodge Discovery Hub which has a lot of information about Cornwall Park. We had intended to go up One Tree Hill but found it was now only accessible on foot and once more it was tipping with rain. although it slowed enough for a quick walk before we left.
Ambury Regional Park: Our final visit was a brief explore of the Ambury Regional park which was close to our route to return the van and continue on to the airport. To quote: "Nestled on the shores of the Manukau Harbour, Ambury Regional Park is a working farm, an important education centre and a bird watchers paradise. Located only 15 km from the hustle and bustle of downtown Auckland visitors will feel like they have been swept away to rural New Zealand as they wander through open pasture, past the large variety of farm animals and down to the foreshore where over 80 different species of birds make their home." It did not feel so impressive on a bleak wet day but we did spend a little time walking round the animals before continuing to return our van.
Our van from Rental Car Village had, as usual, served us faultlessly with only a tiny crack from a stone hit in the windscreen to show for the many thousands of kilometers over the three months.
|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 28th April, 2019