Thursday, 13 March 2014

Plimmerton to Pauatahanui

Monday 10 March was another lovely day, calm and sunny. We wanted to have another look at the Pauatahanui Inlet, but just the northern shore this time. We felt that the road on the Whitby side was just a bit too narrow and too busy with trucks for enjoyable cycling.

We parked the car in Plimmerton and cycled along the southern end of Ara Harakeke to Paremata. We crossed the Mana Esplanade at Pascoe Avenue, from where the Camborne Walkway starts.

Right at the beginning of the track, there is a sandy patch where we had to get off and walk, and there, by a park bench, was a woman setting up her easel and paints. It certainly was a gorgeous view to paint. We talked to her briefly, and said we would be interested to see her painting when we returned.

A painter was just setting up as we went by (photo by John)

The track took us behind the boatsheds, which are really quite delightful. Having enjoyed the TV programme “George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces” on how people turn tiny buildings into amazing living spaces, I would love to have a peek into some of these sheds, just to see what their owners have done with their interiors. I wonder if any of them have been inspired by that programme …

Such tiny huts – I wonder what the interiors are like?

One of the sheds had been decorated with all manner of old boating and fishing paraphernalia. There were fishing nets, fishing rods and reels, a cane lobster pot, oars and paddles, life jackets and floats, a snorkel and a pair of flippers, the skeleton of a canoe, several anchors, and even a couple of outboard motors. Quite the beachcomber’s hut.

Fishing and boating paraphernalia decorate this shed (photo by John)

At the end of the Camborne Walkway, there is a pleasant park (photo by John)

After the Camborne Walkway, we had to ride on the road for some distance, until we got to the Motukaraka Point. At the entrance to this road there is a toilet block with changing sheds and information boards about the wildlife in this area. A large group of high school students were involved in a number of activities – canoeing, something intriguing around a circle of stones on the beach, and building a raft. They seemed to be having a great time.

A school party involved in water activities

Kids building a raft

The road around Motukaraka Point led us to the Ara Piko boardwalk, which meanders along the edge of the Pauatahanui Wildlife Reserve’s wetlands, parallel to Grays Road. It looks like the boardwalk is being extended, or at least the shoulder of the road is being widened, as there were roadworks along the rest of the road until we got to Pauatahanui Village. Either way, it will be good for cyclists.

A bridge over one of the streams feeding into the Inlet

The road gang is either extending the boardwalk, or widening the road shoulder (photo by John)

We stopped at the village café, “Groundup”, for coffee and a scone. As we were waiting for our coffees to arrive, another cyclist pulled up – she had been cycling around the hills of Whitby, and looked pretty hot and tired. She lived in the area, and she pointed out the driveway up to the little historic church that we wanted to take a look at.

The hill on which this lovely little church stands was originally the site of a Māori fighting pā, established by Te Rangihaeata in the 1840s. After his withdrawal, the land was bought for farming by Thomas Hollis Stace, who later donated an acre to the Pauatahanui community for a chapel and burial grounds. The first chapel was built in 1857. This gradually deteriorated, and the current church, St Alban’s, was built in 1895.

Historic St Alban’s Church was built in 1895 (photo by John)

I was intrigued by the fact that this little church has “buttresses” along the side walls. I wondered whether they were a structural necessity, or merely an imitation of the great churches in “the old country”?

I found a reference to them in the Historic Places Trust register, which describes the building as "A simple Gothic Revival church, the building has lancet windows, external timber-framed buttresses and, in the interior, scissor trusses with knee braces. The apse is semi-circular in plan. In general the building is timber-framed, with rusticated weatherboards on the exterior and tongue and groove lining in the interior. It has a steeply pitch corrugated iron roof."

The little church has wooden buttresses

There are two parts to the burial grounds. One is right next to the church – fairly plain, with graves having only headstones and concrete covers. The other is a bit further down the hill and the graves are surrounded by ornate fences and little gardens. This cemetery was neglected for many years, until in 1991, a group of local women started the Pauatahanui Burial Ground Rose Project – salvaging many of the original roses and planting more heritage roses.

We had a wander around the burial ground, looking at the old grave stones and the little gardens that surround them. At this time of year, many of the rose bushes were heavy with rose hips.

One of the Heritage Roses in the Pauatahanui Burial Ground (photo by John)

Many of the graves are surrounded by ornate fences

We returned the same way as we had come, through the Wildlife Reserve. At one of the little bridges, we were surprised by a heron standing right in the middle of it. He stood absolutely still, while John got his camera ready, then he stepped up onto the edge of the bridge, and fluttered off into the stream below. But John managed to get a shot of him.

This heron was not particularly worried by us (photo by John)

We saw two other herons on this ride. One crossed the path right in front of us, when we were riding on the path along the railway line, between Plimmerton and Paremata. The other was standing quite still in a stream in the reserve. They are beautiful birds, rather elegant, and quite large.

This track is called Te Ara Piko – The Meandering Path (photo by John)

When we got back to the end of the Camborne Walkway, we met the painter again. Unfortunately we arrived just in time to see the painting being blown off the easel by a gust of wind, while she had her back turned. It landed face-down in the sand. What a pity. It looked like a lovely painting too. I hope she was able to salvage it.

The painter is wiping the sand off her work after it was blown off her easel (photo by John)

We arrived back at Paremata, where we sat on a seat looking out over the Inlet for a little while, and nibbled on some apple slices. Meanwhile, a scrummage of seagulls was happening in the carpark behind us, where a man was sitting in his car, throwing out bits of food for the seagulls (fish ‘n chips, I think). The gulls were even sitting on the car’s bonnet and wing mirror, and screeching horribly. Not my favourite kind of bird, these red-beaked gulls.

The peace of the view was marred by the noise of the seagulls behind us (photo by John)

Soon after, we rode under the Paremata Bridge, and back to Plimmerton, but instead of heading back to the car, we kept going towards Karehana Bay and Horoeka Marae – just to complete the 20kms. In fact, we ended up having biked 23 kms by the time we got back to the car.

Beyond Mana Island you can clearly see the South Island (photo by John)

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