Monday, 9 September 2013

Hutt River Trail and art exhibitions

It seems like ages since we last went for a ride. It was nearly three weeks. We’ve had to battle colds – both of the health variety, and of the weather kind. John caught the lurgy I started with at the time of our last ride. And just as we were thinking we’d had a marvelously mild winter, and spring was here, winter let out one more last hoorah, and came up with a very cold snap. We huddled by the fire for a few days with our books and laptops and boxes of tissues – John and our rather geriatric cat Tim vying for the best spot.

But today was bright and sunny, although there was a bit of a breeze. I wanted to go and see an exhibition in Lower Hutt, so we thought we'd kill two birds with one stone (figuratively speaking, of course) by deciding to ride along the Hutt River Trail again. My favourite stretch – between the Silverstream twin bridges and Upper Hutt.

As we were getting the bikes out of the car, a train rumbled overhead on the rail bridge, followed almost immediately by another train, going in the opposite direction.

We've done this trail several times now, but it is always a little different from the previous time. Spring has definitely sprung, with tender new growth on the willows, flowering kowhai trees and the pungent smell of onion weed. The river looks different too. It is interesting to see how the water continually shapes and rearranges the gravel and stones in the riverbed.

The river continually changes (photo by John)

The last time we were there, I commented on the fact that some trees had apparently been damaged in a storm, and the area was being cleared. Today, we saw that it had been re-planted with sticks of willow, in neat rows about two meters apart, at an angle to the river. All part of the flood defenses, I think. These sticks will eventually sprout into bushy willows that will slow the scouring effects of the water and hold the soil in flood events.

These sticks will grow into willows as flood protection

Further up the river, there are other areas where the willows have already grown, and it looks like each “stick” sprouts three, four or more stems.

Each stick sprouts three or more stems (photo by John)

As we were getting close to Upper Hutt, John took a picture of a couple of mounds of stones, on one of the gravel islands in the river. I called them cairns, John said they were probably built by kids. But they have actually been there for years, so they must have been quite sturdily built. They are quite intriguing. I’d love to go and have a closer look at them, but you’d have to wade through the water to get there.

Intriguing "cairns" on a gravel island (photo by John)

When we reached Harcourt Park, we sat on our favourite seat by the pond to eat our snack, and watched the bird life. A pair of squabbling – or courting? – pukekos came rushing out of the high grass and to the water’s edge. Some ducks were sitting on the shrubby little islands. After a while a whole little family of ducks came paddling over to check us out – mum, dad and the kids. Five beautiful little brown and gold ducklings. They were followed by another drake, but dad soon saw him off. Two large grey-brown birds made repeated low swoops over the pond. We couldn’t work out what kind of birds they were. Definitely not hawks, maybe seagulls; but if so, they seemed to be rather a long way from home.

New life on the pond (photo by John)

On our way back, the track goes over a steep bit which actually climbs to a bluff overlooking the bend in the river. The view from up there is fabulous. And just look at that cloudless sky!

Hutt River, looking south (photo by John)

We’d had a bit of a headwind coming up the valley, then perversely, on our way back, we again had a headwind! But with the winding of the river, we kept changing direction too, so it wasn’t surprising that the wind hit us from different angles at different times.

As we came to a gate, for which we had to get off our bikes and negotiate the wooden zig-zaggy barrier, I said to another cyclist heading in the opposite direction, “Bit of a nuisance, these gates, aren’t they”. He agreed they were, but they were necessary to keep out the hoons on their dirt bikes (motorbikes). He pointed at the track on the other side of the river and said, “the other day I nearly got swiped off my bike by one of them. They’re complete idiots”.

Information board for walkers and cyclists (photo by John)

The distance between the bridges and Harcourt Park is exactly 10kms, so when we got back to the car we had ridden our targeted 20kms. Perfect!

Next on the programme was coffee and a scone at the Dowse Art Museum café. We had a look at the latest exhibition too. It is called New Olds – Design between Tradition and Innovation. The blurb says “Through both new materials and new ways of thinking about the function of objects, New Olds is a reflection on our changing world.” It displayed objects and furniture with a new ‘twist’. Some of it was interesting; some, I thought, was fairly 'arty-farty pointless', like chairs hanging from the ceiling. But then, I’m not an artist.

Bless, a hammock, and Afroditi, a "nest", made of thick rounded strips of polyurethane foam

Loop and Iglu, woven rattan seating and playhouse (photo by John)

After this we went to the Odlin Gallery to see the exhibition I had especially wanted to see: the Port Nicholson Weavers' Exhibition, entitled Between the Colours.

In a 'past life', I was a weaver myself, and was a member of the Port Nich Weavers. For more than twenty years I was obsessed with, fascinated by, and totally involved in weaving. In fact, I taught weaving for 18 years in community education programmes in several high schools. Then, I went back to full-time study, followed by full-time work, and time for weaving and teaching disappeared, along with the obsession.

Of course, I am still interested in seeing what my weaving friends are creating. Many of the names in the catalogue were still familiar, but there were lots of new names too. There was some interesting work there, and some impressive techniques.

Port Nicholson Weavers' Exhibition

In pride of place, right as you come into the gallery, were three exquisite tapestries by Patricia Armour. Trish was one of my very early weaving students, but I hasten to add that I cannot claim any credit for what a wonderful weaver and artist she has become. I never did any tapestry weaving. And Trish is now one of NZ’s foremost tapestry weavers, who has exhibited widely, both here and overseas.

"At rest" - a tapestry by Patricia Armour

I enjoyed seeing the exhibition, and though I was intrigued with some of the weave structures, and I reveled in the colours, I have no hankering to go back to weaving.

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