Saturday 18 January 2014

Silverstream to Harcourt Park – and art exhibitions

Last Tuesday afternoon we did a 21 km ride on the Hutt River Trail, from Silverstream, by the twin bridges, to Harcourt Park, in Upper Hutt. This is a straightforward ride, mostly on gravel, which we have now done quite a few times. We hadn’t done a “substantial” ride for several weeks, because of Christmas and then John’s lurgy, so it was nice to get back into it.

As soon as I hit the saddle, I thought “Oh-oh, something feels different!”. I had forgotten to put on my padded bike pants that I wear under my regular trousers! I must say, it made quite a difference by the time we had done 10kms.

I call my padded bike pants my “baboon pants” because, for some reason, the padding on the inside is bright red. I had to laugh the first time I washed them and hung them on the line, inside out. There they were, flapping in the breeze, looking just like a baboon’s bottom!

On the way up, we only stopped a couple of times to take pictures. Quite early on, there is an area where, back in September, we took a photo of willow sticks planted in neat rows, which would eventually grow into a flood defense barrier. Now, I noticed that those sticks had grown into nice little trees. Compare the photo of my 8 September post (here) with the photo below. They were taken from practically the same place - note the cabbage tree on the right (it's a bit hard to see – enlarge the photo by clicking on it to see it properly). 

The sticks of willow, that were planted in the winter, have now grown into nice little trees (photo by John)

Further along, toetoe plumes, those hallmarks of the New Zealand summer, are now much in evidence along the river’s edge. They do look gorgeous, waving in the breeze.

Toetoe plumes (photo by John)

At various places along the river, people were enjoying the sunshine and the water on the river banks. Near Harcourt Park, were there is a bend in the river, and some shallow rapids caused by a rocky ledge in the stream, it looks like there is a good swimming hole. We saw a large group of young people making the best of a summer’s day here.

Young people, enjoying the swimming hole

Near the entrance to Harcourt Park (photo by John)

We rode into Harcourt Park, and stopped by the pond for a breather, and to eat our snack, but before long we were on our way back.

Along the way, I noticed the wild blackberry vines on the edge of the track. In the winter, you hardly notice them, but now with their pretty pink flowers and ripening fruit, they are more obvious. The fruit seems to be plentiful, so I daresay there will be good pickings in a few weeks time.

Wild blackberries

The track runs along the edge of the Wellington Golf Club. Among the shrubs planted alongside the fence, the yarrows are in full bloom too. I marvelled at the large flower heads, some the size of my hand. I just had to take a photo to capture the thousands of tiny flowers that make up a single umbel. With his much better camera and way better photography skills, John would probably have taken a better photo, but I like this anyway. Click on the photo to see the detail.

Thousands of tiny flowers make up this one umbel of yarrow

We rode 21 kms in total, and I was surprised to find that it had been harder than I had expected. My thighs were feeling quite tired – perhaps because of the gym class I had attended in the morning. It was the first since the Christmas break, and we did lots of squats and knee-raises!

We went into Café Reka at the Dowse Museum to have some iced coffees (made with ice, not with icecream, so not as satisfying as they should have been!). We looked out at the Lower Hutt Town Hall, which has been closed for over a year, as it is considered to be an earthquake risk. Debate is still going on as to whether the council will reinforce the building complex, which also houses the Horticultural Hall, or whether it will demolish it and build a new convention centre.

The view from Café Reka towards the Lower Hutt Town Hall, which is closed as it is considered to be an earthquake risk (photo by John)

After our coffees, we had a look at the exhibitions. Some of the downstairs ones struck me as really quite pointless, so we didn’t waste any time there. Upstairs were two exhibitions which were interesting. One was entitled “Menagerie: Exotic Animals in Aotearoa”, a collection of works by NZ artists featuring exotic animals.

Two of the exhibits that I particularly liked were by Reuben Paterson. One was a “glitter” painting of the face of a tiger, called Estrous; the other was a full size sculpture, also covered in glitter, of a bear, called David. I’m not so sure about the use of glitter, but it was very effective in the tiger painting. He just seemed to glower and shimmer.

“Glitter” painting by Reuben Paterson – Estrous (2012)

The other exhibition was titled “Man Made”, and featured textile works by 12 male contemporary artists. Having been a weaver in “a past life”, I was particularly interested in this, but I found it somewhat disappointing. It was all rather more “art” than “textile”. Still, I quite liked a work which spelled out its own name “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out”, by Elliott Collins. It was inspired by nail and thread art made by his grandfather. Apparently, the making of it had involved some community participation.

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a nail and thread artwork by Elliott Collins

I don’t know if the title of the artwork is a reference to the work of the physicist Richard Feynman. When I tried to find out more about the artist of the above work, I googled “pleasure of finding things out”, and at the top of the list was a video of a 1981 BBC interview with Richard Feynman, entitled “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out”. John is a fan of Feynman’s books, so we spent an interesting 50 minutes watching this video. What a charming and fascinating man. In 1999 (11 years after Feynman's death), a collection of his short works, including interviews, speeches, lectures, and printed articles, was edited and published by Jeffrey Robbins, under the title “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman". I might just have to get a copy of it for my Kindle.

Well now, this last paragraph has nothing to do with cycling or even with our museum visit, but I have spent a pleasant evening finding things out. Not as brilliantly as Richard Feynman, obviously, but it was indeed a pleasure.


  1. I was in the Dowse last week and I agree - those exhibitions downstairs are pointless! Turner Prize types ...

    1. Yes, the Dowse does have some good exhibitions at times, but sometimes there are some that are just airy-fairy arty-farty, for which I have no patience. I have a low tolerance for pretentious BS.