Tag Archives: Zealand

The Domain – Auckland’s green heart

Auckland Domain is the city’s oldest park: created in the 1840s and covering three quarters of a square kilometre (185 acres), it is a pulsating green heart.

100B3207

Much more than just flower beds, trees and open spaces it is as well an open book illustrating Auckland’s multi-faceted history. The Domain’s site is an extinct volcano, Pukekawa: when European settlers arrived it was a strategic defended pa site for the local Maori, and the swampy crater lake meant that even during a siege they had a water supply, and food from eels. The Ngati Whatua tribe sold the land to the Europeans and in 1843, thanks to the governor general’s far-sightedness, it became a place for the public to enjoy in many different ways.

In 1866 the spring water from the crater lake was channeled into the city’s first piped water supply – this spring still feeds the duck ponds. These days the ducks share this part of the Domain with some geese.

100B3210 100B3211

In the 1860s the Auckland Acclimatisation Society established a nursery in the Domain – some of the nursery buildings date from that time. The Acclimatisation Society introduced European trees and ornamental plants to New Zealand as well as song and game birds.  Californian rainbow trout were imported in 1883 and the eggs hatched in the Domain ponds created the base stock for trout fishing waters throughout the country. This bench commemorates the society’s work.

100B3228 100B3222

(The nursery buildings (above, right) are not open to the public)

Once the water supply had been harnessed, the crater lake was drained and converted to sports grounds. Today’s cricket pavilion dates from 1898 (replacing an earlier one that burnt down) while the grandstand seating is named in honour of Charles Kerr, and Auckland cricketer who played on the Domain pitch for 61 summer seasons. Tennis and rugby followed cricket with the lawn tennis club opening in 1872 and Auckland’s first league game being played here in 1910. The small hump in the centre of the playing fields is the volcanic core, Pukekaroa.

100B3202 100B3249

The great event of 1913-14 was the Auckland Industrial, Agricultural and Mining Exhibition. Although the city’s population was then only around 100,000, nearly 900,000 visitors came to see the exhibition. After the event everything was dismantled except the ideal home show house which is the very popular ‘Wintergarden Pavilion’ tea kiosk today, www.wintergardenpavilion.co.nz , and the band rotunda.

100B3229 100B3206

When World War I ended, funds from the Exhibition were invested in the creation of the Winter Garden – two green houses, a cool one and a tropical one. An open-air fernery lies in a sunken quarry between the green houses – the quarry was the source of gravel for building paths and roads through the Domain.

100B3234 100B3231 100B3243  100B3235

Following World War I the War Memorial Museum was built on the highest point in the Domain, with the cenotaph and consecrated ground in front of it overlooking the Waitemata Harbour. After World War II the museum was enlarged.

 100B3203 100B3199

(detail, above right, of War Memorial Museum’s east wall with windows dedicated to the battles of Monte Cassino, Italy (centre), Tebaga Gap, Tunisia (left) and Alam Halfa, Egypt (right) and a freize depicting the army, navy and airforce along the top)

Auckland businessman William Elliot donated funds for the monumental gateway which was opened in 1935. New Zealand athlete Alan Elliot was the model for Richard Gross’s statue.

100B3252

Auckland’s centennial year (1940) was marked in the Domain with this statue by WH Wright. The figures represent the city’s strength, flanked by fertility and wisdom.

100B3218 100B3221

The statue stands in the Watson Bequest Garden, a tranquil, enclosed garden near the Domain’s wooded area. In a secluded garden-within-a garden, opening off the Watson Bequest Garden, stands the tiny, but mighty, Valkyrie statue. Although four park benches surround the statue and its fountain, three or more people at a time in this space certainly feels like a crowd. The engery exuded by the bronze horse and the gracefulness of its rider are captivating.

In 1890 the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind had established its premises on the Domain’s eastern boundary. This Sensory Garden, opened in 1970, is an example of the ongoing evolution of the Domain.

100B3196

 

ANZAC DAY

“Brothers, both killed on the same day.”

“He died at the Somme.”

“Do you remember when we visited that war cemetery?”

It’s 6am and there’s just a very faint hint of dawn. All around me in the darkness on Stockade Hill in Howick, east Auckland, a subdued crowd is forming for the Anzac Day dawn service. What little conversation there is consists of a murmured reminiscing about New Zealand soldiers who died during World Wars I and II.

100B3077 100B3092

On 25th April 1915 the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) landed at Gallipoli on the Gallipoli Peninsular in north-west Turkey.  Casualties during fighting to gain control of the peninsular were high: it was the first time New Zealand and Australian forces had suffered such heavy losses – nearly 3,000 and 9,000 respectively. Since 1916, April 25th has been known as ANZAC Day. Throughout both countries dawn and daytime services are held at cenotaphs and war memorials and New Zealanders wear a red poppy. Those who have medals, wear them with pride.

100B3081

On Stockade Hill, a lone bagpiper plays a haunting lament at the start of the dawn ceremony. After the speeches, wreaths are laid at the foot of the cenotaph, and the Australian and New Zealand anthems are sung. On the slopes of the hill white crosses represent Howick’s war dead: the names on some of the crosses are the same ones that are engraved on the cenotaph, and include a nursing sister. Other crosses are blank and we are invited to add the names of other people that we know of who died during the First and Second World Wars. I remember my uncle, Archie McKenzie, Dad’s brother, who died in Tuscany a few days before the liberation of Florence.

100B3088 100B3089

100B3085 100B3087

During World War I, knowing how inadequate the soldiers’ food was, and needing to send a food parcel that wouldn’t spoil during the voyage to Europe, Australian and New Zealand women began sending their men Anzac biscuits – a nourishing, energy-packed variation of Scottish oat cakes. These biscuits are still popular today – last week Howick Library organized an Anzac biscuit competition.

100B3099

Here is the recipe from my grandmother’s “Aunt Daisy’s cookbook”.

125 grams butter, 1 TB golden syrup, 1 tsp baking soda, 2TB boiling water, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup coconut, 1 cut rolled oats, 1 cup walnuts, ¾ cup flour. Melt the butter and golden syrup. Dissolve the baking soda in the water and add. Add the other ingredients. A teaspoonful at a time, form into small balls and place on a greased baking tray, leaving plenty of space between each one. Bake in a slow oven for 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Birdwatchers’ paradise

Like me, you’ve probably driven past certain places often enough, wishing there was time to stop and nosey around. Usually another destination is calling – have to get here, have to get there – and that intriguing spot is left behind for another day. For me one of those places is the Miranda Shorebirds Coast on East Coast Road about 60 kilometres south east of Auckland. I’ve driven past so many times, looking longingly at gleaming strip of white shells that defines the coastline.  Thousands of birds gather here over our summer to escape the winter in Alaska and Siberia and to feast on a rich seafood diet. When they return north in March other migrating birds arrive from closer to home, leaving New Zealand’s South Island for the milder North Island winter climate.

100B3020

This crushed-shell road  runs parallel to East Coast Road between Kaiaua and Miranda

So the coast line between Miranda and Kaiaua is a birdwatchers’ paradise and I really enjoyed the day we spent picnicking there last week.

100B3023

Self-contained camper vans (ie with on-board toilets) can stay for 2 nights overlooking the Firth of Thames. In this photo there are just a handful – during the summer months when the birds have gathered there can be thirty or more vans parked along here.

The drive out to the coast is lovely: we left east Auckland through Howick, turned right at Whitford, and left at Brookby onto Twilight Road. This scenic route wends through native bush to Clevedon and from there it’s on, across rolling farmland, through Kawakawa Bay to Kaiaua. The abundance of yellow-eyed mullet here (aua in Maori, while kai means food or eating) gave the settlement its name, as these fish thrive in the Thames estuary. Leaving Kaiaua, there are plenty of places to park along the shelly beach overlooking the Firth of Thames. This is a lonely, windswept stretch of coast, with not a house is sight and very few trees, and yet as the tide went out, leaving the mudflats glistening in the afternoon sun we appreciated its peaceful, enigmatic beauty and admired the clouds reflected on the seabed.

100B3026 100B3025

Looking across the Firth of Thames at low tide to the Coromandel Ranges and towards Thames.

The birds followed the tide out, so this was a good place for binoculars. We recognised oyster catchers, pied stilts and of course a variety of gulls: ideally we would have been there nearer high tide when it’s so much easier to identify the birds! In late afternoon the sun picked out every fold and ridge in the rugged Coromandel Peninsular. The coastal town of Thames seemed suddenly so close across the Firth’s deep bluey-green waters. When it was time to head home we decided to go back the way we’d come. However a complete loop would have been to continue on along the coast to Waitakaruru. This would have taken us past the Miranda Shorebirds Centre (www.miranda-shorebirds.org.nz) and Miranda Hot Springs, and from Waitakaruru north to Pokeno and then up the motorway back to Auckland. So either way, there is plenty of interest to make this a really enjoyable day out.

Pukeko versatility

Daytime sightings of New Zealand’s iconic bird, the kiwi, are extremely rare and although it is a nocturnal creature, encounters after dark seldom happen either. It is hardly surprising then that another native bird – one that is colourful and quirky and easily spotted – has been happily adopted as a sort of all-purpose mascot. The pukeko, or (less glamorously) the purple swamp hen, inhabits wetlands and grassy areas.

100B2480 100B2482

Its feathers are gorgeous shades of blue and silky black, with a white tuft under its tail feathers. It struts jauntily about on sturdy red legs and has a distinctive red beak. Unlike the flightless kiwi, the pukeko can fly, although its takeoff and landing tend to be rather clumsy.

Over the last 15-20 years the pukeko has appeared increasingly in decorative and souvenir versions: everything from fridge magnets to paintings to quite bizarre garden décor.

100B2483 100B2485 100B2487 100B2486

Take your pick in any gardening shop throughout the country. Notice how the pukeko on the bicycle is wearing gumboots like any true “kiwi” New Zealander. But also notice that this poor pukeko has “knees” (its legs bend like a human leg) whereas real pukeko have “elbows” in their legs – their legs are jointed like human arms. Prices are in New Zealand dollars – NZ$10.00 = €6.00

100B2527 Fridge magnets are fun.

100B2529  100B2530

Garden pukeko in all sizes, from a small bowl of succulents to life size.

100B2488

This pukeko family came to Dad’s garden about 15 years ago, carefully hand crafted in Taranaki. They’ve kept their colour amazingly well.

100B2534

At this time of year a pukeko may even sport a Santa hat and a beakful of tinsel.