Our SLG outing yesterday was a picnic at Percy Scenic Reserve in Lower Hutt. It was many years since most of us had been there, and with new road-works, the entrance had changed considerably. Getting there was a challenge for some, and drivers and navigators had to have their wits about them. Luckily we all have cell phones these days, as one couple got lost. They had driven to Petone, but were on the wrong side of the motorway. The instructions for them to backtrack, enter the round-about and drive up the side road seemed clear enough, as they soon joined us in the car park.
Joseph Percy built a flour mill here in 1869, with a full size water wheel powered by Percy Stream. The mill is long gone and a model water wheel now marks the spot of this early piece of Hutt Valley history.
Joseph’s grandsons developed the area into private gardens, using a mix of native and exotic species. In 1939 the government inherited a half share of the Percy garden, with the provision that it be kept as a scenic reserve. The other half was purchased, and the gardens were opened to the public in 1949.
We were given a guided tour through the greenhouses by Lisa, the head horticulturist. She explained about the Alpine collection, 500 plants gifted to the reserve in 1994. These were collected by Tony and Helen Druce over the course of several hundred field trips.
We had seen plenty of Matagouri bushes, which can grow to metres high, on our South Island travels, and this is the only native plant with thorns. Goodness knows why, but it is also known as the Wild Irishman. The Maori people used those wickedly sharp thorns in their practice of tattooing, we were told.
Lisa was very interesting, and answered all our questions with ease. After our walk through the three glass houses, including the “medical ward” for plants with health problems, maternity, (propagation) ill health or dementia, (plants not doing what they should), it was time for our picnic lunch. Ashley came well prepared, carting in a BBQ along with his picnic basket, and got busy cooking up a few sausages while we ate our picnic lunches. We hadn’t taken anything to barbecue, and tucked in to our bacon and egg sandwiches, but Robin didn’t say “no” when he was offered a sausage going spare.
We needed a little walk after our lunch and set off to the duck pond. The ducks saw us amble up the path and they couldn’t get into the water quick enough, ever hopeful for some bread, but they were sadly disappointed.
This lovely reserve has featured in the past for most of our SLG friends. We have all been here over the years for picnics and bush walks, and a couple of the ladies admitted having their wedding photos taken here in the grounds many years ago. I remember bringing my own children, and later on, the grandchildren, to feed the ducks. And as for that weta cave, no way would I ever go inside! I bravely stepped inside the entrance, but that was as far as I would go. Who wants wetas crawling all over you, not me!
However, a little preschool girl visiting with her Dad put me to shame. She happily ran into that dark, dank, spooky cave, right to the end, and came out again, bright and bubbly, without a single tear. And, she said, she saw a monster down the end, as well as a unicorn. But was she scared? Certainly not!