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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Where’s Bess?

After spotting this intriguing sign the other day after our grand tour around Scotts Ferry, we went looking for Bess.  Who was she, we wondered? But we couldn’t find her anywhere.

P6290019 Memorial for Bess – this way

We drove slowly down Forest Road, peering at every likely looking sign on the side of the road.  But we did see this happy face smiling at us.

P6290015 Happy face on a bale of silage

Now, here’s a big sign – perhaps we have found Bess at last?  No, don’t think so.

P6290017What on earth does this mean?

Back home Mr Google told us all about it.  Free-Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (FACE) is a method used by ecologists and plant biologists that raises the concentration of CO2 in a specified area and allows the response of plant growth to be measured. Experiments using FACE are required because most studies looking at the effect of elevated CO2 concentrations have been conducted in labs and where there are many missing factors including plant competition.    Horizontal or vertical pipes are placed in a circle around the experimental plot, which can be between 1m and 30m in diameter, and these emit CO2 enriched air around the plants. The concentration of CO2 is maintained at the desired level through placing sensors in the plot which feedback to a computer which then adjusts the flow of CO2 from the pipes.  Who would have thought that we would come across such an interesting experiment down a no-exit road in the middle of nowhere.

We never did find Bess on the side of the road.  But once again, Mr Google came to our rescue.   Bess was one of more than 1000 horses donated to the government for military purposes when the war broke out. The four-year-old black thoroughbred, originally named Zelma, was allocated to the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment and selected by Captain C.G. Powles, who renamed her Bess. She served him throughout the war in Egypt, Sinai, Palestine and France.   New Zealand sent 10,000 horses overseas during the First World War, and she was only one of four horses who made it home.  After her return to New Zealand in 1920, Bess helped Powles perform his duties as commander at the GHQ school at Trentham and then headmaster at Flock House, an agricultural training school for the dependants of war veterans.

Memorial to Bess

Bess died on land near Flock House in 1934. Powles buried her on a small hill just off Forest Road and erected the memorial, which has become a de facto memorial to all New Zealand horses that served during WW1.   The large square shaped memorial is topped by a large rock, and has two plaques. One lists the countries in which Bess served during and after the war. The other bears a text in Arabic: ‘In the Name of the Most High God’.  The memorial is on private land, and it is a shame that we missed seeing it up on the hill.  Perhaps we could get permission from the land-owner to view the memorial on a future visit to the area.

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