The Reserve was part of the 2,800 hectare Ngaio station bought by J G Wilson in 1873, and in 1931 Ormond Wilson inherited 320 hectares of the then much diminished Ngaio station. He built the homestead at the head of a gully containing pockets of bush but already much damaged by stock, overgrown by vines, as well as being infested with gorse. This forward looking man saw the potential of developing the 'bush gully' and set about clearing the gully of the infestations, preserving native trees, encouraging regeneration and planting exotic specimen trees and shrubs.
The homestead was built and the first shelter belts were planted in 1931. Fencing around the bush was completed in 1951 and during the next decade most of the clearings were planted with specimen trees. It was a lifelong project for Ormond Wilson who in December 1971 gifted the homestead block and bush to the Crown as he doubted future landowners 'would have the will to preserve and continue the work I had begun'. Today the reserve is administered by the Manawatu District Council, and an extensive planting programme has been carried out. The reserve is rich in bird life - Kereru (wood pigeon), Morepork, Grey Warblers, Fantails, Tuis, Bellbirds, Wax Eyes and Kingfisher flourish here.
Camping in front of the Homestead, now operated as a B&B
Many visitors just come for a few hours, to bring their children to play on the swings, or feed the ducks. Others come to enjoy the beautiful bush walk. And campers like us are lucky to stay for a night or two enjoying these lovely sheltered surroundings, all for the cost of a small donation in the honesty box. I enjoyed watching the antics of the resident bird life, such as this starling standing guard on top of the nesting box.
Starling on duty
The ducks were much quieter, busy sleeping, or eating, or pooping!
We chatted to B&B Manager Graham and he proudly showed his fat and greedy Monarch Butterfly caterpillars, munching away on their favourite food, the swan plant. But they obviously have a taste for something different now and again, as we saw them on several other flowering plants in the garden.
Monarch caterpillars making short work of a swan plant
We certainly enjoyed our three night stay at Mt Lees. It was a handy place to stay while Robin did his volunteer duty for the Cancer Society at the Field Days on Friday. The weather was perfect, and unusual for the Manawatu, not a breath of wind. And we are only home a few days before Easter beckons – surely not another trip away?