Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The story of 1066 – a New Zealand version

After viewing the Reading Museum, England recreation of the Bayeux Tapestry a couple of years ago, (made so that England could have a version of its own, the makers declared), we were intrigued to find a mosaic version in Geraldine.  “You must see it”, we were told, “it is amazing!”  As a lover of British history I didn’t really need much convincing, and the entry price to view this work of art was a very reasonable $2.00. Michael Linton worked on this project from 1979 till 2004, painstakingly snipping pieces of steel from obsolete disks used on an industrial knitting machine.  These were then pressed onto strips of masking tape, and an application of black shoe polish darkened any spaces between the snippets of steel.
DSCF9265 The panels lining the walls
Michael then traced the outline and painted the pictures onto the metal background with enamel paint, using only eight colours in keeping with the original tapestry.  He used a tiny 00 size nylon brush for this painstaking work.
DSCF9266   The death of King Harold
The original Bayeux Tapestry tells the story of the Norman Conquest in 1066, which changed the whole course of English history.  However, historians believe that there are two panels are missing.  Undaunted, Michael and his daughter Rachael did extensive research to create their interpretation of what the missing panels would look like.  Visit the website at
DSCF9269    The crowning of William
A  new mosaic of 72ft is nearing completion.  This tells the earlier English battle against the Viking force at Stamford Bridge, and will be hung in a couple of months.  Michael has also made several other mosaics featuring royal coat of arms.  “Dieu et mon Droit” is a depiction of Queen Elizabeth’s coat of arms.
DSCF9267 Royal Coat of Arms
We couldn’t leave without buying a copy of Medieval Mosaic DVD.  This interactive DVD describes the Bayeux Tapestry, and has a mass of information about history, maps, castles, clans of Scotland, and much more.  That should keep us busy for a while.
DSCF9271 Medieval Mosaic DVD
Leaving all this medieval history behind us, we then checked out a little of the history of Geraldine, before we depart tomorrow.  We noticed several very early cottages dotted in between more modern homes.
DSCF9270 An early style house in Geraldine
And dating back to even earlier times was a plaque marking the spot of the very first house built in Geraldine, built by Samuel Hewlings, the government surveyor.  Later the first school was built on the site, followed by the Geraldine Road Board Office.  This totara tree was planted by Samuel Hewlings to commemorate the birth of the first European child to be born in the Geraldine district.
DSCF9262 A slice of Geraldine history
Firmly back in the present once again we sampled then purchased some Barkers jams and mint jelly, and a couple of varieties of  Talbot Forest cheeses, with both companies proudly manufacturing their products here in Geraldine.  For a little place, there is certainly a lot going on.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Farewell to Ashburton, hello Geraldine

Time to hit the road again and say farewell to Ashburton.  Our stay there was very pleasant, but off we go again.

DSCF9227 We’re moving on

It was an easy drive south down SH1, then across to Geraldine.  This POP (park over property) had been recommended and we could really see why.  We drove down the sweeping drive, lined with silver birch trees and pretty gardens edged with rocks, and found several motor-homes already in residence.  Hope there is space for our four rigs, as we had phoned ahead to see if there was room available.  Of course there was room, and one by one we were slotted into our spaces, and power cords switched on.

DSCF9241 We are parked up on such pretty grounds

Our friendly hosts, David and Maureen, came out to welcome us, accompanied by their miniature poodle Tui.  This cute little dog bounced through the open door into the back seat of our car before we had unclipped Muffy and taken her into the caravan.  Don’t know who got the biggest shock from this unexpected encounter but Tui jumped straight back out again and both animals were looking rather wide eyed from their experience.

DSCF9247 Tui, the miniature poodle

I spotted a hen house down at the end of the property.  “Here, chook, chook”, I called, and they all came running from near and far from their large enclosure to see if I had any bread for them.  They all seem to be different colours, and have lovely shiny plumage.  Free range eggs are available for sale, so we will certainly be buying some for our morning bacon and egg breakfast. 

DSCF9245 Chooks in the hen house

With such a variety of different caravans and motor-homes parked up overnight,  there is always something of interest to check out.  Our men folk spent an enjoyable time discussing the finer points of a large 5th wheeler parked on the next site.

DSCF9260 Checking out the 5th wheeler next door

Geraldine has several interesting places to visit so we went our separate ways in the afternoon.  Robin and Derek explored the Geraldine Vintage Car and Machinery Museum and Dot came with me to Lillia’s Lace Museum.  More about these visits later.

Monday, 27 February 2012

He didn’t listen to the GPS Unit

The GPS unit was programmed to take us to Methven, but Robin thought he knew better and didn’t follow the instructions, and merrily drove another way.  “Do a U turn, do a U turn”, the voice on the unit insisted.  So he did just that, the anonymous voice was happy again, and we eventually arrived in Methven.  “Why do you want to go to Methven?”, our travelling companions wanted to know.  “Just because we had never been there”, was the reply.  We passed quite an assortment of livestock on the farmland on our drive, from the more usual sheep and cattle, to alpacas farmed for their fine fleece.   Our next stop was the Rakaia Gorge, and driving down the steep hill we pulled into a lay by to look at the glorious view.  Away in the distance was one of the two Rakaia Gorge bridges.  While our cameras were clicking madly and we noticed a young couple struggling up the steep road on their heavily loaded bicycles – I don’t think they were having fun at all!

P2270996  Rakaia Gorge bridge

From here it was a short drive down to the river, and we could see the second bridge from this viewpoint – different construction methods have been used for each bridge.   There goes another load of timber.  Looking across the bank on the other side of the gorge the layers of different sediments are clearly visible.

P2271009 The other Rakaia Gorge bridge

P2271006 Different layers visible in the river bank

Our trip continued on to Staverley, the home of the famous Staverley Baking Company sausage roll – or so I read.  Goodness knows what the proprietors of the Staverley Store thought when our cars pulled up and 8 people walked into the shop to ask for their special sausage rolls!  We ordered coffees to wash the sausage rolls down and sat outside on the picnic tables to enjoy our morning tea.

DSCF9232 The Staverley Store

This little speck in the middle of nowhere is typical of towns which previously thrived, then closed down.  These days only the store and the church remain.  In the picnic area adjacent to the shop is a statue carved by Allan Coleman “Honouring the pioneers of the foothills”.  

DSCF9233 Honouring the pioneers

After all those sausage rolls we still needed our lunch so we took a short drive out to Hakatere Conservation Park at the foot of Mount Sommers.  The DOC hut was just the place for us to sit and eat our sandwiches.

P2271014 Time for lunch

This is a beautiful area and keen trampers can take several walks in the surrounding hills, anything from short walks to others from 6-9 hours hard slog.  The Department of Conservation always provides an “Intentions Book” for trampers to list what route they are taking in case they fail to return.  Beech trees were plentiful, and with their black trunks they look as if a fire has swept though the area.  The black colouration is because the trees secrete honeydew, which unfortunately attracts huge quantities of wasps.

DSCF9240 Beech trees in the forest

We arrived back at camp ready to put the kettle on, make a cuppa, sit down in the sunshine and relax.  Our host restores old cars and has many dotted around his property in various stages of repair.  In the morning we will pack up and move on, next stop Geraldine.

DSCF9214 Our campsite in Ashburton

DSCF9213Waiting for restoration

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Plains Vintage Railway – Tinwald, Ashburton

It must have been good luck, we think, for us to be staying in Ashburton the weekend the vintage trains were running.  Several of our men are real train enthusiasts, and the ladies aren't adverse to a ride in a vintage train now and again.  It was a bleak and chilly morning when we set off on the short drive down to Tinwald to find the Plains Vintage Railway and Historical Museum.  We put our gold coin donation in the box and entered the gates.

DSCF9212 We’re at the right place

What’s that?  How exciting, it looks like steam today!  The museum has three preserved locomotives and one vintage railcar to pull the vintage carriages, and it was the turn for this little beauty to take a turn today.  The engine is a K88, built in 1877 by Rogers Locomotive Works, at New Jersey.  After a productive working life, this poor little engine was scrapped, pushed over the side of the Oreti River and used as flood protection.  In 1974 the engine was uncovered and moved to the Plains Railway Museum, and the slow process of restoration began.  These days, the engine looks very smart with shiny green paint, brass fittings and a copper steam dome. We boarded one of the carriages for our 15 minute trip through the plains, and our  $8 ticket entitled us to enjoy two rides during our stay.

 DSCF9191K88 all ready to go

The men took a trip through the engine shed.  The huge JA1260 is a “local” and was built at Hillside Railway Workshops, Dunedin in 1952.  By contrast, the miniature traction engine is very small indeed.

P2260983 JA1260

P2260976 Miniature traction engine

Back outside again we wandered around looking at some of the vast array of vintage trucks and engines.  The basic Bedford Diesel Fire Engine from 1960 showed just how far technology has taken the fire engines of today.

DSCF9197  1960 Bedford Fire Truck

Back in the “good old days” home milk delivery was the norm, and dairy factories were found in every town.  The Midland Co-op Dairy Co used this Bedford in the 1950s right here in Ashburton.

DSCF9198Bedford truck

The railway station on site was formerly the Chertsey Station, and was built in 1919.  The Ashburton Jaycees relocated the building in 1976. 

DSCF9211 The Plains Railway Station

There is also a Pioneer Village with many buildings to wander through – everything from a church, cottage and shops from the era.  We gazed through the windows at a shoe shop and marvelled at just how tiny those ladies shoes were.  The chemist shop was interesting with all those pills and potions.  and to keep the ladies amused there were displays of vintage washing machines and sewing machines.

DSCF9205  Moylan Market

DSCF9199 Early cottage

Meanwhile, the  K88 was getting up a head of steam for another trip up the line.  Cameras were snapping at this wonderful sight.  It must be time to climb aboard for our second ride of the day. 

P2260985 K88 all steamed up

Moving south to Ashburton

Total Nights and Distance Travelled on Tour to Date = 13 Nights & 1193 Kms

Leaving the domain grounds at Tai Tapu we almost had a head on accident with a youth in a red car being closely pursued by a police car coming around the corner.  Luckily we all managed to stop just in time – but we did wonder the reason for the close pursuit.  No hills today as our drive down State Highway One took us through the Canterbury Plains.  We drove through the little village of Dunsandal, made famous by Ken Avery and his Kiwi classic song “By the dog dosing strip in Dunsandal”.  To those who haven’t experienced this piece of vintage Kiwiana, the song refers to the days gone by when dog owners were required to take their dogs to specified areas to be dosed for hydatids. 

We drove over the Rakaia River Bridge,  the longest highway bridge in New Zealand at 1.8km long.  At that length it seemed to go on, and on, and on.  The Rakaia River is known as a “braided river”.  A braided river is one that, over some part of its length, flows in multiple, mobile channels across a gravel floodplain.

DSCF9184 Travelling over the longest highway bridge in NZ

DSCF9186The Rakaia River

Rakaia is well known for its salmon and trout fishing, and has this giant salmon statue standing at 12 metres high on SH1 to entice keen fishermen to try their luck.

P2250967 The giant salmon

It was then just a short run to Ashburton (the town was named in honour of the 2nd Baron Ashburton).  We are staying at a rural POP and have a couple of pet sheep to keep us company.  We have to be careful as they are used to getting their own way and can become quite a nuisance as they are not at all afraid of people.  Our host has a large assortment of old vehicles which he plans to restore and our men-folk were delighted when told that he will take them around his workshop sometime.

Romany Rambler: Travelled 20,790Km; 358 Total Nights

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Christchurch City – the Red Zone

Like all New Zealanders, we had seen television pictures of the centre of Christchurch after the devastating February earthquake last year.  Buildings in ruins, and later on the bulldozers were sent in to demolish many of these buildings.  On our last day in Christchurch we went to see for ourselves, and commented that the pictures on TV do not do justice to the huge scale of the damage.  The heart of the central business district is cordoned off, buildings are empty and boarded up and empty spaces show where other buildings once stood.   The  Bridge of Remembrance  is fenced off and the damage is plain to see. 

DSCF9150 Bridge of Remembrance

Away in the distance we could just make of the remains of Christchurch Cathedral, which suffered considerable damage and is unlikely to be rebuilt.  The spire came crashing down and the stained glass windows were destroyed.  The Cathedral is considered to be the heart of the city and once stood proudly in Cathedral Square.

DSCF9180Christchurch Cathedral in the distance

DSCF9172Multi storey building boarded up

DSCF9165 Brick building severely damaged

Many of the empty buildings have “cleared” signs spray painted on the windows showing how the whole of the central city was searched and cleared after the earthquake by urban Search and Rescue teams.  Many teams came from overseas to help with the recovery.

DSCF9169Building cleared by American Search and Rescue team

A new “shopping centre” constructed of brightly painted containers has brought some life back into the city.  People now have an area to shop, or have a coffee with friends, and some businesses are able to start trading again.  This area was buzzing with workers and sightseers alike.


DSCF9155 New shops made from steel containers

Even though it was rather sobering to walk around the cordoned off area and look through the chain link fence, we agreed that it was beneficial to give us a greater understanding of the damage suffered here. 

Air Force Museum, Wigram, Christchurch

What’s to see at the Air Force Museum?  28 classic aircraft for a start, many aircraft being restored, plus much, much more.  We started our visit with a guided “behind the scenes” Restoration and Reserve Collection tour.  “The restoration demands the preservation of the maximum amount of the original aircraft”, I read.  Where possible, parts are sourced from scrapped aircraft, the correct type of timber is sourced from overseas, and metal pieces are meticulously fashioned. 

DSCF9107 Kittyhawk P-40

Britain sent several Vickers Vildebeest Biplanes to New Zealand during WW11, and none survive today.  The restorers were working off drawings making all the pieces to put the frame together.  When this huge job is finally complete this will be the only aircraft of this type in the world.

DSCF9111  Working on the frame of Vickers Vildebeest Biplane

DSCF9129 Derek and Robin on a De Havilland Vampire

Aircraft big and small are slotted in to place in this hanger.  The smaller Strikemaster jet training aircraft, and the Westland Wasp Navy Chopper look tiny alongside the huge Bristol Freighter, with an Army Jeep still in the hold. 

DSCF9125 Bristol Freighter B170

We walked right through the Hawker Siddley Andover, a multi roled plane used to carry servicemen, freight and vehicles,  It was also used for parachute training.  The trainees sat with their parachutes in the seats with netting, their chutes were clipped on to the overhead rail, and one by one they moved towards the open door and jumped.  Any who hesitated at this point failed the course.

DSCF9132Luckily we didn’t have to jump

It was an eerie experience walking back into the main exhibition hall.  We could see the planes on display through the dim lighting while over the speakers came the haunting sound of the song, “Coming home on a wing and a prayer”.  So many of the Air Force boys  must have done just that during the war years.

DSCF9146 Safely home

DSCF9142 Link Flight Trainer used during WW11

The Memorial Alcove is an enduring tribute to the thousands of New Zealanders who gave their lives in the defence of their country in theatres of air operations around the world.  The window was made by stained glass artist Rena Jarowsewitch and Official RNZAF Artist Wing Commander Maurice Conley.  The bent propeller is a reminder of aircraft which took the lives of servicemen and women during the war.  

DSCF9136Memorial Alcove

DSCF9133At the end of our tour