Currently we are staying at Geraldine for a few days. The lilies in Peel Forest was a “must see” we were told – so that’s where we went today. Driving along the road through Peel Forest we caught sight of the mountains in the distance, still with a little snow on the top.
We followed the signs, drove into the car parking area, and found a nice shady area under the trees to park the car. The annual lily day is a fund raiser for the Anglican Parish of Geraldine. And goodness me – there were Morris Dancers banging their sticks together as they danced around. I love watching Morris Dancers and stood watching while Robin walked on by, wondering what the attraction is.
We walked past the veggie garden, following the signs to look for the lilies, Cardiocrinum Giganteum. Thousands of giant Himalayan lilies grow among old oak and beech trees between the Acland homestead and the Church. It is believed the lilies spread naturally after a conservatory blew down in the 1930s.
Giant Lilies everywhere
The pretty little church in the forest came into view, the Holy Innocents Church, with visitors milling around the grounds.
Holy Innocents Church
William Brassington, stonemason, was the chief builder of this church, so named in remembrance of three infant children who died between 1864 and 1869. It was built from greywacke boulders (grey stone) from the Rangitata River bed and limestone brought cross country in bullock drays from Mount Somers and shaped the rocks by hand. The interior wood is native, pit-sawn at Mt Peel and the alter rails are of knotted totara and black pine with six beautiful memorial windows.
Interior of the church
We joined the crowds under the shady trees in front of the lovely old homestead, and ate our morning tea while Carol McAtamney performed classical songs from the verandah. John Acland had the Mount Peel homestead built (1867) from locally fired bricks – and is thought to be the first large house in South Canterbury built of permanent materials.
Mt Peel Homestead
Wending our way back to Geraldine along the gravel road, we stopped to look at a large stone cross on the side of the road. The inscription read “In memory of the men of Peel Forest who fell in the Great War 191-1919”.
Memorial to the men of Peel Forest
And further along the road we noticed a herd of white deer in the adjacent paddock. We parked the car as quietly as possible, and Robin crept over the road with his camera, trying not to spook the animals while they sheltered under a tree. The stags were sporting full sets of antlers, and looked magnificent. Peel Forest Estate have been breeding white deer for over 20 years – with the deer originating from the Royal Park in Denmark.
With the temperature around 30 degrees again, we went back to our camp site to cool down in the shade, requiring several cold glasses of water to slake our thirst. Then a bit of R&R in the afternoon before friends arrived for an evening BBQ.