Blenheim and nearby Nelson are usually in a bit of a tussle to see which town wins the “sunniest” category each year. The way it looks to us over the last few days, Blenheim is lagging a bit behind on the sunshine stakes, with grey skies and overnight rain. Blenheim is named after the Battle of Blenheim (1704), where troops led by John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough defeated a combined French and Bavarian force.
Isn’t this sad? A trip to the local Info Centre had the road conditions written up on a board – closed, closed, and closed. Very necessary information for anyone traveling, of course, but to us Kiwis, we must be wondering when all this extreme weather will stop wrecking our roads. And the time, effort, and cost needed to get them open again.
We stopped to admire the rather handsome clock tower and war memorial, surrounded by colourful gardens. The clock tower in Blenheim commemorates all those from the Marlborough Province who died in the First World War. Stones in the upper part consist of Amuri limestone, while those in the lower part are greywacke, to ensure that all areas were represented by incorporating stones collected from different parts of Marlborough. Built in 1928, plaques have been added to commemorate men lost in the following wars.
Clock Tower and War memorial in Blenheim
Mr Whippy came into camp – it may well be a little chilly, but who can resist to the call of Mr Whippy’s musical notes. Not us, anyway. And what a friendly fellow he was.
Staying at the Waterlea Racecourse, as we are, we often hear the sounds of hoof beats on the raceway. The horses are put through their paces most days, usually bright and early in the morning, although we have seen them out on the track later in the afternoon as well.
One of our neighbours was all set to depart in the early afternoon, but with all the rain, was stuck fast. But all was not lost, as Robin sprang into action. Attaching the strop, he then helped pull the motorhome and trailer out of the muddy hole he was stuck in with our trusty Land cruiser.
Robin to the rescue
We took a trip out to the Wairau Bar after reading about this interesting place. The Wairau Bar is a 19-hectare (47-acre) gravel bar formed where the Wairau River meets the sea in Cloudy Bay, Marlborough. This area is one of the oldest archaeological sites in New Zealand. Artefacts have been radiocarbon dated to around 1300 AD.
There is also a monument to the European settlers, their wives and families who, from 1832, entered the river bar to found the Province of Marlborough. A shipping service for their produce continued until August 1965. The remains of the old derelict wharf are barely standing, and the sunken hulk of a boat tells of earlier, more prosperous times.
Monument to the settlers who arrived crossing over the bar
Cormorant sunning itself on the boat wreck
Another interesting find were the remains of the old flax mill at nearby Marshlands. The region’s first mill was built in Marshlands, in the lower Wairau, in 1870. Marlborough had an abundance of flax growing in swampy areas, and the European settlers soon saw its many uses. Flax fibre was processed and exported for use in ropes, carpets and woolsacks, and by the 1870s Marlborough was an important flax export district. Although still standing, most of the buildings are in a state of disrepair, and overgrown, and it felt rather like driving through a ghost town. But this was certainly a thriving business in it’s time.
The old Flax Mill at Marshlands
That was the end of our exploring in and around Blenheim – and tomorrow we move on to Koromiko, another step closer to boarding the ferry and returning home.