New Zealand's beaches are wonderful in autumn. Forget blue skies and frenzied, frothy bathing - autumn is the season for the beachcomber-gardener. Drag a stick along the sand, write a message, pick up pebbles, driftwood, and shells...
My friend and I have just spent a gentle autumn day hiking over coastal hills to the sea and back. We've been on the Tiromoana Walkway, a loop track which wanders over rolling sheep-clad hills, through a wetland and down a gully to a beach for lunch. The track is easy, often following four-wheel drive farm roads over the spurs and down the valleys.
Lunch on the Beach
A Grey-Beautiful Day...
A grey-beautiful day, lunch on an autumn beach with a good friend - very, very nice. The eroding tussock cliffs, the rows of low, gurgling waves, broken shells and pebbles - all look at their very best in overcast weather and soft light.
Nature's Subtle Colours
Nature's subdued, subtle colours certainly look better in misty drizzle than on a paint chart in a house decorator's showroom!
There I was, sitting on a round weathered rock, and I realised that my dog Rusty has never (with me, anyway) experienced beach sand and waves. That's terrible! He's a completely inland dog, a dog of rivers, irrigation canals, and tennis balls thrown into the large Moosey pond.
No Dogs Allowed!
Alas, the modern reality of a well-managed public track leaves no doubt as to whether dogs are welcome on the Tiromoana Walkway or not. The signage is clear and uncompromising - dogs will be shot on sight! Seems harsh and a bit unwelcoming, but I've known stubborn, thoughtless walkers to take their dogs on farm tracks, even during lambing. 'Oh, but he's really well-behaved' they'll say... Hmm...
We shared the track with lots of sheep, giving our day a decidedly rural farm flavour. Sheep are silly - they quite like to stand and stare, but lose confidence easily and run, following whichever is the flock's designated leader at that moment in time.
A Working Farm
The Tiromoana Walkway runs through a working farm, and credit must be given to the farm manager - I've never before seen cleaner sheep's bottoms, as parts of the flock scampered away here and there.
The Gully Leading to the Beach
If you're near North Canterbury, then the Tiromoana Walkway would make a delightful day trip. Check first that it's open, be prepared for a few ups and downs, expect farmland rather than forest, and plan to lunch on a delightful beach with the oddest boulders as seats.
Track to the Wetlands
Take your best walking friend (as I did) - but don't take your dog!