Holiday on the West Coast...

 The Mokihinui River.
Rata and Pungas

I'm back from four days holiday on the West Coast, staying up the Mokihinui River. I've been walking, reading, eating, and taking lots of green photographs. The mood relaxed, the tempo andante...

Missing My Garden

The first night away I scribbled mad garden plans in my diary - things to do when I got home. How silly! I sketched the new stone wall, complete with spiky grasses and flaxes. I wrote a learned dissertation on the reason for paths and bridges to connect the gardens over the water race. I found it impossible not to be missing my garden full of cats, dog, frogs and waterwheels.

But I did try to be a happy garden reporter, and I did enjoy my new surroundings. The bush lodge where we stayed was beautiful, set back in broadleaf podocarp forest on the river's edge. There were small river rapids and kayaks for the adventurous, and bushwalks and trout fishing. And just a few sandflies needing just a light application of insect repellent to see off.

The West Coast has a high rainfall, and native bush grows lush and green in the mountains and gullies, right down to the edge of the rivers. Amidst all that greenery I found some small clusters of bright blue mushrooms, an incongruous colour seen against the deep green mosses and groundcovers.

 Some typical West Coast sights.
West Coast Images

Tree ferns (which we call pungas) grow everywhere, and there were just a few late patches of red Rata in flower. For me the best West Coast gardens are the green and natural ones.

Dahlias and Garden Gnomes

Some ornamental gardens we passed in the bus were interesting - at this time of the year bright coloured dahlias are very popular, and pieces of driftwood and old mining relics are popular garden ornaments. I also saw lots of houses with crusty old garden gnome collections. Hmm...

 Buckets of coal coming down from the mine in the hills.
Stockton Coal Mine Working

Several plants have escaped from the cultivated borders and now grow madly along the West Coast roadsides - species Crocosmia, with its vibrant orange and yellow flowers, and the sweeter pink-orange Tiger lilies. There are also many healthy blue-flowering hydrangea shrubs growing where they maybe shouldn't be - obviously they enjoy the gentle pace of life (and the freedom from pruning) as well as the rainfall.

Save the Snails

There is much mining history on the coast, and still there are coal mines operating on the high plateau. Special native snails had to be removed from a site near the Stockton mine, and sadly they are not so happy in their new valley.

 Near the sea.
Denniston Cemetery

The West Coast is a confused, divided place - environmentalists versus the older established coasters who are just interested in jobs and industries. I'm with the snails - seeing the biggest bulldozer (apparently) in the world was not my most memorable experience. Mining and tourism make uneasy partners, I think.

Denniston - Heritage Mine Site

We visited Denniston, a historic coalmining site high on the plateau, where early mining life was incredibly hard. The men - and their intrepid wives - often had to ride the steep coal-bucket incline to get down off the hills. There was so little topsoil that all coffins, too, made this terrible ride. This mine stopped working in the 1960s.

 Looking out to the sea from the old mine.
View from Denniston

The highlight of my holiday was a walk down the Charming Creek Walkway, from top to bottom. Oh dear - I successfully crossed a couple of scary suspension swing bridges, and took heaps of photographs of the vegetation and the so-called 'creek'.

I learnt exactly how to cook a whitebait fritter West Coast style, and I lost count of the white camper-vans which passed us on the road. Our bush lodge, called the Rough and Tumble, would be a brilliant base for a fishing and mountain biking holiday, and I'd like to come back with more time to explore - before dams and new roads 'open the whole area up'. Aargh!