Art Belmont Regional Park Birds harbour Korokoro Landscapes Light Maritime Railway Seasons Weather Wellington

December 29, 2019 … yet another year is ending

I hope you all had a great festive season in whatever way you celebrate it. Those of our family who were in Wellington gathered for Christmas lunch, and in the evening we were invited to dinner with the family of elder daughter’s in-laws. All in all, they were happy occasions and we took care to stay within the law as far as driving goes.

Long ago, I recall being on a management course, in which someone said that the motto of management accountants was “follow me, I have a rear view mirror”.I laughed out loud and got scowled at by some of the accountants present. I have known some very fine management accountants and am not setting out to offend them. However, the joke appealed to my sense of humour. It also reverberates with the nature of this blog where I am forever looking backwards. This edition, the last one for 2019, is no different.

I seem to have spent a lot of the year lamenting the weather, often blaming it for my lack of photographic inspiration. Perhaps it is time to just rejoice in what has been achieved and to attempt to do better in each new edition.

Glass ornament

Mary is an irrepressible volunteer who helps many in the community from young mothers to older folk with dementia. One of the organisations with whom she works gave her this small glass ornament as a token of their appreciation. It is designed as a vase and a flower stem can pass through the halo and a hole in the top into some water inside. I liked the simplicity of the object.

Red-billed gull
Red-billed gull

I was in a coastal car park at Lowry Bay and noticed this gull. It is a red-billed gull (Larus novaehollandiae) … the most common of gulls in New Zealand. It seems that many people stop here to eat their fish and chips or other food, and the gulls associate cars with free food and gather closely in the hope of getting the leftovers. This fellow was very close and quite unafraid.

The tug, Tapuhi
Tug Tapuhi emerging from the rain

We had several days with rain but little wind. I went out looking for opportunities and caught the Wellington harbour tug Tapuhi scuttling across to the Seaview Oil terminal to assist a tanker in its departure. For the technically minded, this is one of two Dammen ASD 2411 tugs in the port. These vessels are a combination of a broad flat platform (24.7 metres long by 10.7 metres in the beam) and two massive Caterpillar diesel engines which drive the two Aquamaster thrust units in any direction. They just push the water aside as they get where they are going. They are not elegant but are certainly effective.

The front door of Wellington railway station
Coming and going at Wellington railway station

The ebb and flow of the commuters at Wellington railway station is always interesting to me. Increasingly, people come and go with a mobile device in one hand and their attention focused on the screen until they become aware of the person coming the other way.

Weather at Wellington Railway station
Midsummer in Wellington … wet, wet, wet

The forecourt of Wellington station is well enough when the sun shines, but on those rare days when it rains in Wellington (grin), it demands a covered walkway. Real Wellingtonians don’t use umbrellas because they self-destruct for no apparent reason. Someone using an umbrella is usually from out of town and has yet to discover the mysterious suicidal tendencies of umbrellas in this city.

Variable oystercatchers

The wonderful New Zealand Birds Online website understates the case when it describes the Variable Oystercatcher as being “very vocal”. They scuttle around the shoreline looking for molluscs and invertebrates and scream their outrage if disturbed. They are often seen with a bivalve mollusc clamped firmly on their beak in a last desperate bid to avoid going down that path. The bird always wins.

Graffiti on pill boxes
Remnants of war

High above Wellington on the Polhill reserve below the Brooklyn wind turbine, there are a number of architecturally brutal pill boxes, or gun emplacements. The anti-aircraft guns and the soldiers who manned them are long gone, and only the rusting brackets on which the guns were mounted remain to bear witness. These days, they serve as a canvas for the entertainment of the graffitist. While I acknowledge flashes of brilliance and sometimes actual artistry in the commissioned murals, I generally dislike most forms of graffiti, and wonder what percentage of the gross national product is wastefully consumed in the use of aerosol paint cans. I can’t help thinking that the manufacturers and retailers would hate it if there were ever a serious move to eliminate the practice.

Cruise liner in Wellington
A newcomer on the cruise circuit

Explorer Dream is a cruise ship that, to the best of my knowledge, is new to the New Zealand cruise circuit. It is a relatively undistinguished vessel on which the most unusual feature is its three funnels all side-by-side across the width of the ship. In the background, the tugs Tapuhi and Tiaki can be seen assisting the container ship ANL Wendouree into her berth while the bulk carrier La Chambordais sits between them loading logs and hopes for the best.

A glade in the Korokoro valley
In the Korokoro stream area

A late afternoon walk from Cornish Street in Petone, up the valley beside the Korokoro stream … there was a magnificent chorus of birdsong and a plethora of wildflowers. For the most part the track is sheltered from the vicious wind whipping overhead. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the number of shades of green in the bush that envelopes the track and its tumbling stream.

In Frank Kitts Park
Christmas Day … warm and still

On Christmas morning I got sent out of the house so as to not be underfoot while our lunch was being prepared by the experts. The weather had taken a dramatic turn for the better and there was a warm haze across the windless harbour. I stopped at Wairepo Lagoon near Frank Kitts park and rather liked this view of people enjoying the morning. The lady was striding briskly along the waterfront and the young man in the squatting posture was catching up with his device. The hills behind Eastbourne almost disappeared in the mist.

Kaiarahi heading into the berth
Preparing for a Christmas sailing

I went to the edge of the wharf (the same one seen in the previous image) and saw the Interisland ferry Kaiarahi doing rather aimless little circuits to the South of Matiu/Somes Island. I liked the contrast between the clarity of the vessel and the haze on the distant Tararua ranges. As I set up my tripod, the ferry seemed to sense that it was being watched and made a sudden beeline back to its berth.

Little black shags
Little Black Shags

After a very happy Christmas day in the company of a fair proportion of the family, we come now to that interesting period before the new year. With guests coming for dinner I was again despatched to be clear of the kitchen so I was wandering around the Waiwhetu Stream in Seaview and spotted a gaggle of Little Black Swans perched on a favourite driftwood log. From my own observations I would say that the Little Blacks are the most gregarious of all the shag/cormorant family and they hunt in packs and roost together.

So ends 2019 and we begin to prepare for the new year. Who knows what shape it will take. I hope that as a nation, we continue to pursue the kinder gentler options as we have done for the last two years. I hope that, as individuals, we will live up to the sentiments we expressed about togetherness after the mosque tragedy in March.

And to the greatest extent possible I hope you all experience a heathy and prosperous New Year. I hope to see you in 2020.

adversity Belmont Regional Park Landscapes Lower Hutt Weather

September 26, 2015 … poverty in the midst of plenty

Somehow, there are days when I find myself in great places and see nothing.

The stream in the Takapu valley

The  Takapu Valley is just over the ridge from us. We are n the Eastern side of the Belmont Regional park,. It is on the West. It is a narrow and winding road following a similarly meandering stream. Despite all the pastoral scenery, there was little I really felt that I needed to make pictures of. The stream shot was really taken to ensure that there was at least one image on the camera’s card.

Hutt Valley near the end of the day

Later in the evening, with some nice light, I went to the water tower at the top of Maungaraki and used the wide angle to get a shot. Ho hum.

Better luck tomorrow

Belmont Regional Park Forest Landscapes Light Normandale Sunset Trees Weather Wellington

January 22, 2015 … the dying of the light*

New Zealand bush is unremittingly green.

Low flow in the Wainuiomata River

Predominantly evergreen, our bush tends to be less colourful than forest in other countries. I struggle to produce images that adequately share my response to being in the bush. Over the hill in Wainuiomata, the recreation area near the water catchment the bush is leavened with some plantations of pines and gum trees. Perhaps it might offer a different opportunity. I set out to walk the Gum Tree Loop which runs beside the Wainuiomata River and involves just 1.6 km of easy walking.

Gum tree plantation in the Wainuiomata Recreational Reserve

Needless to say, on a track thus named, there are gum tees, and as a result the bush is much less dark and dense than native New Zealand bush. They are taller too, than most local trees, and are very nice to walk amongst.

The clearing

A little further along the trail, there was a clearing  or picnic area that prompted me to try the panorama feature on the new camera.

Southerly view
According to the Met Office on the radio, we were experiencing rain and thunderstorms expected to clear overnight. A few fluffy clouds is all.

Later in the evening, there was that light again. I drove to the top of Normandale Road and used the panorama feature again , this time to capture the grand sweep of the view to the South.

Folds in the landscape

My last shot of the day attempts to convey the last light caressing the folds of the valley at the foot of Belmont as the night came closer.

That’s it for today.

* I omitted to acknowledge Dylan Thomas “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night”  thanks to my friend Cliff for picking it up

Belmont Regional Park Plant life Porirua Wellington

February 06, 2012 … getting the feet wet

Soaking shoes and socks in otherwise dry weather  on an open grassy area on a hill-top took me by surprise. Mary and I were walking in Belmont Regional Park yesterday. Rather than being diverted onto side tracks as we were last week, we stayed on the grandly named “Puke ariki” track (the place of chiefs).

Through gates, and over stiles we followed the well-marked trail, generally heading Northwest. It’s a cruel trick of nature that the crest just ahead in a hilly walk is hardly ever the highest point. It simply hides the next rise and the next crest. And all the while our shoes and feet were getting wetter.

Saturday had been grey and drizzly, and some of the grasses through which we walked were covered in tiny glinting water droplets. My assumption was that this water had been deposited on the grass seed heads from the mist. It was visually spectacular, as if parts of the paddocks had been dusted with diamonds.  However, this applied to one particular grass type only.

When it is dry this particular grass is delicate, with tiny, almost shimmering, seed heads. Other heavier grass types seemed to have repelled the water.  I posted an image on face book (you may be able to see it here, though this is not today’s photo). A friend (thanks Cliff) told me that this was not deposited water, but rather, a process known as “guttation” … the plant itself exudes the water. Astonishing, given the sheer volume of moisture thus produced.

Wet feet or not, we had intended a return trip of about two hours. Eventually, we did reach the highest crest on our path, and could look back over the broad expanse of the park to the harbour, the city  and the heads.

Towards the Northwest we got glimpses of Kapiti Island and closer in, the still waters of the Pauatahanui inlet. Our outward hour was not yet up, and because our view to the West was blocked by other hills, I wanted to keep going down and West to a place where we could look out over the Porirua area.

The rolling hills of the Belmont regional park are studded with ugly but fascinating concrete structures. There are 62 (now derelict) ammunition bunkers which were built for the Army during WWII to store explosives well away from the general public. In addition to their historic value, they make an intriguing and picturesque contribution to the landscape.

At last, we reached a somewhat flat open area, with the view I wanted. This is apparently an airstrip, though there are two of the presumably immovable concrete bunkers right on the edge of the alleged “runway”.   It’s one of those agricultural strips from which the intrepid topdressing pilot in a Fletcher would have no  qualms about operating. Not a place for a nervous passenger. At the very least the sheep would need to be moved from the runway.

View from the airstrip on Belmont Regional Park, looking WestToday’s image (click for a larger version) looks directly West.

On a dry day, the hills and islands of the Marlborough sounds would be visible. To the right the furthest point is at the end of Hongoeka Bay near Plimmerton. To the left in the distance we can see Mana Island. Directly above the uptilted end of the runway, the open area is Whitireia Park near Titahi Bay. The houses in front of that are at the western end of Whitby.  A bit to the left that, above the glimpse of the Porirua Harbour are the houses of Titahi Bay. To the left, adjacent to the airstrip are two of the bunkers mentioned earlier

By now, it must be becoming apparent that I enjoy seeing familiar places from new perspectives.

(In case you were unaware, today is Waitangi Day)



Belmont Regional Park

January 29, 2012 … lofty points of view

My home is in Normandale on the Western Hills of the Hutt Valley. We live about 130 metres above the valley floor and enjoy great views of the region.  However, Normandale Road continues past our house, climbing steadily all the while, winding its way to the North through a suburb that gets more spaced out as it climbs. It meanders for another 3.5 km before it peters out at the locked entry gate to the Belmont Regional Park. On paper at least, there is still a road after that, though it is, in practice, just a walking and cycling track crossing farmland, all the way to SH58 at Judgeford. According to the conservative estimates of the Greater Wellington Council, that is a three-hour walk.

In keeping with the “use it or lose it” philosophy,  Mary and I drove to the entrance gate with the intention of walking out and back for an hour’s worth of exercise. For the most part, this track is in the region of 300 to 400 metres above sea level. Altitude brings good views. Good views come at a cost. If you  can see a long distance, you are exposed to the wind and weather. A steady Northerly was a feature of yesterday’s trip, so whenever the track took us into the lee of a hill, or the shelter of some trees, I was grateful.

Plenty to see on the track, but if you are bare sleeved or wearing shorts, it is necessary to avoid contact with the nasty bristles of the native tree nettle (Urtica ferox) which is abundant at the edges of the dry tracks up here. As this plant dries out, its toxins become more potent, and there are recorded cases of death from anaphylactic shock when people have foolishly waded into thickets of the nasty stuff.  Also plentiful is foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) which is also poisonous, if ingested.

After crossing a stile, we came to into the shade and shelter of a forested area, and noticed a newly formed track leading off through the scrub to our right (Eastwards).  This was labelled “bull-a-varde” with further signs pointing to “bull run”. I think it was joke rather than a spelling mistake.

Our zig-zag trail emerged into some comparatively open (and very exposed) land with spectacular views to North and South, as well as across the valley.  I love these high places. The idea that there are whole cities full of unseen people  living, working and playing down there, intrigues me.

Nearby, long golden grass whipped and waved in conformity with the gusting wind.View from Belmont Regional Park looking South through the HeadsTo the South, across the grass and trees of various small farmlets, were views of Pencarrow and Eastbourne, and of the Hutt River estuary at Petone. In the middle of the harbour, just beyond Matiu/Somes Island, the Strait Shipping company’s ferry  “Santa Regina”   was  coming in from Picton.  Down below, the multi-coloured roofs of houses in the Southern parts of the Hutt Valley mingled with the green trees common in most streets of the city.

From a little further over the ridge, across the treetops to the North, we looked down on the nearby suburb of Kelson, and further across,  the houses at the entrance to Stokes Valley and beyond that, through the Taita Gorge to the flat areas of Trentham and Upper Hutt.View to the North towards the Tararuas looking North from Belmont Reional ParkIn the background, to the right, the solid bulk of Mt Climie, and to the left the steadily rising great south wall of the Tararuas.  Nearby, large bumble bees worked industriously on the colourful (but pestilential) flowers of the Scots Thistle.

It’s a very nice area to walk in, and I shall revisit this spot at another time to try to get a more “photographic” and less documentary take on this landscape.