We have had strong winds alternating with low cloud, mist and rain. Normally I would suggest that these are incompatible, but that’s what we have had. Low cloud is not necessarily bad and wreaths around the hills off interesting opportunities. In the hope that the conditions at Pauatahanui would be special, I went over the hill. Alas, it was merely grey over there with ruffled water. I cam back and paused at the top of the Haywards Hill for a view of the clear-felling logging operation that has been taking place there. As you v=can see there is little left standing.
From there I went North and saw a misty landscape near the Moonshine bridge.
At Upper Hutt, I carried on to the Plateau road and from there into the Mangaroa Valley which was also buried in the mist. On days like this there is a silence in the valley and a sense of being isolated from the rest of the world.
Business issues took me to the upper valley yesterday.
Rather than going straight home, I went first to the Plateau a little to the North of Upper Hutt. Though some images were made there, nothing really ignited the creative flame for me, so I went round the back road to the Mangaroa Valley and from there South into Whiteman’s Valley. Both of these valleys are home to a mixture of small farms and so-called “lifestyle blocks”. Since they are not on the road to anywhere they are quiet places with lots of greenery and steep wooded hills to East and West. Here in the Southern hemisphere, spring is well and truly with us in everything but weather. Bouncing lambs and lots of flowering trees tell us it is so.
To the North end of the Valley, the great South Wall of the Tararua ranges dominates. Some late snow chills the view and makes the peaks more impressive than their benign summer face. I am not absolutely certain but I think the passing birds are masked lapwings (formerly spur-winged plovers) .
As I drove across a creek in the valley, I was a bit shocked to see an infestation of “Old Man’s Beard” (Clematis vitalba) choking up the less aggressive foliage. In the 1980s, famed botanist David Bellamy was the front man for a nation-wide campaign with the catch-phrase “Old man’s Beard must go”. Clearly the message has been forgotten, and though this member of the clematis family is beautiful when in flower, it is an invasive pest plant. In this picture the seeds look a lot like cotton balls.
It is part of the picturesque charm of these valleys that generations of farmers have planted daffodil bulbs along the roadside and occasionally in random patches on the farm. At this time of year, their golden trumpets nod and bow in a lively dance as the spring breezes blow.
North of Upper Hutt there is an area called the Plateau, and it can usually be relied upon to be a few degrees colder than other parts of the Hutt Valley, especially in Winter conditions such as we have had for the last few days. Sadly, though I drove into the reserve to the Tunnel Gully area, there was no snow except up near the summit of Mt Climie. I was left trying to eke a photograph from the contrast between the eucalypts and the drifting Southerly drizzle.
On Plateau Rd, the sound of the Mangaroa Road was audible inside the car so a brief stop was made to see what was possible with that. It was well above its normal flow.
A detour through the Mangaroa Valley gave me a distant view of the residual snow on the tops beyond the pleasant pastoral scenery down on the flat. Frustration all round, but I suppose that trying to present the ordinary in the best way possible is a challenge.
Mary makes a picnic lunch and then I drive us to a surprise location. Yesterday’s trip was a bit constrained by fears of holiday congestion on the main roads. I went over the hill to Whiteman’s Valley, up through the Mangaroa Valley and up Plateau Rd to Tunnel Gully. Tall bush at the foot of the road up to Mt Climie was spectacularly lush. Several magnificent Rata were in bloom, a burst of dusky red against a sea of green.
Our destination was chosen because, despite the number of time I had been up to the Plateau area, I had never seen the Mangaroa tunnel. We followed a well-formed path from the picnic area into the bush and within a minute or two were at the mouth of the old railway tunnel. Though we could see the other end quite clearly, the 221 metre tunnel is long enough that it is very dark inside. The tiny light on my key ring is designed to illuminate keyholes and was quite useless against the unrelenting blackness. A young woman running behind us with her two dogs told as she passed that the biggest hazard in the tunnel were the horse droppings. We emerged blinking at the other end.
Birdsong was all around us and I could hear tui, bellbird, fantail, blackbird and grey warblers at least. Unfortunately the bush was so dense that the birds were able to be heard, but rarely seen. The trail led relentlessly downhill towards Maymorn, and I always think that downhill tracks have to be repaid if you want to get back to where you left the car. The path passes through a dense stand of pines and Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” came to mind.
At Maymorn station, we turned back and instead of passing through the tunnel chose the track up over the very ridge that the tunnel is designed to avoid. The quality of the bush os outstanding and we count ourselves fortunate to have such easy access to such a treasure.
I know I am in trouble when I set out to take a picture but have no idea where, or of what.
The technique of following your nose can lead to mediocrity. Nevertheless I set out in the direction that the front of my car was pointing. That took me through the Mangaroa Valley and over the hill into Upper Hutt. An old military storage establishment is quietly decaying in the midst of the rural lifestyle blocks.
Over the ridge to Upper Hutt, and below me, the train from Masterton is bound for Wellington, having just passed through Maymorn.
Mindful of the dictum to look around, I spotted a small blue flower which I take to be a bluebell.
In Upper Hutt township, there is a traffic roundabout at the Northern end of the main street. In the centre of the island there is a large bronze sculpture, a stylised representation of a kereru sitting on a ring. The symbolism eludes me, but the sculpture is surrounded by tulips, poppies and other perennials nearing the end of their flowering season.
As the old joke has it, if you don’t like our climate, wait twenty minutes.
It began well enough, though I would have preferred that the wind was not ruffling the water like that. There were a large number of pied stilts at the inlet in the morning, but for most of my purposes, the tide was wrong and the wind was wrong.
I had lunch with a former colleague in Upper Hutt, then went over the hill to Mangaroa. A little way up the valley a flash of red caught my eye, and there were a pair of Eastern Rosellas (Platycercus eximius). They were flying free but judging by the fence on which they perched and the man-made birdhouses, I am guessing that someone is feeding them so they are not going far.
I moved up the valley further to the plateau behind Maymorn, and then the climate changed. It happened suddenly, and drastically. A thunderous hailstorm made life distinctly unpleasant, and rendered photography much more difficult. I waited until the hail gave way to mere rain, then set out towards home. I went down beside the Hutt River just South of the Moonshine bridge in the hope of getting some atmospheric shots. The rain was coming in with some force from the South, so I did my best to shoot from inside the car. I had a storm jacket for the camera, but not one for myself, so I was reluctant to get out.
In a few places I could angle the car so that I could briefly lower the passenger side window and get the shot without too much rain getting on the lens.
So ends another day.
* “The day that the rains came down” a song by Gilbert Becaud, made famous by Jane Morgan
After a week or two of indifferent weather, we suddenly got lucky.
This is a long weekend in in New Zealand, on which we observe the sovereign’s birthday. Her real birthday is April 21, but in New Zealand, it is always observed on the Monday nearest June 2. And to go with the long, and the start of the calendar winter, we have a forecast that says we shall have bright clear weather from Saturday through Thursday. I looked from my window and saw a cloudless sky and a touch of river mist. This first image is taken near manor Park, looking North towards the Tararuas.
I took the side road (Hebden Crescent) because it got me off the busy main highway and allowed me to get shots in safety. The morning looked warm enough, but the thermometer on my car’s dashboard was telling me that the outside temperature was 4°C.
Following my nose, I went to he Plateau at the foot of Mt Climie where my dashboard was now panicking and telling me that the outside temperature was now 2°C. Perhaps it was, but the atmosphere and scenery distracted me from any discomfort.
From there I went into Mangaroa Valley where one small Maple was putting on a belated Autumn spectacular all on its own.
My last shot for the day was near the hill that crosses back over the ridge to Upper Hutt. I had to perch with my tripod on a very narrow concrete ledge at the edge of the bridge. Fortunately few cars passed.
On the other hand, we will go to great lengths to avoid the crowds in our local mall, especially during holiday season and in bad weather. There was a shop we wanted at Rongotai, so off we went. As we came around one of the many corners on Evans Bay, I spotted this colourful tanker berthed at the Miramar wharf.
As far as I know, the main purpose of the Miramar terminal is jet fuel, so I presume that the Stena Polaris was delivering that. Since she is leased by Stena Bulk, a division of the Swedish company that is providing our temporary interisland ferry (the Stena Alegra), I was more than usually interested. The Stena Polaris is a very modern vessel specially reinforced for ice, with dual separate engine rooms. It recently completed a voyage from the Gulf of Finland to South Korea via the Northern Sea Route (the North East passage). In the few months of the year when ice permits, she can save about 12 days and 400 tonnes of fuel, carrying 44,000 tonnes of naphtha or other petroleum products. We shall overlook the fact that she was accompanied on her voyage by a Russian nuclear powered icebreaker ‘just in case’.
On our return we drove down Aotea Quay which was dominated by the impressive 90,000 Tonne bulk of the Radiance of the Seas. This ship is capable of carrying 2,500 units of self-loading cargo, and according to Wikipedia, is further distinguished as the first ship to have gyro-stabilized pool tables that remain horizontal no matter what. Amazing how we can find solutions to first-world problems (though I suspect that there is no solution to the inertia problems that may arise if the ship rolls a lot, or surges into waves).
Speaking of matters maritime, it dawns on me that it is sixty years ago to the day that with my parents and brother, we sailed down the Clyde on the TSS Captain Cook to emigrate from the UK to New Zealand.
In the afternoon I went out again and wandered the industrial area at the back of Upper Hutt. I found little of interest at street level so went up the Mangaroa Hill road and looked back towards the city below. The first thing that caught my eye was a log bark processing machine that grinds and sorts log bark into various landscaping products. It’s amazing what lies behind the bland street frontages.
From the same vantage point, and with my textures theme in mind, I spotted an interesting roof top.
And then, mindful of the check-behind-you rule, I saw this bumble bee Bombus terrestris) up to its neck in gathering pollen from this large thistle.
My last discovery of the day was the Wallaceville cemetery, tucked onto a wind-swept hillside overlooking the Mangaroa Valley. I referred to the “wild goose grasses” just a few days ago, but here the grasses were really blowing across graves just as the old Weavers’ song suggested.
Today is another edition of somewhat muted colours.
Spring is upon us, daffodils and lambs are beginning to appear, though the weather as experienced, tends to remain grey and chilly.
My photo shoot began at “the Plateau” near Maymorn, Upper Hutt. The last time I was there, it was a warm and pleasant evening with fantails flitting about gathering a plentiful harvest of sandflies. Yesterday it was just plain cold, but the same little creek gurgled just as merrily and passed under the road. I wanted a slow exposure to get that veiled look on the flowing water, so inevitably the bitter breeze added some movement of its own as it waved the foliage about.
Progressing up the valley I was about to pass this by and then liked the incongruity of the camellia in flower as a hedge plant beside a paddock containing cows. Daisy sat there, chewing, but I had to take my picture quickly before her curious sisters came over to see what was happening.
In Whiteman’s Valley, there was more running water and rolling landscape though the light was regrettably flat.
And just as I was leaving the Valley on Blue Mountains Road, this old army vehicle caught my attention. It is a Bedford RL, the backbone medium truck for several armies including Britain and New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s. In its heyday it was much smarter than it is now (see this link borrowed from Andy Fowler on British Military Vehicle photo forum).
True to my word, I stayed away from the inlet yesterday.
Instead, the rural landscape of Whiteman’s Valley called to me. Heavy cloud in the East and a setting sun behind me offered some possibilities. My first shot is a farm driveway at the Mangaroa end of the valley. It became something of a trick to line up he view I wanted while ensuring that no shadow of me or my camera appeared in the foreground.
An old shed which I have used before was still intriguing, so I knocked somewhat tentatively at the farmhouse door. The lady of the house gave her consent for me to wander about, but was worried that her husband might come back and wonder “who the hell you are”. She went off to intercept her husband and he indicated by long distance sign language that it was OK.
The old shed is in a sad state of disrepair, but will probably continue to serve the needs of the owners for the rest of their days. It seems to serve as a shelter and storage place for various items that may one day be useful.
That’s it for the day, and still no birds tomorrow either.