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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Magpies, Willows and a Bridge

bridge over a stream at Pukerau, Southland

I had occasion to look out for creeks and rivers on a trip south I made last week. It's certainly not hard to find them. This whole island is littered with them. Like all rivers everywhere, the very large rivers of the South Island all begin from small upland seepages, the creeks or streams then, one way or another, joining to ultimately form large rivers, their mid-rush and dash ultimately calming down into an old, slow, fat meander to the sea.

... there had been a lot of rain just before my trip south and the full, brown waters of the creek at Pukerau, along with the puddle-splattered, muddy ground, indicated just how much rain had fallen ... 

Te Waipounamu ('the waters of the greenstone' ) is the Maori name for the South Island; this in itself being somewhat of a giveaway as to the number of rivers there exists in the South Island.

Often in these country places, once thriving, small towns; now silent and empty apart from the occasional tractor chuffing past; I sense the grim lives lived by those who cleared the land that now forms the green and pleasant, pastoral landscape thus bequeathed. A residual depression, or loneliness, seems to linger on in such places. While I was stopped here, a flock (murder, gulp, charm being the appropriate collective nouns) of magpies chortled and gurgled their accompaniment to my musings. Very fitting when one remembers the iconic, classic NZ magpie poem;  by Denis Glover. 

A bedraggled mane of grasses left by recent rains

I enjoyed the geography lessons back in high school that featured rivers and the terminology of rivers - young rivers, old rivers, ox bow lakes, upper waters, lower tributaries, river mouth, estuaries, lagoons, marshes, wetlands ...

Otamita Bridge spanning the Mataura River 

In the background are the hills and mountains of northern Southland, where the Mataura river and its tributaries are formed.

Bare winter willows by the Mataura River at Otamita ...

A wooden bridge farther upstream was washed away in a flood in 2017. Not so this sturdy, concrete bridge built in the early 1960's. Not pretty, but pretty strong. Practicality rules in these parts.

This bridge ( Otamita bridge) figures in my memory as a teenager living in Gore (some 13 k's away) because one mad day my three sisters and I decided we'd bike to this bridge (all 13 k's) and back again. We made it; God knows how - I guess it shows what youthful zest and energy can achieve. I remember we picnicked under the willows on the river bank you can see through the concrete railings. It was summer, the willows green and shady.

At one time the hills this bridge points towards spelt 'home'; being in the general area of where my family once lived for five happy years; in a place called Otama Valley. For me, in a way, this bridge symbolises 'the way home'. Or at least it used to. The future and circumstances combined - in other words, life - have caused an inevitable dispersal. For all of my family, naturally, other homes near and far have since been formed and reformed. When I re-visited this bridge other day, only a shimmer of long-ago memories remained of that once-strong compass point.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Still Waters of the Tomahawk Lagoon

Tomahawk Lagoon; 'Tomahawk' possibly being an anglicisation of the original Maori name for this place. It is thought that the original name for this area was 'tomo haka', meaning 'dance by the gravesite'. (The fact that the modern-day Andersons Bay cemetery is a stone's throw from here, being pure coincidence). 

For some time now I have had rivers on my mind.

It may have a lot to do with the fact that my youngest grandchild has a river-like name. Whatever the reason, I'm going to run with it and make rivers a theme for this blog.

I do have another blog - one that is maintained on my website at
and in fact I originally intended to drop this blog in favour of having just the one. However, I have a fondness for Blogger, my original blogging platform. Plus, I've noticed that a lot of readers come to my website from this Time & Place blog.

So, I shall go with the flow (so to speak) and keep this blog running - running with my current interest of rivers and bodies of water associated with rivers - such as creeks, streams, tributaries and (as in the case of today's topic) lagoons and ponds.

The two photo above, are of a lagoon just over the hill from where I live. It is a site known for its birdlife and despite its definition as a lagoon, is not inundated by the sea, but rather has the characteristics of a small, shallow, coastal lake.

It has an upper and a lower side (known as Top and Bottom; an example of the prosaic nature of New Zealand's place names) and several creeks which have their origin somewhere in the peninsula hills, run into it. Like a tiny, faraway twig of a grand family tree, this largely unremarkable body of stream-filled water, does in the end, connect to the mighty Pacific Ocean. A short and also unremarkable stream is where the connection lies.

'Owing to the pastoral nature of much of the surrounding land, nutrient runoff into the lagoon is frequently high, resulting in its often eutrophic nature'. (Wikipedia). This means that it can have a high algae content and sometimes suffers from algae bloom.

The main creek that runs into the lagoon, is Lagoon Creek (again, an example of European settlers' habit of giving New Zealand prosaic names for geographical features and place names - for example, South Island, North Island; and in my opinion, all the more reason to support the policy of going back to the original Maori names, which are far more interesting and poetic).

Lagoon Creek (which will have a Maori name for sure, but I can find no reference to that fact) begins where there is a prominent hilltop memorial, or monument, constructed in remembrance of soldiers of World War One.

This 10-meter tall bluestone column was placed on a spot originally known as Big Stone (could you get anything more prosaic?!) but which was then re-named Arthur's Seat (an example of many such allusions to Dunedin's Scottish heritage). However, it is more popularly known simply as, Soldier's Monument, and is a popular place for people to climb up to for stunning views over Otago Harbour, Peninsula and surrounds.

Tomahawk Beach 

Yesterday I visited this beach with my daughter-in-law and grandchild with a river-like name. It was a spectacular clear winter's day. Across the road from the beach lies a puddle-like tributary of the lagoon. I pondered for a second or two on the fact that in the end, all rivers run into the sea. Including, eventually (slowly, unobtrusively, slyly and shyly) the comparatively still, and sluggish waters of the Tomahawk Lagoon.

Are rivers meaningful for you too?

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Post Modern

photo of rural mailboxes taken at Tinkertown, Northern Southland, New Zealand.

Mailboxes are becoming a thing of the past. Soon all mail will be delivered to the door by courier. You don't know what you have until it's gone. However, watch this space as they may well come back. There are places in New Zealand that are bringing back glass milk bottles.

Sci fi . futuristic novels and movies don't quite get it. Humans are basically nostalgic creatures, reluctant to completely let go of the past. Hence despite their predictions that by now we would all be living in plastic homes furnished in pure white modular units and eating dried food, here we are buying antique furniture and eating real food from our own gardens, or at least, locally produced.

I think the key to predicting the future is simply waiting and seeing.


'how this all harbours light'