Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Pekapeka Wetlands, Hawkes Bay

The Pekapeka Wetlands have a chequered history, from being an early Maori pa site, to post-European drainage, a railway line dissecting them, and being a dumping ground, to being over run with willow trees. In about 2000, the process of bringing the area back to a healthy wetland ecosystem began. I read about the wetlands as part of the promotional material I was researching before our weekend in the Bay, so I made sure we included it in our itinerary, as George and I are both developing our own wetland areas at home (see my post called 'Dursley Wetlands - the Beginning', from Nov last year).

I was really keen to see what the various agencies had done to develop this major wetland area adjacent to SH2, 10 minutes south of Hastings. I was not disappointed. The design cohesion from the car park and entry area with rustically stylish bollards and rail fences, right through to the board walks, picnic tables and info signs, I was really impressed. Not only vandal proof, and naturalistic, but also linking to the railway line that cuts through the middle of the wetland - with jarrah railway sleepers, and corten steel details. Very nicely done.

One of the info signs - keeping to the theme of timber and steel.  
I LOVE these picnic tables. No problem with these being blown over in the wind.
Away from the car park, I was interested to see how they had approached the hillside planting. Obviously a strong theme of Hebe parvifolia, or similar, as the colonising nurse crop, with the taller trees emerging through. This will only get better with time, as the trees gain height (totara, hoheria, ribbonwood, kowhai etc), possibly shutting out the hebe all together, ready for under-story planting in 10 years time.
Hebe are the main nurse crop, being fast growing - they provide shade and shelter for the slower growing,
but longer term trees, which are just starting to push through the hebes. 
Really sturdy and nicely curved board walks. 
Some of the dumped building materials, from last century, have been left exposed, as a reminder of how the wetland
was once treated, seen here on the hill at the end of the board walk. 

This is a great location to stop off for a leg stretch on the journey north, but also a great project to keep an eye on if you are intending on any sort of revegetation or wetland development of your own.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hawkes Bay Weekend

I have just had a fabulous weekend away with my husband, visiting Hawkes Bay. Sight seeing and eating were the overriding themes!! Highlights: Overland Gannet Safari trip; Black Barn for lunch; Mister D's for dinner; Hastings Farmers Market; dining on the harbour's edge at Ahuriri; and Pekapeka Wetland. Fantastic.

Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony. Thousands and thousands of birds nesting on the top of a 360 degree exposed plateau. They will all travel to Australia in April, once the chicks (grey) are ready to fly.
A child badgering it's mother for more regurgitated food. A lot of similarities to human children. See the green stripes on the mother's feet? They are thermal veins, which are used to incubate the egg - it stands on the egg to keep it warm. 
Stunning contrasts on their faces
Obviously not all of them have learnt to read yet.
The landscape is incredible, too. We travelled overland, but if you travel via the
coast, it is very reliant on the tide times. Not much accessible shoreline  to retreat to if the
tide comes in while you are up on top of the cliffs at the actual colony!!
This young one was so funny, just staring at me from a couple of metres away. 
This is how close we were to them. They totally disregarded the presence of humans.
Could have watched their interaction for hours!
Then the food......
The Black Barn market is closed until Spring, but this is the most stunning setting for the artisan foodies that sell here every weekend. The Oriental Plane trees are planted in a circle, creating a really intimate space. 

I adore everything about Black Barn - but particularly this Fig tree courtyard leading in to the restaurant. No photos of the stunning grape arbour we sat in for lunch, sorry. Too busy absorbing the atmosphere!! Just love love love it. 
Hastings Farmers Market. BLISS. French macarons, authentic bier sticks, handmade
chocolate, fresh fruit and veges, incredible bakeries......... Beautiful experience. 
A stunning part of the country to spend time in. Next time I will go with girlfriends, and we will bike the extensive cycle trails, and probably do a lot more shopping and wine tasting!! I will definitely be back!!