Sunday, April 26, 2015

South Coast walking

Gemstone beach

I’ve done almost every inch of the Southland coast from Port Craig to the Catlins – Waiparau Head, in fact – which marks the Otago/Southland boundary at the end of Long Beach. Some of it is easy and some difficult. There are some magnificent bits of coastal scenery accessible only by a hike or a scramble. I’ve got to catch up on the bit between Cosy Nook and Wakapatu sometime. I’d appreciate a bit of local knowledge there and if anyone is organising a coastal walk I’d like to tag along.

 The Fieldclub does a fair length of coast each year and we’d be keen to get around that bit. It gives us the chance to look for bird nesting colonies, seal rookeries, unusual plants and strange bits of debris that the sea pushes ashore. We are fortunate in that the coast is legally accessible with a strip a chain wide (66 feet or 20 metres) above high tide. In most places this has been surveyed to provide landowners with a fixed boundary but the intent of the strip is to give walking access all around the coast. It can be a bit tricky where the coast is cliffy or where there are electric or deer fences right down close to the shore.

 The land is crossed irregularly by unformed roads. These are usually farmed as part of the adjoining farmland but they are public roads and accessible. I usually let farmers know if I am going to follow a paper road and they may suggest an alternative route if there is lambing, electric fences or some other obstacle. The paper road can be formed into a driveable road at the expense of a developer who wishes to put in a subdivision but it remains a public road. Councils can put a paper road up for sale to an adjoining property owner if there is no possibility of it ever being formed but councils are reluctant to do this as sometimes the road will be required in the future for alternative access to the coast or for a development of some sort or as the route for a walking track. Occasionally there is a grumpy farmer but it’s not his land, and his cows are probably right down to the high tide mark anyway, grazing on public land.

 Google Earth shows property boundaries and it’s a useful tool for planning an excursion. You’d be surprised how many paper roads and marginal strips there are. It’s not so easy to find out the owners’ names and numbers though, so you often have to make calls to people with a bit of local knowledge. What sort of cars would be suitable for a paper road? – an Austin A4, a stationery wagon and a Cardillac I suppose.

Omaui coast

 On the subject of stationery… I escorted a group of Texas students on a South Island tour. They were keen and enquiring. “What do you think is your best quality?” one of them asked. That’s a very American thing to ask. I’ve never been asked that before. That’s the sort of thing you get kids to talk about. I don’t need that at my age. I’m reasonably contented and well adjusted. I don’t need compliments. I told her about George. We had a group of kids for some extension work. They were aged about 7 – 9. One of them was George. A quiet lad, not conspicuous in any field and a bit behind reading.

 Sometimes you need to find a way to boost kids’ self esteem. We sat in a circle and they talked about their good points. Their peers supported them and made useful comments – I think she uses good expression, she’s a good friend, good at tidying up. That sort of thing. George was a bit stuck. He didn’t have obvious talents and he was a bit hard to categorise. “He’s a good stapler,” said one of his friends. George’s eyebrows went up a little and he sat up straighter. He’d never realised. “It’s true,” someone else said, “the best stapler in the school.” George got a certificate for his bedroom at assembly and he wore a gold star. “Best stapler in the school,” it said. He gained respect.

 The other kids had never realised before that they had such a rare skill amongst them. They watched him to see his superior performance on the stapler. Perhaps it was his stance, legs slightly apart, biting the bottom lip and squinting. Chunk, chunk. He was given the class stapling jobs, other teachers got him in for tricky stuff. The school secretary had him in from time to time as well to work the big office stapler and he used the staple gun – no one else was allowed. He fixed them too, he had his own long nosed pliers for unjamming them, oil, and the care of boxes of staples of every size. George was made. “It’s his staple diet,” was the joke.

 I don’t know what happened to him. Perhaps he grew up to become a great stationer or an engineer, maybe he married an heiress to a stationery fortune, but it shows what happens when you find the right button and push it.

 I’m looking for contributions to my book on rabbits and possums. It’s coming out in November. I need to get photos and anecdotes. Lloyd Esler 2130404