Archive for November, 2008

Adventure Playground

November 18, 2008

I should probably start at the top here.  Three weeks ago, we moved from our temporary lodgings in Petone to a longer term let in Belmont, one of the suburbs clinging to the Western Hills of the Hutt Valley.  Although lacking the convenience of Petone with all its shops and public transport, we have a north-facing house with a fully fenced garden, great for Anita to play in while I sit on the deck drinking tea.

Being a whole new area, we have another set of surroundings to familiarise ourselves with.  Running the length of the hills is the 3500 hectare Belmont Regional Park, with picnic areas and campsites.  The terrain varies, with bush-clad valleys, farmland, native forest and tussocky grasslands.  With all this, there’s no shortage of somewhere for a weekend walk.  However, with a toddler, activities without so much climbing are better!  Looking at the street map of the area, I noticed a playground on the next road over, with a pathway cutting out a long walk to where the two roads join.  Today, Anita and I wandered up, and found the shortcut to be through a “scenic reserve”.  Amidst the suburban surroundings, there is a small amount of forest, and the path takes you through the middle of it.  Even just two minutes in all sight of houses is lost, and the only sound is New Zealand’s ever present birdsong.  A couple of small streams cross the path, and it’s really quite idyllic.  It’s not a very quick shortcut though, as the path winds, falls and climbs across the small valley that seperates the two roads.  With todays sunny weather we were in no hurry though.

Luckily, the path led directly to the playground I’d been looking for, and Anita happily played for some time, and demanded ever higher pushing on the swings.  I couldn’t let her tire out completely, as we still had to walk home!

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The appropriately-named Wellyfest

November 3, 2008

The fourth Monday in October is New Zealand’s labour day, and as such marks the first bank holiday of Spring.  As bank holidays at home, over the weekend there are all sorts of events, and one which we chose to attend was the Wellington Folk Festival.

The festival wasn’t in Wellington city, rather it was at an outdoor education centre some 6.5km out of Wainuiomata, the other side of the harbour to Wellington.  Unlike most British folk festivals there wasn’t any integration into a town or village, as there wasn’t a town in walking distance of the site.  This gave quite a different feel to the event, making it closer-knit, perhaps more like a folk camp in atmosphere.  For us, as newcomers to the local scene, it was an easy place to strike up conversations with people, and I quickly found myself volunteered to join the local Morris dancers.

Still having very little in the way of “stuff”, we spent the week leading up to the festival running around equipping ourselves for family camping.  I browsed the net to find a suitable tent available at a local dealer, and settled on one from Dwight’s in Upper Hutt.  The tent may have been just the ticket, but the sales assistant clearly didn’t believe in letting people browse unhindered, and everything we looked at was commented on, while she extolled the shops superiority to it’s competition.  Sorry Dwight, but when we can get the exact same products for 1/3 less anywhere else, and sometimes for 50% less, we won’t be coming back.  The sales staff elsewhere aren’t nearly as damned annoying either.

Back to Wellyfest.  The main attraction was superb British singer, Tim van Eyken.  But it was also a chance to get a feel for the local scene, and it seemed that a lot of the festivals organisers were also performers.  I got the impression that the local talent were not professional musicians, rather they were performers for the love of the music.  As such, while the acts were not polished by the standards I’m used to, they were rich in charm and enthusiasm.  There were a wide range of workshops for such a small festival, which suggests a willingness to teach and to learn.  My favourite was the homebrew comparisons workshop, though I gave Cotswold Morris a try too.

In true Spring style, the weather was unpredictable.  The nights were cold, the rain heavy, but come Sunday the sun was shining brightly.  The weather had no ill effects on our enjoyment of the festival though, as our tent kept us dry and our wellies did their job.  Even though welly boots are called gumboots down here, I had the feeling that perhaps the nickname “Wellyfest” didn’t only refer to the locality.

The site on Friday…

And come Sunday…

It’s hard to see, but the main site became muddy nearly all over.