Wendyl’s coun­try di­ary

The Hokianga has a rich past and Wendyl Nis­sen is keen to find her own lit­tle piece of it on her daily beach walk.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

EVER SINCE WE moved up north I’ve re­garded our small piece of land as some­thing we don’t re­ally own; we just in­habit it and look after it for the next gen­er­a­tion. That is mainly be­cause our piece of land has had a lot hap­pen to it. Just down the har­bour was one of the places the Treaty of Wai­tangi was signed and a lit­tle to the left is an old Maori vil­lage, which traded in kauri from the early 1800s. Ev­ery day on my beach walk I pass the site of an old pub, which used to cater to the many traders who came for the tim­ber and then later brought their ships up the Hokianga Har­bour for re­pairs. Along the beach, if you walk far enough, you can see ev­i­dence of slips where the boats were pulled up.

When we bought our land I con­tacted an old friend of mine who was a New Zealand-trained ar­chae­ol­o­gist and sent him a satel­lite pic­ture of our prop­erty. “Do you think much would have hap­pened here?” I asked him. His re­sponse was that it was highly likely there was lots of ac­tiv­ity by Maori and Pakeha set­tlers in that part of New Zealand, and he sent me to the right resource to do some re­search.

We had the land blessed by lo­cal Maori for this rea­son. I firmly be­lieve that what went be­fore should be re­spected and left in peace and, as new res­i­dents, we found the process very set­tling and calm­ing.

I then met some­one who said she had once stum­bled across an old clay pipe, in per­fect con­di­tion, peek­ing out of the sand on the beach.

Well, that was it for me. Since that day I have not walked along the beach with­out keep­ing a hope­ful eye out for some ev­i­dence of pre­his­toric or early-set­tler oc­cu­pa­tion. I have found fos­sils up at the Heads, which were fas­ci­nat­ing, and not far along from our place there is a clearly fos­silised dol­phin in one of the fa­mous Koutu boul­ders. These boul­ders are con­cre­tions, which form when sed­i­ment sur­rounds a peb­ble, a shell or some form of ma­rine life, and then layer upon layer builds up, usu­ally in a spher­i­cal shape, over mil­lions of years – some are es­ti­mated to be five mil­lion years old. The older ones grow as big as five me­tres wide and in­side many of them are fos­silised re­mains of life.

So, for me, a morn­ing walk along the beach with the dogs and my hus­band is often more of an ex­plo­ration, es­pe­cially if there has been a storm. Ero­sion is tak­ing place at an alarm­ing rate and with each storm more sed­i­ment is re­moved, which to me sug­gests more trea­sures to be found!

After the last big storm I was de­ter­mined to find some­thing. Even a bit of old china, or a Maori fish hook or per­haps the clay pipe I had dreamed of. We were near the end of our walk when I spot­ted some­thing that looked a lot like a watch.

I bent down to pick it up and thought it looked fa­mil­iar.

“Oh, that’ll be my watch that

I lost in the sum­mer when I went swim­ming,” said my hus­band in a very mat­ter-of-fact tone.

“Five months ago?” I said. “So this has been rolling around in the wa­ter and sand for five months?”

I then re­alised that not only was the glass in­tact but the watch was still go­ing, and – if we were on day­light sav­ing – it was keep­ing per­fect time. It’s a Ci­ti­zen Eco Drive watch, which is charged by the sun, so I guess that’s why its bat­tery hadn’t run low. It is also wa­ter­proof, which must be how it sur­vived be­ing washed around in the tide – and sev­eral good storms – for so long.

My hus­band promptly put it back on his empty wrist and said a sim­ple “Thanks,” be­fore wan­der­ing off, leav­ing me stunned that I had in­deed found trea­sure – just not the trea­sure I had been long­ing for.

Since that day I have not walked along the beach with­out keep­ing a hope­ful eye out for some ev­i­dence of pre­his­toric or early set­tler oc­cu­pa­tion.

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