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.
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.