on the can­ter­bury Plains

NZ Today - - ON FILM -

Idid not de­lib­er­ately in­tend to dig up the past as I set off on the main road west out of Christchurch. I was go­ing just 40 kilo­me­tres to Darfield, the main town on the western plain be­tween the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers.

But what I found in the neigh­bour­hood of Darfield hap­pened to be sev­eral peo­ple and places that were all, in some way, re­mem­ber­ing the past, pre­serv­ing his­tor­i­cal ob­jects, and im­por­tant build­ings in our na­tion’s his­tory. I even find, within about ten kilo­me­tres of each other, the homesteads of a nine­teenth-cen­tury pre­mier and one of the Orig­i­nal All Blacks.

The land may be flat, but the views of the South­ern Alps can be spec­tac­u­lar, es­pe­cially af­ter some late win­ter snow. When the road turns north-west at Ayles­bury, a sign post points to a scenic look­out on the site of the for­mer Ayles­bury rail­way sta­tion. Here, one can won­der at the moun­tains – and pon­der the quirks of a his­tory that left Darfield to de­velop, and the pro­posed town of Ayles­bury never to even­tu­ate.

In Darfield, I start my ex­plo­ration at Tus­sock Square, a peace­ful lit­tle park on the main street, which was, un­til 1984, the site of the Me­mo­rial Hall.

Spread out in stones and paving is a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Darfield, sit­ting on the plains and dis­sected by wa­ter races.

Be­side it, a time­line of plaques adorns a curved wall, a great idea that shows the whole his­tory of the town, orig­i­nally a rail­way junc­tion.

It was a Mil­len­nium project, and a new plaque has al­ready been added to com­mem­o­rate the 2010 and 2011 earth­quakes.

Leith Creamer was the prime mover be­hind the square and her ef­forts are a prime ex­am­ple of civic pride, and a good re­minder that if it weren’t for such ef­forts, his­toric sites such as Tus­sock Square would prob­a­bly be de­vel­oped into petrol sta­tions.

I pay a visit to the Creamer’s home, a new brick house on what used to be a wide strip of rail­way land that bor­dered the rail­way. The ad­ja­cent road used to be called Rail­way Ter­race North: now it’s sim­ply North Ter­race.

I meet Leith’s hus­band John, who is a lo­cal his­to­rian, and happy to chat about the past.

He has lived in Darfield since 1937 when his fa­ther ar­rived to work as a team­ster. He re­mem­bers the war time when his fa­ther and older brother were in the Home Guard, and he be­came fa­mil­iar with town life when he was the butcher’s as­sis­tant, mak­ing de­liv­er­ies by bi­cy­cle.

For many years he was the lo­cal butcher, and un­til the 1960s had a slaugh­ter house just out­side the town (he says he got his stock from the Ad­ding­ton mar­ket, not want­ing to let price ne­go­ti­a­tions ruin re­la­tion­ships with lo­cal farm­ers!)

Over many years he has wit­nessed the clos­ing of shops in the smaller set­tle­ments around Darfield, such as Coalgate, Horo­rata, Sh­effield, Wadding­ton, Green­dale and Kir­wee.

John has been in­volved with the lo­cal mo­tor and ma­chin­ery club, and with form­ing the mu­seum at the Home­bush homestead (which I visit later).

By pure chance, I come across another col­lec­tor at the other end of North Ter­race when I spot an in­trigu­ing sign out­side one of the houses: “Matt’s Minia­ture Mu­seum”.

Large win­dows in the front of the house al­low passers-by to view rooms full of old and in­ter­est­ing ob­jects – all sorts of house­hold ap­pli­ances, in­clud­ing old irons, scales, china, cutlery, phono­graphs, and bot­tles.

This pri­vate mu­seum is only opened by ap­point­ment, and I have ar­ranged to meet Matt Wil­liams who is re­spon­si­ble for this unique col­lec­tion.

He ar­rives from his house fur­ther down the street on a vin­tage shop bi­cy­cle (com­plete with old wicker bas­ket) that is the very one he used in his first job as the chemist’s de­liv­ery boy.

Pre­vi­ously an in­dus­trial engineering man­ager for the North Can­ter­bury Hos­pi­tal Board, to­day he works as a tech­ni­cal ser­vices tech­ni­cian at Christchurch Air­port.

His ca­reer may be at­trib­uted to the in­flu­ence of his fa­ther’s elec­tri­cal trade – and also many of the mu­seum’s elec­tri­cal items, for the front room was once the show­room from which Matt’s fa­ther, Rus­sell Wil­liams, sold all sorts of elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances.

Matt had col­lected old things as a child, and once his fa­ther stopped trad­ing in the 1950s, was ide­ally placed to save the old ap­pli­ances and elec­tri­cal items, which, to his fa­ther, were use­ful ob­jects rather than mu­seum pieces. Matt says that the his­tor­i­cal val­ues of ob­jects are more eas­ily recog­nised by a later gen­er­a­tion: “Things are only old if they’re older than you!”

Some china elec­tric jugs, in dif­fer­ent colours and pat­terns, were left­over re­tail stock from the ap­pli­ance shop, and by 1965 they were unique and in­ter­est­ing enough to be some of the first items for Matt’s mu­seum. Matt’s fa­ther dis­cour­aged his clients from de­stroy­ing the im­mer­sion el­e­ment by us­ing the jug as a milk con­tainer, and wrote his Ode to a Lit­tle Brown Jug: I be a Speedy jug, I be I be for boil­ing wa­ter for your tea Milk and me do dis­agree So don’t put milk in­side of me.

Many items were col­lected in the course of his fa­ther’s busi­ness when old elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances or sys­tems were re­placed. On one wall, Matt shows me the first time con­trol for Darfield’s street light­ing; be­side it, the ser­vants’ call sys­tem that was part of the daily man­age­ment sys­tem at the homestead at nearby Race­course Hill.

Rus­sell Wil­liams was also the chief fire of­fi­cer at Darfield (he re­ceived a Queen’s Ser­vice Medal for his work), and in­tro­duced the first ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem in the coun­try to turn out fire vol­un­teers for emer­gen­cies – the fire siren could not be heard at the other end of town in a nor’wester wind.

The Wil­liams fam­ily has been con­nected with Darfield since Matt’s grand­fa­ther was an elec­tri­cal lines­man in the area. Roland Wil­liams was the first to in­stall mains retic­u­la­tion in Darfield in the 1930s (pow­ered by Lake Co­leridge) and was also the film pro­jec­tion­ist at the Me­mo­rial Hall.

Dur­ing Matt’s childhood, the fam­ily lived in the house be­fore a big­ger one was built fur­ther back on the prop­erty. His col­lec­tion ex­tends from the two front rooms into other rooms of the old house, and into an ad­join­ing shed as well as into a sep­a­rate garage. Here, there are count­less tools, old tele­phones, ma­rine en­gines, sta­tion­ary en­gines, farm en­gines, pumps, tools, and mo­tor­cy­cles – even an old book­let of auc­tion­eers’ lot num­bers, which, Matt jokes, his fam­ily may use to dis­perse the col­lec­tion when he even­tu­ally de­parts from the scene.

Matt even shows me a lit­tle peep hole in the back of­fice wall through which his fa­ther could ob­serve cus­tomers who had en­tered the show­room. If he didn’t want to see them, he would some­times sit qui­etly out the back where he could be en­joy­ing the con­ver­sa­tion of one of his mates – Matt re­mem­bers one of th­ese mates, whom he called “Cocky” (Don) Cole­man whose war ser­vice had left him with a wooden leg. He re­mem­bers es­pe­cially the time when he was sur­prised by Cocky demon­strat­ing a new wooden leg which folded at the flick of a but­ton.

Most of the mu­seum’s items have been do­nated, though in re­cent times Matt has ac­quired items through TradeMe and swap meets. The readi­ness of peo­ple to do­nate was ap­par­ent from the early days when his fa­ther left ten old me­chan­i­cal jacks out­side, right be­side the foot­path. His mother was sure they would be stolen, but within a week the ten had be­come twelve!

A few kilo­me­tres north of Darfield on High­way 73, I linger to take a look at the mas­sive Fon­terra milk fac­tory that was built here re­cently.

It’s re­mark­able enough for what it is, but is pretty unin­spir­ing, a rec­tan­gu­lar block ris­ing up be­side a shed, al­beit a very big one.

Its sign on the main road ban­ning visi­tors for the rea­son that the place was a con­struc­tion site was not par­tic­u­larly invit­ing.

I will there­fore only say that the fac­tory’s pres­ence here is a pretty good in­di­ca­tion of the wide­spread con­ver­sion to dairy farm­ing in the area, and that at night it is lit up like a gi­ant bea­con that may help guide aero­planes into Christchurch air­port – pro­vided they do not mis­take it for the air­port it­self.

Right op­po­site the fac­tory, the cen­tury-old nine-bed­room homestead at Race­course Hill was badly dam­aged in the 2010 earth­quake, re­garded as a de­mo­li­tion job, and put up for sale.

It was only saved by the fore­sight and ded­i­ca­tion of its new own­ers, Brian and Ber­nice Cribb. Brian saw that the old girl was not a lost cause and sought his own engineering ad­vice. The brick foun­da­tions had proved solid enough, the main prob­lem be­ing the col­lapse of the brick chim­neys and the brick walls of the ground floor (which sup­ported the wooden walls of the first storey).

Brian re­marks that the engi­neers re­spon­si­ble for her­itage de­mo­li­tions should not be able to sleep com­fort­ably for a long time to come.

Af­ter the Cribbs bought the house in Septem­ber 2012, three months were spent in se­cur­ing the struc­ture be­fore restora­tion be­gan. The brick walls have been re­built with a stronger struc­ture of tim­ber fram­ing and ply­wood brac­ing. While ev­ery­thing within rea­son is be­ing re­stored, new bricks are be­ing used as they are a less costly op­tion than re-shap­ing the quake-dam­aged orig­i­nals.

An in­dus­trial kitchen has been built so that the prop­erty can host func­tions if this is de­sired in the fu­ture. The job has en­tailed new plumb­ing and wiring. Brian notes that the builders and con­trac­tors have all been en­thu­si­as­tic about the project, and with­out their will­ing­ness, things could have been much more dif­fi­cult.

A year on, and it’s al­most ready for the Cribbs to move in and oc­cupy one end of the build­ing while the re­main­ing few months of work is com­pleted. They have been liv­ing in some con­verted sta­bles on the prop­erty.

Here, Brian makes me a cof­fee while Ber­nice pre­pares Pete, one of her horses, for a ride around the ad­ja­cent eques­trian arena.

It’s early on a lovely, sunny Satur­day af­ter­noon and a cou­ple of mem­bers of the Malvern Rid­ing Club roll up to ex­er­cise their horses and gain some in­struc­tion from Kay Stott.

The club, which used to meet at the Sh­effield Do­main, op­er­ates very in­for­mally, with mem­bers meet­ing once or twice a week. Caro­line (who drives the Spring­field school bus) has re­cently taken up rid­ing again af­ter her fam­ily has grown up, and says she is sur­prised that she en­joys it so much and now of­ten makes the ef­fort to come twice a week. It’s a good way for the mem­bers to meet so­cially, im­prove their rid­ing, and, I am told, it is good for the horses to in­ter­act with each other as well. Re­cently the club even staged a show-jump­ing and dres­sage show in the arena.

If ever Race­course Hill is to be used for func­tions, its fa­cil­i­ties have been en­hanced by the Cribb’s re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of St Theresa’s, the old wooden church from Coalgate. Ear­lier in the year it was trans­ported in one piece over 12 kilo­me­tres and placed on the prop­erty.

I am head­ing out that di­rec­tion my­self, but only as far as Home­bush, orig­i­nally the prop­erty of Scot­tish brothers Wil­liam and John Deans, who, from 1843, had been the very first farm­ers on the land (which they named Ric­car­ton) which was to be­come Christchurch. They leased 33,000 acres from lo­cal Māori, but in 1850 this was seized from them by the Can­ter­bury As­so­ci­a­tion who wanted the land to cre­ate the city of Christchurch.

Wil­liam had some le­gal train­ing in Scot­land and fought to re­tain the land on which they had been the first, brave pioneers. They man­aged to re­tain just 400 acres at Ric­car­ton, but won the right to lease an equiv­a­lent 33,000 acres in the west on the Can­ter­bury plains. Thus, in 1851, they be­gan anew at break­ing in a mas­sive ex­panse of empty plain for farm­ing.

Much of that land has been di­vided up and sold over the years, but five Deans fam­i­lies still farm on the orig­i­nal land, in­clud­ing Jim and Louise Deans who own the 1350 acres that re­tain the Home­bush name as well as many of the orig­i­nal farm build­ings. Un­for­tu­nately its fine look­ing brick home (com­pleted in 1903) was de­stroyed by the 2010 earth­quake.

Ini­tial TV cov­er­age of the ef­fects of the quake showed the now well-known im­age of a crip­pled homestead, the roof of which had fallen into the bed­room of a teenage boy. Fever­ish with ex­cite­ment and dart­ing about the coun­try­side in a he­li­copter, a TV news crew had re­ported this as Home­bush: in fact, it was the Horo­rata homestead, sev­eral kilo­me­tres away. How­ever, the mis­take re­mains in many minds.

I meet Louise Deans be­side the va­cant space where the homestead once stood and watch builders work­ing on the frame­work of a new house fur­ther down the front lawn. The wood for the frame­work was milled on the prop­erty, but the con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als will con­sist mainly of steel, con­crete and glass. Louise and Jim are re­cy­cling rimu and kauri tim­ber from the old house to use for stairs and kitchen benches in the new one. It is built on a raft (float­ing) foun­da­tion, and has a mod­ern de­sign with liv­ing spa­ces merg­ing into each other, and be­ing fur­ther from the steep hill to the west, the house will catch more sun than its pre­de­ces­sor.

The dam­aged brick sta­bles build­ing (1870) was re­paired im­me­di­ately in 2010, four brick­lay­ers work­ing flat out for a month so that its mu­seum and cafe could be open for the tourist sea­son. Home­bush takes group book­ings from Septem­ber to April, of­fer­ing lunches with tours of the mu­seum and the ex­ten­sive gar­dens. Louise is usu­ally on hand to im­part her ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of the fam­ily’s his­tory. At the mo­ment she is com­plet­ing a bi­og­ra­phy of the pi­o­neer­ing Wil­liam Deans.

The at­tic-like top floor of the long sta­bles build­ing is full of old house­hold items. It’s like Matt’s Minia­ture Mu­seum, only on a larger scale, and has sim­i­larly snow­balled from do­na­tions. There are dolls, toys, bis­cuit tins, wash­ing ma­chines, ovens, ra­dios, fur­ni­ture, cloth­ing, china, and kitchen­ware – even some type­writ­ers and the wed­ding dress of Mona An­der­son, the Darfield writer of the well-known, A River Rules My Life, and other books about her life in the high coun­try. Down­stairs, there are car­riages, tools, saws, sta­tion signs from the old Home­bush rail­way sta­tion, and one room de­voted to a col­lec­tion of brick and pot­tery prod­ucts of lo­cal brick­works, in­clud­ing the Home­bush Brick and Tile Works that was set up at Glen­tun­nel.

Most no­table is the rugby dis­play re­lated to Bob Deans, one of the Orig­i­nal All Blacks. Grea­tun­cle of Jim Deans, he was the third gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily to farm Home­bush, and took over the homestead block when the run was di­vided af­ter his fa­ther’s death in 1902. He was the first mem­ber of the fam­ily to live in the new homestead, but died from peri­toni­tis in 1908 at the age of 24.

He is most fa­mous for be­ing a mem­ber of the All Black North­ern Hemi­sphere Tour of 1905, when the team won 34 matches, lost only one, and scored a to­tal of 976 points, con­ced­ing just 59. Play­ing mostly at cen­tre, Deans played in 21 of the games, scor­ing 20 tries. In the test match against Wales in Cardiff, as is now part of rugby folk­lore, he scored a try but it was not awarded as by the time the ref­eree ap­peared on the spot, the Welsh play­ers had pulled him back over the line. That try would have drawn the match and left the team un­de­feated on the tour. It is well doc­u­mented that Deans sent a tele­gram to the Daily Mail as­sert­ing that he had “grounded ball six inches over line” and “was pulled back by Welsh­men be­fore ref­eree ar­rived.”

The mu­seum has an in­ter­est­ing dis­play of items re­lat­ing to Bob Deans’ rugby ca­reer, in­clud­ing his caps for the All Blacks, Can­ter­bury, and Christchurch Boys’ High, a cou­ple of his All Black jer­seys, and a Welsh jersey from that in­fa­mous day at Cardiff Arms Park, as well as old black and white film footage of some of the matches. It is a lit­tle col­lec­tion of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance and Louise tells me the fam­ily are very happy to safe­guard it and dis­play it for those who are in­ter­ested.

In 1879, a tur­bine room was added to the sta­bles build­ing where a tur­bine im­ported from the US (and carted by dray horses over the plains) be­came a pow­er­house for the farm, pow­er­ing a saw bench and a chaff cut­ter, amongst other mech­a­nisms. A chan­nel was dug to a pond nearby so that wa­ter from the Wa­iani­waniwa River could be drawn to power the tur­bine, which (made in Day­ton, Ohio, and patented in 1863) is be­lieved to be the only sur­viv­ing model that is still in work­ing con­di­tion.

While Wil­liam Deans and other early run­hold­ers on the plains nat­u­rally chose the bet­ter wa­tered land next to rivers, most of the smaller farms that were set­tled later lacked a con­ve­nient wa­ter sup­ply for their stock. Dig­ging wells was ex­pen­sive and cart­ing wa­ter from the near­est river im­prac­ti­cal, so in 1871 the Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil in­ves­ti­gated the pro­posal of one of its mem­bers, Kir­wee farmer, Colonel de Ren­zie James Brett. Hav­ing got the idea from ir­ri­ga­tion schemes in In­dia (whence he also brought the name Kir­wee), he sug­gested that wa­ter from the Waimakariri River be si­phoned off and brought across the plains to the Malvern Dis­trict by means of wa­ter races.

The scheme ac­tu­ally be­gan in 1877 with a dam across the Kowai River, and grew over the next decade as more and more wa­ter races were dug across the plains. By 1889, the net­work needed more wa­ter so an ad­di­tional sup­ply was cre­ated by tap­ping the Waimakariri as well.

The sys­tem is still in use in the area to­day (as well as in other parts of Can­ter­bury), and a mon­u­ment that recog­nises de Ren­zie’s role spans the main wa­ter race at Kir­wee. It is clearly vis­i­ble on the side of the main road op­po­site the pub – a bright white domed struc­ture, the de­sign of which seems to ac­knowl­edge the In­dian con­nec­tion.

Wayne Row­lands is one of six work­ers for the Sel­wyn Dis­trict Coun­cil who main­tain the wa­ter races be­tween the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers. He’s been do­ing it for 25 years, so is well qual­i­fied to ex­plain to me the work­ings of the races that he looks af­ter with Chris Rus­coe in the Malvern area (the oth­ers in the Pa­parua and Ellesmere ar­eas go as far as Christchurch and the coast). He takes me up to the two in­takes on the Kowai River, sev­eral kilo­me­tres past his home in Spring­field. Nearby one can see the rem­nants of the old gates where the orig­i­nal dam once spanned the river.

The new in­takes are very sim­ple, con­structed to slice off some of the wa­ter flow into well built chan­nels. A grat­ing pre­vents float­ing ob­jects from en­ter­ing and some ver­ti­cal gates can be ad­justed to change the flow. The shape of the op­po­site bank can also be changed by bull­dozer if the strength of the flow al­ters con­sid­er­ably. Wayne checks the level of the river ev­ery day, as well as the lev­els in the races. He also at­tends to any block­ages, and laments the amount of lit­ter he has to re­move (es­pe­cially plas­tic bot­tles).

The main race from the Kowai de­scends to Wadding­ton where it splits, one branch go­ing to Darfield and on to Char­ing Cross, the other through Kir­wee (a fall of over 200 me­tres). Th­ese main chan­nels (along with another from an in­take on the Sel­wyn River at Glen­tun­nel) split into smaller and smaller races so that al­most ev­ery farm be­tween the Waimakariri and the Sel­wyn that re­quires it is con­nected to the sys­tem to wa­ter their stock (ir­ri­ga­tion is a sep­a­rate mat­ter). When the Kowai gets low in the sum­mer, a di­rect chan­nel from the Waimakariri is opened up (its junc­tion with the Kowai race can be seen in the park op­po­site the war me­mo­rial at the west end of Darfield).

Colonel de Ren­zie Brett can­not take all the credit for the races in the area, for John Hall, another mem­ber of the Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil, was soon de­vel­op­ing a sys­tem of wa­ter races on his Rakaia Ter­race Sta­tion, a large area of land be­tween the Horo­rata and Rakaia Rivers. Pre­mier of New Zealand 1879-82, Hall is best known for his later role as the par­lia­men­tary leader in the cam­paign for women’s suf­frage (when the Bill that gave women the right to vote was passed in 1893, he sent a tele­gram to Kate Shep­pard: “Bill passed by two – hur­rah!”). Hall can be said to be re­spon­si­ble for the de­vel­op­ment of shel­ter belts on the Can­ter­bury Plains, for he pro­moted Bills that en­cour­aged the plant­ing of trees in ex­change for free­hold­ing of land. The three-roomed cot­tage, built on the va­cant plain here in the 1850s by the Studholme brothers, still sur­vives as part of an en­larged homestead that has been oc­cu­pied by Hall de­scen­dants ever since he bought it in 1861.

Kate Fos­ter is part of the fourth gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily and lives here with her hus­band, Richard, a few kilo­me­tres to the west of Horo­rata. They have farmed here for 45 years, and they wel­come me into the sunny con­ser­va­tory and ply me with tea and bis­cuits. It is prob­a­bly quite rare to find a com­fort­able fam­ily home that has such his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance that it could just as eas­ily be a na­tional mu­seum. While Hall’s po­lit­i­cal pa­pers have found their way to na­tional repos­i­to­ries, his­tor­i­cally valu­able sta­tion doc­u­ments have al­ways re­mained on the prop­erty (al­beit some of them pre­vi­ously stashed in a loft).

While his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant, the house is also im­pres­sive with­out be­ing pre­ten­tious: per­haps this is be­cause the later ad­di­tions to the orig­i­nal cot­tage have con­tin­ued to use weath­er­boards and the up­per storey has been built within the height of the orig­i­nal dwelling.

The house is not sym­met­ri­cal, nei­ther are the gar­dens that sur­round it, but they are so well es­tab­lished that the whole place has a nat­u­ral rather than a planned feel.

Nine­teenth-cen­tury carved Maori pan­els on the front ve­ran­dah com­ple­ment the neat, white ex­te­rior walls.

Dis­played on the walls of the en­trance hall, de­signed in 1890 by Sa­muel Hurst Sea­ger with kauri and rimu pan­elling, are arte­facts that John Hall ac­quired on his trav­els around the world, in­clud­ing African spears and a South Amer­i­can ar­madillo.

Fam­ily portraits, in­clud­ing that of John Hall, hang in the li­brary, where Kate and Richard show me Rakaia Ter­race Sta­tion’s big, heavy jour­nals in which the daily work by the sta­tion’s nine­teenth-cen­tury staff is recorded.

Richard tells me they were at first puz­zled when they saw it was recorded in 1868 that a cou­ple of the work­ers were go­ing on many trips “to the lake”.

Af­ter a bit of study, it was dis­cov­ered that they were tak­ing bul­lock wag­ons to Tim­ber Yard Point on Lake Ellesmere and re­triev­ing a load of tim­ber, milled at Lit­tle River on Banks Penin­sula, and re­turn­ing the next day, mak­ing over 100 such trips for the ma­te­rial to build the sta­tion’s wool­shed. The huge, 20-stand wool­shed is still stand­ing on the prop­erty to­day, and the Fosters are cur­rently restor­ing it.

Richard has worked hard to pre­serve sev­eral farm sheds and a black­smith’s shop (not to men­tion nu­mer­ous farm tools and ma­chin­ery), many in their orig­i­nal, rough nine­teenth-cen­tury con­di­tion. It is planned that in the fu­ture th­ese will be de­vel­oped for per­ma­nent mu­seum dis­plays. At the mo­ment Kate and Richard con­duct group tours of the prop­erty, and in the spring­time they host gar­den and wood­land walks. The pre­vi­ous week they had hosted “Snow­drop Sun­day” and I no­tice the lit­tle white flow­ers are still giv­ing a good show.

The main­te­nance and preser­va­tion of this his­toric prop­erty is clearly a big part of the Fosters’ lives, and in ev­ery­thing they tell me I de­tect a de­ter­mi­na­tion to pass it on in the best pos­si­ble con­di­tion. Dam­age from the earth­quake (in­clud­ing six top­pled chim­neys) has al­ready been reme­died. In 2010 they trans­ferred part of their prop­erty to the Ter­race Sta­tion Char­i­ta­ble Trust so that it can be pre­served and pro­tected for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Richard jokes that they are now ten­ants on some­one else’s prop­erty.

Sir John Hall (he was knighted in 1882) is buried in the grave­yard of St John’s Church in Horo­rata, and left money for the stone church (1910) to be built there in mem­ory of his wife, Rose. It is in­ter­est­ing that when the pre­vi­ous wooden church (1875) was built, Hall of­fered to con­trib­ute 10 guineas if it was to be used ex­clu­sively for Angli­can ser­vices, but £100 “if it could be used by other de­nom­i­na­tions”. The less pro­gres­sive church de­cided to take the 10 guineas.

Another in­ter­est­ing tale con­cerns the mov­ing of the wooden church across the road to make room for the stone one. While be­ing towed across by a team of horses on a Satur­day, it slipped off its run­ners. It was left there un­til the Mon­day, and the Sun­day ser­vice that was held there in the mean­time could be said to have taken place in a real “mid­dle of the road church”.

Hall was ac­tu­ally a lay reader, and, be­fore the first church was built, of­ten con­ducted ser­vices in the sim­ple cob cot­tage be­long­ing to Bent­ley Co­ton on the other side of the town­ship. This his­toric lit­tle build­ing (1864), re­built in 1978 by the Horo­rata His­toric So­ci­ety, is closed ow­ing to earth­quake dam­age, but it still evokes a time when the plains were tree­less and Co­ton was one of the very first small­hold­ers farm­ing in the dis­trict.

The old stone church was hit badly by the earth­quake, and to­day sits tem­po­rar­ily aban­doned, the top of its tower boarded up. The loose and fallen stonework has been piled up neatly nearby, most of it pro­tected in a spe­cial tent. Ser­vices are now be­ing held in the old wooden church.

The Horo­rata Com­mu­nity Trust was cre­ated to help the Dis­trict re­build af­ter the earth­quake. Not just for the her­itage build­ings, but for pri­vate homes and busi­nesses that rep­re­sented lives that had been shat­tered by the dis­as­ter.

Their ma­jor fund raiser has been the Horo­rata High­land Games, held in 2011 and 2012 (this year it will be held on Novem­ber 9) at the Horo­rata Do­main. With High­land danc­ing and pipe bands, and com­pe­ti­tions like the caber throw, it at­tracted 10,000 visi­tors last year. It has been a mas­sive in­no­va­tion to boost com­mu­nity spirit and iden­tity.

Another con­trib­u­tor has been the Horo­rata pie. I buy a spec­i­men at the Horo­rata Vil­lage Bar and Cafe which is run by Ja­son and Jar­nia Kupe (50c from the pur­chase of ev­ery pie goes to the com­mu­nity trust).

The his­tory (and the leg­end) of the pie be­gan 30 years ago with El­lie Hut­ton who made it at home on the coal range. Jar­nia tells me it was pop­u­lar with lo­cals and with the boys af­ter rugby, and af­ter El­lie be­gan mak­ing them at the pub, it was very pop­u­lar with skiers af­ter a day on the slopes. The pub was closed af­ter the earth­quake and Mark Stewart and Ains­ley Wal­ter bought the recipe for $4,400 at the clos­ing auc­tion and cre­ated the Horo­rata Pie Com­pany.

Ja­son is a butcher, and now makes the pies at the cafe, which is op­po­site the old pub, and the cafe’s bar has now be­come the lo­cal.

To de­fine the recipe (which was a “hand­ful” of this, and a “sprin­kling” of that) Ja­son asked lo­cals and older cooks what they re­mem­bered of the pie, and now of­fers a num­ber of va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing mince, steak, steak and cheese and chicken. Jar­nia sees to the other edi­bles in the cafe – all home­made, in­clud­ing the breads and pas­tas.

The pie is de­li­cious, and sets me up for the drive back home. Once back on the main road at Darfield, I can al­ways make my way back to Christchurch by fol­low­ing one of the Fon­terra milk tankers – un­like the met­ro­pol­i­tan buses, it seems that there is one ev­ery five min­utes.


Top Darfield’s clock tower has in­for­ma­tion boards about the sur­round­ing area. Mid­dle Tus­sock Square is on the main road in the cen­tre of Darfield. Be­low One of the time­line plaques gives the his­tory of Tus­sock Square it­self. A re­cent plaque brings the time­line up-to­date with the earth­quakes.

The time­line on the wall in Tus­sock Square. Right John Creamer out­side his house, with one of the four NZ flags I saw fly­ing in Darfield.

Matt’s Mu­seum ex­tends into a garage. Right The front room of the Mu­seum.

The Fon­terra fac­tory on High­way 73, a few kilo­me­tres north of Darfield. Be­low A friendly sign on its ap­proach road.

The restora­tion of Race­course Hill is near­ing com­ple­tion.


Brian Cribb sur­veys the front where brick walls are about to be filled in.

Brian out­side St Theresa’s, trans­ported from Coalgate ear­lier in the year.

In­struc­tor, Kay Stott, looks on as Pete de­cides to go on a run by him­self.

The workshop in the sta­bles.

Some bricks made at the Home­bush Brick and Tile Works, Glen­tun­nel. Right A pic­ture of Bob Deans be­side one of his All Black jer­seys.

The All Black and Welsh jer­seys from 1905, side by side in the mu­seum.

The sta­bles at Home­bush, with the wa­ter tower built be­side the tur­bine room.

Be­low Sheep wait to be shorn out­side the Home­bush wool­shed.

Wayne Row­lands at the up­per in­take for the wa­ter races on the Kowai River.

The sign where Home­bush Road meets the West Coast Road.

The mon­u­ment to Colonel de Ren­zie James Brett spans the wa­ter race at Kir­wee.

Richard and Kate Fos­ter out­side their home at Ter­race Sta­tion at Horo­rata

A por­trait of Sir John Hall hangs in the li­brary at Ter­race Sta­tion.

The wool­shed at Ter­race Sta­tion is cur­rently un­der­go­ing a big restora­tion job.

Horo­rata’s old wooden church is cur­rently be­ing used for ser­vices. A moun­tain view from Ter­race Sta­tion at Horo­rata.

Co­ton’s cot­tage was used for church ser­vices be­tween 1864 and 1875.

The church of St John’s at Horo­rata was badly dam­aged in the 2010 earth­quake.

Poster on a farm shed ad­ver­tises the Horo­rata High­land Games 2012. This year’s games take place on Novem­ber 9. I catch Jar­nia Kupe mak­ing pasta in the kitchen.

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