The plot became the Arboretum, and today is one of the best collections in New Zealand, containing two thirds of the world’s pine species.
The plot became the Arboretum, and today is one of the best collections in New Zealand, containing two thirds of the world’s pine species. Its forest paths are a pleasant place to wander, just up the road from the lodge (the Hart memorial gate makes the entrance hard to miss).
Hart’s practice of planting species in groups of three, less than five metres apart, can be seen today, notably in the trio of sequoias, the width of each having a similar measurement to the spaces between them.
Hugh Burrows remembers helping to dig out the original tracks at the Arboretum, also one morning Harry Hart giving him the job of transplanting a young conifer, taking it away from a damp area.
Hart gave him detailed instructions on how to dig around it in a wide circle to avoid damaging the roots, and to prepare a hole a short distance away of the same size; he said he would be back to help Hugh move it at 1.30pm.
Hugh was finished well before time, and, whether or not he waited until the appointed time, by the time Hart arrived half an hour late at 2 pm Hugh had finished the whole exercise.
Hugh laughs at the memory of Hart tuttutting fastidiously, anxious that he had not supervised the transplant. He adds that the tree is still in the same spot today, and thriving.
It is from the Arboretum that southward walkers of the Te Araroa trail will enter the village, and, if they choose, take a rest at the Lodge (or at one of their tent sites).
This is not a bad idea, for this is the halfway point of the South Island section of the trail, and at the other end of the village the Rakaia River provides a natural break in their path, and is an untraversable obstacle.
In particular, it is not a bad idea, since the Lodge can provide transport for guests, taking them the necessary 70-kilometre detour by road via the Rakaia Gorge to where the trail resumes (and walking that distance on roads when it is not even part of the trail is not the most pleasing prospect for Te Araroa’s adventurous walkers).
An Auckland couple, Geoff and Lisa, stayed at the Lodge for a couple of nights while I was there for this very reason, and seemed to have a pleasant stay, reading their books in the lounge and the garden.
THOUGH LAKE COLERIDGE VILLAGE is a small place, it still falls into three natural divisions according to the different levels where the houses have been built: Top Flat, Bottom Flat, and, above the Lodge and opposite the Arboretum, West Flat.
West Flat consists of two small streets: Riverview Terrace, where the Billiards Club House stands alongside a house that used to be the dining room for the residents of the single men's quarters; and Harper Place, where the two newest houses are built on the end of the street to the left of Number 1.
So, how do they number their letterboxes? They have different approaches to the problem: the house on the end has put up a simple “1”, the second house has not bothered with a letterbox at all, and the original Number 1 has written “House No. 1” on its box.
In practice, none of this matters, for all residents collect their mail from the boxes down at the old Post Office building.
There are some residents I want to meet on Top Flat, so I take a footpath up the hill, passing through a lovely park with tall conifers. The first house I come to is that of Hugh and Janet Derham, built on the site of the former croquet club (other houses in this new sub-division are built where the village school used to be).
They built this as a holiday house in 2007 (it won a gold award for Jennian Homes in House of the Year, 2008), choosing the village for its proximity to Christchurch and because the local activities provided something for all members of their family (fishing, boating, and tramping).
It's a modern house beside an area of parkland, but it's not easy to see how it was once mistaken for an information centre.
Nevertheless, the Derham's daughter was staying here once and a tourist came in asking for a map. A map was produced and they were surprised that money wasn't accepted in exchange for it, then commented how nice the interior was for an information centre!
Hugh and Janet shifted here permanently after the 2010 earthquake wrecked their home in Bexley, and both were able to work from home.
Janet worked for the industry training organisation in Fire and Rescue Services, and Hugh works in the education sector.
Hugh has a great interest in digital photography, and specialises in panoramic landscapes of the high country around Lake Coleridge.
He enjoys walking in this area, always taking his camera with him. He regrets one time when he was without his camera, and came upon two harrier hawks eating a live (and panting) rabbit.
Last year he published a beautiful little book of these photographs titled, The Call of the Hills. They have also been reproduced on fold-out postcards, and some of them are displayed on the walls of this open plan house (they would also look great in an information centre!)
Another project he has underway is the digitising of the power station's collection of photographs for Trust Power before the station's centenary later this year.
A rare clearing in the Arboretum
Orange triangles mark out the Te Araroa trail through the Arboretum.
The two Number Ones on Riverview Terrace.
Janet and Hugh Derham