History comes alive
Settlers from Scandinavia have left their mark on the Mauriceville area north- east of Masterton… as Murray Taylor found out on a recent fund- raising tagalong in the area.
You don’t have to go far either side of a main road to find some hidden historical gems… as Murray Taylor did on a recent fundraiser north-east of Masterton. His story on Mauriceville and environs starts
The Farriers Bar and Eatery car park in Masterton was my destination under an overcast sky on Sunday April 17, my mission to support the Wairarapa division of the Parkinson’s Society’s annual 4WD cross-country fundraiser. Organised by the Wairarapa 4WD Club the event offers a tagalong-style day trip through farms north-east of Masterton and attracts a wide cross-section of the low range transfer-box-equipped 4WD-driving members of the public from near and far. I arrived just after 8.00am and after registering, and a quick chat with those I knew, we were welcomed by the president of the Parkinson’s Society Wairarapa Division Inc. then bid on our way. It was then a case of follow-the-leader as we all headed north along State Highway 2, before turning right just after Opake as we headed for Mt Munro Road and our first 4WD section up through farm land behind Mount Bruce.
Mt Munro Road took us past an old barn called Schou’s Barn, which was built in the 1870s, by one of the pioneers of the Scandinavian settlement of the area, Lars Andersen Schou, and is the last surviving example of slab hut construction in the area. There was also a collection of farm equipment and a small cottage in the fenced off area containing the barn. Once back on the road, still on gravel for the most part, we drove past the Methodist Church built by the Norwegians who settled in Mauriceville North as part of the immigration programme set in place by Julius Vogel’s government to clear what was then known and the Forty Mile Bush. Original Lutherans, but encouraged by a visiting Methodist minister from Norway, Edward Neilson , they embraced Methodism and on July 9 1881 the Norwegian Methodist church was opened. Over 130 years later it is still very much in use as well, with services held on the fifth Sunday of any month which has five Sundays.
Pleasant Sunday drive
The trip was turning into a very pleasant Sunday drive with a lot of the area’s history thrown in along the way. Further down North Road before we turned right, for instance, was a memorial to the pioneers from Denmark, Norway and Sweden who first settled the Mauriceville area. Just as we hit the main road into Mauriceville we turned right across the railway line and headed uphill toward the lime works ( lime being a major export from the area) which has been going since the early days and is still going today. We didn’t get to the actual face, but turned right up a 4WD farm track heading for the ridge top. The view from the track was back towards Mauriceville and south towards Rangitumau, Masterton and the Wairarapa as a whole and was expansive to say the least. Before we hit Dorsets Road ( site of a popular local car club hill climb), a brief stop for morning tea was had, with the comment being made that there was a
natural cave not far down the hill which ran back underneath the parked vehicles and came out above the creek behind us.
Hold that thought
Naturally I pricked up my ears when I heard that, though it’s a reference to hold for another day, as I had not come prepared to walk a dark cave, plus time was against us… After morning tea we headed back onto the gravel road for a short distance as the track turned once again into a 4WD track, finally passing through a gate back onto a gravel road, this time heading for the entrance to Rangitumau’s track and the hill climb ahead. Starting at 220 metres and climbing 600 metres in just under three km of road, this is a great track to the microwave tower and station etc, at the top. The tower is used for telecommunications and radio coms, Civil Defence and suchlike and the hilltop site offers a great view of the Wairarapa flats and surrounding areas. After a reasonable time we headed down then back uphill to a paddock for a latish lunch, and time to chat…
Life’s a drag!
After lunch we headed further into the farm down a good track which had a few football sized puff balls, in under a line of pine trees, the largest I have ever seen. The track finally existed onto a normal road, our next stop Masterton’s new Motorplex International Dragstrip via a longish scenic drive. Once we got there we had an onsite presentation about the drag strip and its history, along with the proposals for its further development. A great day out, more of a history/ Sunday drive than a full-on 4WD trip, but still went and got places one normally would not, so a great thanks to the organisers and property owners for access.
High above the Wairarapa they climbed...
Historic Norwegian Methodist Church dates back to 1870s.