Thursday, August 25, 2016

Totara Graveyard

In the 19th Century, Banks Peninsula was largely covered in native bush, much of it Totara, but many other significant species as well.
When the settlers arrived from UK in 1850 - and later, trees were immediately in demand for their wood to build houses, especially in the development of Christchurch. The trees in the Wairewa district - Little River as we know it better today, were particularly in demand because of the relatively easy access in getting the timber to Christchurch.
At one stage there were seven sawmills in the area. Trees were felled up on the tops and with dragged down the hills or rolled - sometimes on flimsy rails. After milling, the timber was barged down Lake Forsyth, then towed on tracks across to Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora) and barged again over the lake to Lakeside (Wairewa), where it was put on a train and taken to Christchurch. A laborious journey. Many of the original buildings still stand in the city today, most of them having survived the recent earthquakes.
Back out on the peninsula the remains of these old trees still survive today. They have survived 150+ years of fires, farming, and savage weather. The trunks, some of them on their sides, are now silvered and stark against a blue sky.
They are dotted over the whole of Banks Peninsula, but there is a concentration of them high above Little River within easy access of Port Levy Saddle, only a 50 minute walk from the car park. It is a regular place to go with family, friends, and photographers - and often on my own - always with a camera.
For the adventurous, there is a walkway that traverses the ridges from Mt Herbert (the highest point on the peninsula) along to Hilltop, overlooking Akaroa. In fact it is a paper road - the Summit Road extension from Gebbies Pass. Never built - and probably never will now!
And still today, if you discretely scrape away the silver lining, the rich red colour of totara wood is a fraction of a millimetre below the surface. Long may that last.

Waipuna Saddle enroute to graveyard - guess the prevailing wind direction! 
White bones of silent Totara
Avian totara
These are so powerful in black and white

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