My journey starts at Blenheim at the beginning of State Highway 6 which takes me inland toward the West Coast of the Sth Island. It is stop and start for a while and a bit bumpy as the road is being upgraded following the Kaikoura earthquake. The "powers that be" had decided there had to be a reliable alternative to the coastal route through Kaikoura to Christchurch which meant the inland route was it. The first stop is St Arnaud, which before the earthquake, was a sleepy holiday resort but now busy with trucks and cars passing through it. St Arnaud is centred on a deep lake which is popular for boating and fly fishing. It is surrounded by native, rich green, beech forest. Nestled among the trees is a small church with a stunning view of the lake which stretches out from behind the alter.
The next stops are Murchison and then Springs Junction, busy with traffic buzzing through them, little villages which before the earthquake registered a car only every so often and hardly any trucks at all. At Murchison I notice a small, faded blue coioured sign attached to a lamp post, hardly noticeable against the expansive backdrop of the surrounding bush covered hills. It said "Museum" and a little further along "Cemetery". I open a heavy wood paling style door into what looks like a large garage. This is the museum and in it I go back in time to the days of horse drawn carts, drays, ploughs and anvils for shoeing horses. In a side room is an early telephone exchange where more often it was women who used to sit in front of a board with flashing lights connecting one caller to another.
Next it is to the cemetery where by reading the tombstones I can read the local history. One tombstone recorded the death of a young couple who drowned when crossing the nearby river and at its base read "Gwyn Wilfred Thurlow, 01-04-1925 - 25-12-1997 HaHaHa - HoHoHo", whatever that was supposed to mean?
At Springs Junction there is another sign, this one drooping at a slight angle from a lamp post which said "Historic Church". I go inside and there is an air of calm, the smooth to touch carefully crafted wooden pews adding to a sense of order. A visitors book lay open at the door and visitors had recorded their appreciation of being there, with words like "Very well preserved, thank you".
This was what I was looking for on this Trail and the photographs show something of the historic treasures that are tucked away in these country towns, almost as if by the way they were advertised somebody wanted to keep them a secret.
My next stop is along State Highway 7 to Beverley Forrester's coloured sheep breeding farm at Hawarden Nth Canterbury. Beverley is internationally renowned for the designer clothing she makes from the woollen yarn shorn from the backs of her sheep. Samples of her designs hang from a rotating clothes hanger in the wool shed. The garments are soft to touch and come in various shades of natural colours, browns, greys, shales. Beverley's farm is fourth generation and she has had a book written about its history. It goes back to the late 19th Century when sheep rustlers and "Lords of the manor" in their grand homesteads ran huge sheep stations.
Before leaving I sit with Beverley in her kitchen to enjoyed a cup of tea and scone and thumb through the book which tells the history of her farm with photographs of early settlers all dressed formally for the photographic occasion, telling that story. Outside the air is still, punctuated only briefly by the odd bleat of a sheep and moo of a cow. I can smell sheep dung and the lanolin from woollen fleece. This is life in the country and I love it!