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Posts tagged ‘military site’

A family connection with the Royal Marines Museum

My great grandfather was a Royal Marine. I only learned of this on the trip and have to say I did a double take. I am proud that my father is an ex-serviceman and I may well have joined the army myself if not for my asthma. So to learn that there is another family association with the defence forces was a great surprise.

Frederick Grace, my dad’s dad’s dad, was based at the Royal Marines Barracks at Eastney in Portsmouth.

With the way of the world and the inevitable rationalisation of military installations, this site no longer serves its original purpose. But it does house the Royal Marines Museum which we visited.

It’s an interesting drive along the coastal road to get there, a few miles away from downtown Portsmouth. About half way there you also find the D-Day Museum which we saved for another day.

If you turn off the coastal road you go around the back where the original entry to the barracks was.

But coming in from the Esplanade to the museum entry you get an impression of the impressively large grounds where much of the original site seems to remain. The accommodation buildings have been converted into private dwellings and the museum is located in the officers’ mess.

As you’d expect, there are several outdoor exhibits but the most time was spent inside the museum (where photos weren’t allowed). I found the old film clips especially interesting.

I really enjoyed this visit. We finished off with lunch in the Quartermaster’s Kitchen cafe and then had to get cracking – the Historic Dockyards beckoned.

A hurried snap out the car window… this was the main gate to Eastney Barracks

The Eastney Barracks in 1902 (photo of a photo)

This chap stands at the museum entry

Across the road is Southsea Beach and the English Channel

Royal Marine Corps colours

The old Eastney Barracks and grounds

The museum is located in the old officers’ mess

Me, dad and cannon

The barracks have been converted to private apartments

Parade ground in front of the museum and the old barracks

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The Bulford Chalk Kiwi

One of our must-sees was the Bulford Kiwi in Wiltshire, not far from Stonehenge.

But try as I might, both online and locally, there was a lack of information about how to get to the kiwi.

With the help of Google maps I came up with a plan of attack. Hopefully the information in this post will be useful to others also wanting to find the kiwi.

About the kiwi:

The Bulford Kiwi is a huge kiwi bird designed with white chalk into Beacon Hill above Bulford Military Camp.

It was built in 1919 by New Zealand soldiers who were waiting to come home after the end of World War One. They were based in Sling Camp, an annex to Bulford Camp. While they awaited repatriation, the troops got restless – and a bit disorderly. The kiwi was devised as a project to occupy them constructively.

Sling Camp was big, being home to over 4000 NZ troops. It was pulled down in the 1920s but the kiwi was left. This is a great photo of Sling Camp and kiwi back in the day.

Interestingly, during World War Two the kiwi was disguised to avoid it being used as a navigation marker. In the late 1940s a local scout group began a project to uncover the kiwi which actually resulted in them having to re-cut it out of the hill. How fantastic that they did this.

For the last few years, the Ministry of Defence has taken responsibility for maintaining the kiwi.

My genealogist mother first thought there had been a family connection with Sling Camp, but further research discounted this. Never mind, it didn’t diminish the desire to see this historical Kiwi landmark such a long way from home.

Bulford Camp retains the odd reminder of its NZ connection

Bulford Camp retains the odd reminder of its NZ connection

The kiwi is visible on Google Maps satellite view – search for Gallipoli Rd in Bulford Camp; the kiwi is to the right and down a bit.

For a close encounter with the kiwi:

Bulford Camp is separate to but near the town of Bulford. Set your satnav for the intersection of Gaza Rd and The Crescent.

We found a parking space there just off the road. From that point Gaza Rd becomes a path through the woods, and to get to the kiwi it’s maybe a 15-20 minute walk.

Note that some of the roads on the map are more like paths and cannot take vehicles, including half of Gaza Rd and all of Gallipoli Rd. I have since wondered if they date back to the days of Sling Camp and were no longer required when the camp was disestablished.

We were unsure whether we could or should use the trail. But we had come too far and were prepared to take the risk. Later on when mum asked the person serving in the local post office, he said that unless there are signs expressly forbidding public entry, it is ok.

This seemed to be where the path started so we left the car and ventured into the woods

This seemed to be where the path started so we left the car and ventured into the woods

One of mum's pics - dad on an especially nice section of path through the woods.

One of mum’s pics – dad on an especially nice section of path through the woods.

You can either follow the woods path in a straight line and pop out at the base of Beacon Hill, or venture through an opening to the left.

Popping out of the woods, you join this track to the end of this straight before trekking up the hill

Popping out of the woods, you join this track to the end of this straight before trekking up the hill

Beacon Hill isn’t a mountain by any means but does have a decent gradient so reasonable footwear is a must. It’s also pretty rough…

The hillside was littered with diggings - moles maybe?

The hillside was littered with diggings – moles maybe?

Once you start up the hill, veer over to the right and there, finally, should be the bottom of the kiwi. That was a pretty exciting moment.

Kiwi feet!

Kiwi feet!

It was designed to be seen from a distance and at this proximity you simply cannot see it in its entirety. Further down this page are directions to a viewing spot further away.

Kiwi legs!

Kiwi legs!

"NZ"

“NZ” – to give you an idea of scale, these letters are 20m long

Kiwi beak!

Kiwi beak!

The kiwi is fenced off but you can get beyond the fence in a civilised manner when you get to the top.

Once you've trekked up the hill you can access the site through this gate

Once you’ve trekked up the hill you can access the site through this gate

Plaque inside the kiwi enclosure

Plaque inside the kiwi enclosure

View from Beacon Hill. Sling Camp had been located on the ground below

View from Beacon Hill. Sling Camp had been located on the ground below

So happy to have succeeded!

So happy to have succeeded!

From up here I scanned the horizon for a road that could give us a good front-on view of the kiwi. With a bit of an idea in mind, we returned to the car back the way we came.

A good place to view the kiwi:

Set the satnav for the corner (if possible) of Bulford Droveway and Sheepbridge Road. This is a little way out of town. Pull off into the large dirt layby area. One of the dirt military roads leading off from here is almost straight ahead from Sheepbridge Rd, up a slight incline. Head up here; mind the ruts and holes!

We drove up this military road - there were no signs screaming that we couldn't - to get a great view looking back to the kiwi

We drove up this military road – there were no signs screaming that we couldn’t – to get a great view looking back to the kiwi

Bulford, military road signs

And up the rise on the flat, you can indeed see the kiwi.

It was the perfect road to get a view back to the kiwi

It was the perfect road to get a view back to the kiwi

The end of a successful mission – I was very happy.

——
Update March 2015: Adding a link to an excellent article this week about the kiwi’s history.

——
Update June 2016: One of the commenters below has passed on the useful suggestion for anyone wanting to get up close with the kiwi who may have to contend with walking difficulties of parking just off Tidworth Rd past Firing Range 1, as the hill gradient from there is much more gentle. Thanks Mr Apperley!

——
Update June 2017: The kiwi has now been given protected status and a book on the kiwi is coming out soon by Colleen Brown who has previously commented on this post. Update Feb 2018: Colleen’s book is due out in April. She has set up a Facebook group called ‘The Bulford Kiwi – The Kiwi We Left Behind‘ and would love for interested people to join!

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Update July 2017: There are now ‘official directions’ published on the fabulous Ngā Tapuwae Trails website, directing people to a track off Tidworth Rd.

Bodmin Moor animals & air force ghosts

After leaving Lizard Point I pointed the car back to Boscastle, via Bodmin Moor.

We made a point of including three moors on our travels. Our arrival in Boscastle had taken us through Exmoor and in a couple of days we would see Dartmoor. Today we took the opportunity to drive through Bodmin Moor since it was sort of on the way, but would return when we had more time to stop.

But the drive-through was more of a drive-stop-drive-stop-drive-stop because of what we found.

Upon entering or leaving the moor you drive across a cattle stop, as we call them in NZ, or cattle grid in the local terminology. Within these boundaries the livestock just seem to roam across the big expanse of marshy moor landscape, including the road. A lower speed limit applies but I guess the occasional animal may get clobbered.

I had pulled off to one side for photos when we started to look beyond the wandering livestock and notice the ruins of buildings ahead. After pondering this some, dad said it looked like a WW2 era air force base.

Suddenly this place had become really interesting: cute moor animals and a disused military base. Something for everyone!

Later that evening I did a quick bit of research and was able to confirm that it had indeed been an air base: RAF Davidstow Moor. And dad was right – it opened in Oct 1942 and closed at the end of 1945. It was exposed to extreme weather which hampered reliability (driving through you get an inkling of how miserable it must have been in winter) and while really busy at times it wasn’t used consistently during coastal defence operations.

The runways are now very run down but one is apparently still in use by light aircraft.

This place had already registered pretty strongly on my Hmmm-This-is-Quite-an-Interesting-Place radar, and then I discovered it was also used as a motor racing circuit. Wow. What’s more, three Formula One (albeit non-championship) races were hosted there. This was in the 1950s, a few years after the air base ceased operating, and it went by the name of Davidstow Circuit.

This is a 1951 photo of the air base. The racing circuit opened in 1952 using the runway and perimeter roads at the top of the picture. Almost 3km long most of which was straight lines – it would’ve been fast.

The next day we returned to find the museum that we had seen a sign for. I’m not generally a museum person but sometimes there are exceptions and the Cornwall at War Museum was one. Covering the Davidstow Airfield as well as other bases and military operations in Cornwall, it was an excellent example of what local enthusiasts can achieve with a lot of hard work and dedication.

We were the only visitors. Mum had a sleep in the car while dad and I paid the modest entry fee and went exploring.

I didn’t see the ‘no photography’ signs for the indoor exhibits until we were nearly finished. Oops.

RAF Davidstow Moor was a busy place on D-Day

Mascots! How cute is that.

There was plenty to look at outside, including original buildings from the airbase. During summer they offer guided tours of the airfield which is something I would have loved to do.

Er, peek-a-boo

Inside the air raid shelter

This was a great example of the unexpected highlights that can pop up while travelling.

RNZAF 75th Anniversary Air Show

In 2012 the Royal New Zealand Air Force turns 75. Among the many activities planned to mark the anniversary, last weekend they staged a big air show at one of the three air force bases in NZ: Ohakea, about two hours north of Wellington.

Being a fan of such things, especially since they happen fairly rarely here let alone on a military base, this event had been ringed on our calendar for the last three months. This may have been my first air show about 30 years ago…

With my brother and cousins and a Starlifter at possibly my first air show in the early '80s. That would be me rocking the pink tracksuit (which I loved, by the way mum)!

After quite an ordeal to get to Ohakea – which I’ll cover separately – we made it to the carpark in the paddock and walked as quickly as we could over the lumpy ground to catch up on what we’d missed over the last couple hours.

There were thousands of cars. Later there were crowd estimates of upward of 60,000 or even 70,000 people. No wonder there were traffic dramas.

Displays were spread out between the various hangars. We were first drawn toward the line-up of big planes, especially the biggest of the big, the Globemaster. This one courtesy of the Australians; the US equivalent was somewhere as well.

Mike, boys and the hulking Aussie Air Force Globemaster

The pointy rear of a P-3K Orion surveillance plane

As part of the anniversary activities, several foreign Air Forces had gotten together for a training exercise in NZ. These were some of their transport planes.

The wing of a KC-130 US refueller

Over near the new hangars being built for the Air Force’s new helicopters were static displays of these machines. A great opportunity to get up close and loads of people were taking advantage of this. I had to push my way through and throw a few small children aside, but I got there.

3 Squadron's emblem from the side of the NH-90

Another NH-90 was located on the flight line not far away and had about 50 less people around it. They will be replacing the Iroquois, which have been in service here since 1966.

NH-90 ready to fly?

An NH-90 air display wasn't expected as they're still being tested so it was a great surprise when one did happen

The new machines are pretty, in a macho steel kind of way, but they can’t beat the sound of an approaching Huey.

The Hueys played a starring role in the show and we were gutted to miss the earlier display involving several machines. We made do with the smaller afternoon affair.

Iroquois with crew waving at the huge crowd

Warbirds were also prominent. These guys were fantastic.

The Harvard Formation Aerobatic Team, aka The Roaring Forties

A pretty spectacular starburst sequence to close

Figured I'd be quite unlikely to have this perspective again!

NZ has been without a strike force capability for 10 years. I have a soft spot for Skyhawks and Strikemasters because in the 1970s and early 1980s we lived at the end of South Kaipara Head and those planes would fly overhead to the nearby Air Force bombing range.

Me with a Skyhawk. These days they fall into the warbird category

Before the Skyhawks were taken out of service they made a publicised series of flying farewells around the country at the end of 2001. Living in Auckland at the time, I went to Whenuapai air base to see this moment in history.

Skyhawks in formation above Whenuapai for the last time

Skyhawk low flypast at Whenuapai air base, late 2001

The static Skyhawk and sole flying Strikemaster (with V energy drink sponsorship all over it!) were well and truly upstaged by the visiting F/A-18 Hornets from Australia. We unfortunately missed the earlier display of five F18s due to being in the traffic gridlock so had to be content with the solo display later in the afternoon. Still fantastic, since it is so rare to see fighter jets airborne in NZ now.

One F/A-18 isn't as good as five but is better than none!

Afterburning!

The RNZAF aerobatic team, the Red Checkers, are probably at the top of any air show organiser’s list.

The Red Checkers

I was able to catch them again a couple of days later when they staged a display over Wellington Harbour.

Red Checkers above Wellington

The penultimate display was from the petite US Air Force Globemaster. A massive thing, it seemed to require a surprisingly short take-off (mind you, it was probably empty).

Globemaster flypast

Lots of watchers atop the control tower

We wandered over to one of the old hangars, home to the main helicopter squadron.

3 Squadron hangar

Signpost in 3 Squadron hangar

It was time to mosey on home. We had a relatively easy journey – thanks to all those people who left early! All in all it was a fantastic day. I’d never had any ambitions about wanting to fly but as a result of the brilliant displays that day, I did experience a twinge of that for the first time.

Vietnam: 7~Disappointment in the search for Dad’s army base

There were two main purposes of my being in Vietnam: celebrating a friend’s birthday, and looking for some key sites of the Vietnam War. In particular I wanted to see where Dad was based during his six month posting in 1967-68. Day four in Saigon would start to tick off both goals. Read more

Wellington hill walks: Mt Crawford (Pt 2) Fort Ballance via bush scramble

In the absence of an obvious path down the steep and scrubby hillside, Mike was appointed chief trail blazer. I tagged along behind in slightly more hesitant fashion, clambering with one hand where required due to the other gripping the DSLR. This made the fence crossings especially awkward.

Luckily the team leader wasn't wearing green

While he pondered which line to take I looked for distractions close by

We must have encountered about five fences, some could be climbed through, others over. Lots of potential to do mischief to oneself, but we coped. I like to think my farm upbringing makes me extra qualified to deal with fences.

One advantage in Mike going first is that he discovered the swampy bits

Though I found that I couldn't avoid the swampy bits either

Eventually, after scrambling uphill and downhill and trudging through bog (tried to use my lightest footsteps to minimise the mud effect, but who am I kidding), we emerged back in civilisation. Though we were initially perturbed by the 10 foot high fenced off complex.

Not sure what the thingies were behind the fence - a comms tower of some kind and a building - but luckily there was a track around the fenceline

On the other side we joined a paved road for the short walk to Fort Ballance. I’d been there once before and for me it is the most interesting place on Miramar peninsula. The fort was the first in Wellington, constructed in the late 1800s as a result of the Russian war scares. It remained operational during the two world wars before closing in 1959. The second photo on this page shows the fort during its construction years.

I spent a blissful half hour or so tearing around taking photos.

A snippet of barb wire fence remains at the old entry gate

At the entry to the barracks building

This diagram shows the general layout of Fort Ballance.

Inside the observation post, a good place to spot land invaders as well as water.

Last year it was announced that this area is to become a public reserve which will see the fort restored. It is fantastic that a concerted effort will be made to preserve this local history and make it more accessible. Though I have to say, it does have a certain charm in its current state and isolation.

I’m not actually sure that were allowed to be there – public access may not be openly permitted given some of the potential hazards around the ruins – but any signs instructing otherwise have long since been defaced or removed.

Looking across to the eastern hills

I blend in quite well I think

On the same website which I use as a bit of a resource, I was really interested to see some photos from around 1999/2000 of the fort without any graffiti whatsoever. Perhaps access was more robustly controlled then.

Scorching Bay

Fun though this was, we were still a wee ways from home so it was time to get going. We followed an overgrown track down to Scorching Bay, which was thronging with people (a tad cleaner than us) enjoying the summery day. As has been customary with walks recently, cold treats were procured and we walked and slurped our way home. One more hill was in our way and my legs definitely felt a bit poked after the afternoon’s exertions.

The Interislander heads into Wellington as seen from Scorching Bay

Wellington hill walks: Mt Crawford (Pt 1) via Maupuia

Miramar peninsula is a great place to live and I’ve raved about it plenty before. One part that I rarely venture into is Maupuia, the suburb on the hill as you fly in from the north.

It’s a bit of a funny place. On one hand Maupuia has the hallmarks of exclusivity – fantastic harbour views, loads of sun and upmarket houses. One of our most famous All Blacks used to live in one of the cliff-top mansions. On the other hand, it has a good measure of downmarket houses like any other suburb and the commercial buildings are perched in rather ugly and ungainly fashion on top of the hill, with rears facing out over the edge. Maupuia is also home to Wellington Prison.

A walkway along part of the hilltop has always looked appealing but as is often the case, you never get round to doing the stuff on your doorstep. Until this sunny Sunday rolled around!

One of my ravings about the peninsula has been its military history. In the course of some pre-walk research I came across a site which indicated that the various old inland military roads (many of which are hidden from view) can in fact be walked on. So we had a loose plan to go find some of that too.

Anyway, time to get going…

Normally we go right; today we're going left up the hill

A view across Miramar, one of our local watering holes below, and further away the large facilities of Stone Street studios where they are currently busy Hobbitting

Starting point of the small but very pleasant walkway

Looking back toward the start of the trail. The flat ground between the hills is home to the airport, Lyall Bay and Kilbirnie

We're lucky to have a road that goes right around the peninsula - about 15km long

Cabbage trees are a common sight around the peninsula

The walkway is very short, less than a kilometre. It would have been an anticlimax to end our walk there so we carried on to the top of the hill where some of the military roads could be accessed.

One slight complication was whether or not we could actually use the road on account of the prison further up. If the sign is to be believed – and it looked rather official – our entry wasn’t exactly authorised. But our wavering was decided when a couple of cyclists pedalled on through.

Duly noted

The prison is at the top of the hill. It is one of the country’s smallest, housing 120 men, and its future has been called into question. A much bigger prison is based in Upper Hutt. It certainly seemed open for business with flag flying and carpark full. We didn’t loiter, not knowing if we were legitimately OK to be there.

Wellington Prison takes up some very prime real estate

The paths we were after led off from the carpark. We set off down the forested hillside, excited to see what was hidden among the trees.

Until…

Well there goes that plan

I had heard they were doing some Hobbit filming on old defence land and well, here it was. We will have to try again later in the year.

We returned to the carpark and found the second path. A little more rustic this one, across paddocks. Off to the side is the site of an old infantry redoubt. We carried on to a lookout point.

While we plotted our next move, we could see down the hill a security office for the filming. Clearly we couldn’t go that way. In the other direction was the remains of one of the peninsula’s forts.

Fort Ballance (visible) was on a hill over a bush-laden valley with dubious tracks... let's go there then...

…Easier said than done! To be continued.

Wellington hill walks: Palmer Head Battery

Sometimes I really am blonde.

I had long been aware of the old military observation post high on the hill above Wellington Airport, but had always assumed it was on restricted airport land that the public couldn’t access. I was disappointed about this because I love looking around such things. But hey.

Then last Saturday during a walk I glanced up and finally took notice that this bunker-type building was covered in graffiti. Which didn’t necessarily guarantee there was public access but at least that there was a way of getting to it.

Soon after, I noticed someone half-way up what appeared to be a walkway on the side of the hill. A walkway that had probably been there for years.

Feeling dumber by the minute, a short search online when we got home revealed that, sure enough, the area is accessible. And it had been on my back doorstep (so to speak) for the last few years. Doh!! Called Palmer Head Battery, it together with other sites around Wellington, used to form the city’s coastal defence system.

The next day after Mike’s boys came over we went for a walk to have a look close-up.

The walk started in Miramar suburbia...

...went through Wellington Airport...

...where on the other side we reached the access road to the water treatment plant and the hillside walkway

'twas a bit steep in places - thanks to the people who built the steps and handrail!

Somewhere to catch the breath and admire the view over Lyall Bay, the airport and the golf course (also the water treatment plant, but that doesn't really count)

At the top there was a narrow green belt to walk through before we found ourselves in a street of state houses in Strathmore

A short walk along the street led to an opening in a fence from where you join the old military access road

Palmer Head was the site of three 6” guns. It was built in 1938 and added to over the following years, development hastening when the threat from Japan spiked in 1941. Accordingly, the site was operational during WW2. Its service ended in 1945 when the Japanese surrendered after which time some equipment and buildings were distributed to other local bases. In 1957 the New Zealand Government decreed that the coastal defence sites were no longer needed and they were all dismantled.

The Palmer Head observation and radar post as it exists today


Here is a fantastic photo showing the site operating with radar.

Like similar abandoned sites on the peninsula, it has clearly been a magnet over the years for local paint-wielding youth.

A tad more decorative now than when first commissioned, the complex is made up of several concrete rooms

It looks out to the Cook Strait, this side being the entrance to Lyall Bay

I think just about every centimetre of wall space has been covered

Josh and Flynn at the window, their dad in the background

Possibly the only door still in place

View from a roof on the lower section

We have a book called In Defence Of Our Land which shows a photo of Palmer Head in its heyday, so to speak. It is amazing to relate it to what’s there today. All that remains is the observation post and radar complex, some of the original roads and parade grounds. Underground tunnels and rooms still exist somewhere, though blocked off, and there may still be a gun emplacement that was buried rather than blown up.

Along another section of road

Hillside covered in the colourful weed ragwort

Part of the old parade grounds with painted markings still visible. There used to be lots of buildings around this immediate area

We wandered off on a trail to see if we could find remains of gun emplacements

Entrance to Wellington Harbour. It became apparent that any remains were not going to be found easily so at this point we turned around.

At some point I will return again with the book and its aerial photo to have another explore. We continued along to the end of the road.

Here the old road stops, now swallowed by housing developments. The walkway deviates up some steps, along a path, until it deposits you into the top of Strathmore.

Back in the day the military road stretched from Strathmore down to Tarakena Bay, where it could link up with roads to other military stations on the Miramar peninsula. In that era those sites would have been Fort Ballance, Fort Dorset, Shelly Bay and Mahanga Bay. I love living in an area where there is so much of this history.

Today the site still serves a key purpose for the city, housing navigational equipment for Wellington airport.

From where we popped out it was a bit of a walk back home but luckily this was all either downhill or flat. And near home there was a dairy that had iceblocks waiting for us.

The art of staying put

The concept of staying in one place for longer than say three days is not something I regularly practice when travelling. But with 10 weeks away I knew I should build in a couple of periods of downtime, so first I planned a few days with relations in Florida. From Washington DC it was another long bus ride with eventual destination of Mexico Beach on the Gulf of Mexico.

These were my lovely hosts, Dave and Maryann, who took me to their local watering hole one evening. Unfortunately in the years since then they had to relocate because of hurricanes – only to then get caught up in Katrina (that’s that part of the world for you I guess).

I guess many travellers will be familiar with getting bruised arms from pulling a heavy pack on and off!

The heat of Florida was a shock to the system though I managed an early morning run or two. I spent a bit of time around the lovely white sand beach. It was a great location for a bit of R&R.

Dave and Maryann took me on a bit of sightseeing around the area, including Panama City and here at Apalachicola. I saw many wooden buildings that just seemed so symbolic of being in the south, including this gorgeous historic inn.

Another highlight of my stay was a visit to nearby Tyndall Airforce Base, where Dave had been stationed a ‘few’ years before. The New Zealand airforce has been without fighter jets for 10 years so it was a thrill to see them up in the sky around Tyndall. There was also an impressive static display.

During that day I became aware that one of my toes was feeling sore and had started to throb. Long story short: a blister I acquired in Washington was infected. This resulted in several hours waiting at an after-hours clinic for a five minute consult to treat the blister and get course of antibiotics. The bill just about gave me a heart attack so thank goodness for travel insurance.

It did have the upside of making me stay put in Mexico Beach for another day or two. I had a fixed date to meet in Indianapolis but there was still time to head across to Daytona Beach. Time to pick up the pace again!

Coastal goodness close to home

Wellington is a great place to visit and to live. I’m not born ‘n’ bred but have been here a few years now and the best thing about for me is its rather epic location. Tucked at the bottom of the North Island, Welly as it is fondly known sprawls over rather brutal hilly bush-covered terrain until it hits the CBD on the waterfront. This is the eastern-most part of the fabulous Wellington Harbour which gives the city the coastline that partly typifies it.

I live on the Miramar Peninsula located in the south-eastern corner of the city. It is a peninsula thanks to an earthquake in the 15th(ish) century which changed its former status as an island. As well as coughing up the flat land on which my house sits, the earthquake also gave Wellington an ideal place for its airport. We’re supposedly overdue for another Big One – however we won’t dwell on that.

I love living so near to the coast and being able to see the harbour every day. The peninsula has a perimeter road which is popular for sightseers, cyclists, runners and their much slower counterparts, and people seeking kaimoana (seafood). Opportunities exist for motorsport enthusiasts too, with sprint events a couple of times a year. My own running days are now behind me but I take in the occasional walk locally and was recently seized by the idea to complete a full circuit of the peninsula. So last weekend armed with camera I set off on the 17km journey.

A dull day but there's always something to love about this place

The weather gods were in a bit of a grump this day giving me dull overcast light and misty rain, however I love Welly in all her moods – especially dare I say it when she’s mightily ticked off. (Most locals agree though, the often present wind can make you a bit batty.) In my favour was that the weather blahness reduced the general levels of activity around the road, a good thing when I lingered in the middle of it a couple of times to take photos.

In some parts I found quiet moments to take in the surrounds with no buildings, vehicles or people in earshot or sight. Blissful, though by no means unusual around Wellington. Around the peninsula there is always something interesting to look at and a few of these features are:

  • Old military installations. A few still have decent remains to look at, though sadly none are being actively preserved. The road takes you through the old Shelly Bay airforce base, and with short deviations you can also find Fort Ballance and Fort Dorset. This is a bit of an interest area of mine and I’ll do some separe posts on these places.
Wharf remains at the old Shelly Bay base
  • A rather beautiful memorial to one of NZ’s prime ministers. I have since found out that there are gun battery remains above it, so will definitely be heading back there. Located above the road and access via a short easy walk, it would normally offer nice views and while visibility on this day was poor, the sound travelled easily from the international rugby sevens tournament being staged at our main sports stadium across the harbour.
  • Cafes in Shelly Bay, Scorching Bay and Seatoun. Coffee is never far away in Wellington!
  • The Ataturk Memorial. This monument arose from a reciprocal agreement between NZ, Australia and Turkey in return for the naming of Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsula. Involving quite an uphill trek, the views alone are worth it. I enjoy attending the service here on ANZAC day.

Wellington Harbour from the Ataturk Memorial, Anzac Day 2010

  • Memorials to the Wahine sinking. The harbour has claimed numerous vessels including the inter-island ferry Wahine in 1968 with large loss of life. The main culprit is usually visible – Barrett’s Reef, a rocky obstacle in the entry to the harbour.
  • Naturist beach! The peninsula road is blissfully flat aside from a relatively gentle rise over the Pass of Branda through to Breaker Bay, a great place for watching southerly storms … and if you’re so inclined, a walk along the beach to find a secluded area to sunbathe in ‘clothing optional’ fashion.
  • Penguins, supposedly. There are a few signs warning that these little fellas could cross the road but I’m yet to see one.
  • Airport. As well as the regular presence of aircraft, the whiffs of aviation fuel being carried on the wind may also give this away.

My route home on this occasion took me via the airport through road, with suburbia then replacing coastline as I made the final homeward trudge, legs sore from four hours of activity and feet dying to be freed from grit-filled socks. Spirits tired but happy.

Wharf on Seatoun beach

Tarakena Bay, situated below the Ataturk Memorial

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