The Great Tower of Matamata

It’s not often you see a tower like this in New Zealand. It’s called Firth Tower and it’s in Matamata, not far from Hobbiton. What’s a stone tower doing in a Waikato farming community, you ask? A couple of weeks ago, I went to find out. I ended up finding a lot more than I expected…

Firth Tower

It’s not just a tower, you see. There’s a whole complex of historic buildings containing museum exhibits, from a Victorian post office to machinery sheds and railway carriages. Not only that, the grounds around them are extensive and quite lovely, with beautiful flowers and trees.

flower butterfly

You’re allowed to explore the grounds for free, but a small fee is required if you want to go inside the buildings. You’re also allowed to stay the night there in your campervan. If you’re on a New Zealand campervan rental holiday, I highly recommend taking advantage of this. There are decent toilets and picnic spots on top of everything else.

firth tower museum

I was delighted to discover that the Victorian post office contained a miniature secondhand bookshop. The selection left a lot to be desired, but still… nice idea. The best exhibition, I thought, was the main house, which had a scene-setting audio track. Why was there a tower in the garden? Because the Victorian estate owner simply felt like having one.

I entered the tower and climbed the precarious, wooden stairs around and around, all the way up to the lookout. I climbed the final ladder and marvelled at the expanse of fields… for a second or two. It was stifling up there! I hurriedly retreated, squeezing my way around the latest generation of children excited to be inside a “castle”.

firth tower

I had a lovely time at Firth Tower Museum. The day had started off cold and gloomy, but became wonderfully hot and sunny. I spent a lot of time simply wandering the grounds, taking photographs of the flowers. Unsurprisingly, you can hire the place out for weddings, as one of the historic buildings is a church.

firth tower museum

train carriages firth tower museum

old farm machinery firth tower museum

red flower

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A Look Inside the Oldest Library in New Zealand

POMS AWAY!

You wouldn’t expect to find New Zealand’s first library down an unassuming street in Tauranga. Nor would you expect it to contain a secret trapdoor, under which treasures (and people) could be hidden in the event of attack. Imagine yourself crammed into the 1.8-metre-deep oubliette, trying not to make a sound as invading enemies stomp across the floorboards inches above your head, tearing your precious books from their shelves.

A Beautiful Book at the Elms Mission Station

Thankfully, the library was never actually attacked. It’s a tiny, wooden building on the edge of the Elms Mission Station, completed in 1839. The Elms, then known as Te Papa Mission Station, was established by the Reverend Alfred Brown, who was sent from England to educate the children of other New Zealand missionaries. Living at Te Papa was risky: the spot chosen for the mission station was prone to bouts of intertribal warfare.

Reverend Brown was keen to spread Christianity to…

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The Artistic Quirks of Katikati

Cherry Tree, Katikati, New Zealand

Katikati is a small town on State Highway 2. Like many small New Zealand towns, it has attempted to make itself more interesting by adopting a quirk. Paeroa has a giant L&P bottle; Bulls has bad puns; Katikati has murals. But I didn’t take any pictures of those. Instead, I was drawn to this courtyard.

Katikati

It’s in the middle of the town, surrounded by shops and cafés, and it’s quite a lovely place to sit.

Katikati

Speaking of lovely places to sit, here’s Katikati’s best sculpture, which doubles as a bench.

Katikati

The live one on the right is my partner, and I wasn’t the only one taking photos of him. In the time it took for me to get those pictures of the colourful courtyard above, he became quite the tourist attraction.

Katikati

He told me later that he noticed the shoes the statue wore were real. The paint was peeling off of one. He had the irresistibly creepy thought of what if he were to peel the paint off the statue’s hands or face… would he find real skin underneath? But let’s turn away from that potential horror movie, towards a haiku.

Katikati Haiku Pathway

That’s one of the haiku stones from Katikati’s Haiku Pathway. Nice idea, isn’t it? You follow the path through a riverside park, reading the poetry carved into the boulders along the way. If you need a break whilst driving from Auckland or the Coromandel to Tauranga, you could do a lot worse than Katikati. It even has a museum.

Katikati Museum

More Photos from the Goblin Forest

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

The Goblin Forest of Taranaki really does have to be seen to be believed. It’s like stepping into a fairy tale.

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

But I’ve already waxed lyrical about it in a previous post, called The Goblin Forest, so I’ll leave the talking now to the photographs. (Even though I know I’ll probably never again get a photo as good as the one from that first post!)

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

I thought this branch kind of looked like the head of a dog, or a dragon. You know, in that stylised Celtic sort of way…

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

And see how this tree has grown over its own sign?

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

But now we must leave this enchanted forest. Pass through the archway and return to the real world… I hope not too much time has passed and your loved ones are still alive.

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Photos from Pukekura Park

Waterfall, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

This magically lit waterfall is in Pukekura Park, in the middle of New Plymouth. Scroll down and you’ll see why Pukekura Park is one of the best city parks in New Zealand.

Waterfall, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

This is a picture I took of the waterfall during the day. It’s man-made, but that doesn’t take away from it’s beauty. And at night, it’s beautiful in a whole different way.

Waterfall, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

The colours are constantly changing. I’ll show you one more before moving onto the rest of the park, because, beautiful as the waterfall is, Pukekura Park would be impressive even without it.

Waterfall, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

The park is centred on a lake, crossed by some quite striking red bridges. With the aid of a nifty filter, you can see just how striking striking these bridges look in real life.

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

And here’s the view from that bridge when it gets dark. (During the summer, Pukekura has a lights festival, which I attended back before I owned a decent camera, but this is without the additional lights!)

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

A lovely, old-fashioned teahouse sits on the edge of the lake. Their food’s decent, as, indeed, is their tea selection. Here’s a photo of one of their quirky birdfeeders.

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

The teahouse sits nestled amongst some gorgeous flowers. As I crouched down to take pictures of these flowers, I became surrounded by a ring of ducks hoping for food.

flower

That photo wasn’t edited in the slightest, would you believe? The petals look like an image from the Hubble Space Telescope! This next one, of course, is edited.

flower

It was actually the same colour as the flower above, but I like this picture. Okay, okay, one last flower photo before I get on with showing you the actual park.

flowers

Throughout the park, old-fashioned lampposts emerge from the trees in a way that makes one think irresistibly of Narnia. The park also has a fernery and a few mildly interesting sculptures.

lamppost in forest

One of my favourite features of the park is a grand, Victorian drinking fountain, sculpted out of marble. In fact, this is the image I will leave you with. Check back for more photos of my New Zealand travels!

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

The Trippy Trees of WOMAD

Tree Lights WOMAD

WOMAD stands for World of Music and Dance, a massive hippy festival held in New Plymouth every March. My favourite thing about it isn’t the music, or the food, or the stalls selling endless floaty dresses. My favourite thing is the lights.

WOMAD

You see, WOMAD takes place in a park – Brooklands Park, to be precise – and when it gets dark, all the trees get lit up in weird and wonderful colours. Some have quirky decorations hung in them…

Tree Lights WOMAD

And some are merely part of the psychedelic scenery…

Tree Lights WOMAD

But this year, one tree out-did them all. It actually had moving images projected onto its branches.

Tree Lights WOMAD

As I stood before it, entranced, I slowly realised that there was music coming from inside the tree. I mean, obviously there was a speaker concealed somewhere, but I don’t know what I’d have done if I’d been stoned, as some festival-goers were!

Tree Lights WOMAD

Each image projected onto the tree was beautiful in its own way…

Tree Lights WOMAD

Except maybe this one – those things were crawling down towards you!

Tree Lights WOMAD

Even in daylight, however, some of the trees seemed rather trippy. Take this one, for example…

kids in creepy tree

The kids were having a grand, old time playing amidst its branches, but it kind of looked like the branches were grabbing them.

creepy tree

Maybe I’ve been playing too much Call of Cthulhu.

The Goblin Forest

POMS AWAY!

Before I went to Hogwarts, I spent my childhood exploring Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood. A few weeks ago, on the slopes of Taranaki, I felt like I’d returned.

Taranaki is a dormant volcano on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. When the clouds clear, it’s truly spectacular to behold. I went there with my family this summer – my mum, my dad and my grandpa, who’s visiting us from England. We didn’t want to actually climb the volcano, also known as Mount Egmont, but we drove up to the visitor centre to look around.

Though we were standing right below the peak, it was completely invisible, shrouded by stubborn clouds. Disappointed, we entered the building to see if there were any short, easy walks we could do. There were plenty to choose from, of course, and there were many mentions of a ‘goblin forest’ – apparently the bush…

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