Young Country

August 13, 2009

New Zealand Farmers Weekly has a lot of competition from other give-away papers which turn up in rural mail boxes but consistent quality, original stories and intelligent commentary make it a must read.

The people behind it also have courage because they’ve launched a magazine, too.

Young Country is, as its name suggests, aimed at younger rural people but should appeal to a wider audience.

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The cover story of the current issue features  Alex, Anna and Pip Ewing, the third generation to farm Cattle Flat Station in the Matukituki Valley beyond Wanaka.

Their father, Charlie, took over the property from his father and he has worked hard over the years to make sure the same opportunities existed for his children.

His daughters have not only accepted those opportunities created for them, they have grabbed them with both hands  and are beginning to stamp their own mark on the family’s farming and helicopter businesses through hard work, grit and determination.

I got my money’s worth from this story by itself, and there’s plenty more good reading in the magazine: two sides of the debate over irrigating Canterbury; some of the people who are improving performance on Maori farms; a look at rural broadband; carbon farming . . .

A recession may not be the best time to launch a magazine, but if this one continues as it has started it should not just survive but prosper.


The best day walk in the world

May 31, 2009

The road from Wanaka travels up the side of the lake, past Glendhu Bay then past Treble Cone, Cattle Flat Station and on to Aspiring Station, into the West Matukituki Valley to the end of the road at Raspberry Hut.

After a fifteen minute amble along the side of the river we came to a swing bridge across the river and in to the bush to start the Rob Roy Glacier walk.

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After a  good hour’s climb on a clearly marked track we came out of the bushline and less than 10 minutes later we reached the end of the track.

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One of the signs at the top has an extract from a book written by Maud Moreland who did the walk in 1908.

We were now at the entrance of a gorge that looked as if the mountains had been cleft by some terrific force: on one side they rose black and precipitous with trees clinging wherever they could find a little soil but generally they were sheer walls of rock. On our side the mountains were clothed to within a few hundred feet of the top with dense bush.

Leaving the horses tied below we began a toilsome ascent through a belt of tutu – a stout herb growing as high as our shoulders. This bit was very steep, followed by a belt of fern, then across screeds of slate, shale and faces of bare rock with only cracks for footholds when we clung by our fingertips.

The heat grew greater every moment and the glare from the rocks scorched us and made us terribly thirsty as we worked our way from gully to gully.

After a tedious climb we at last saw the head of the gorge – a wonderful sight on which not many eyes have gazed. It is closed by a semi circle of cliffs, precipitous and black. And wedged as it were between three mountain peaks lies an enormous glacier. Not a long river of ice, but a mighty mass of ice, breaking off sharp at the top of the stupendous peaks.

How much easier it was for us today, on a well formed track and not encumbered by the clothes a young woman would have had to wear in 1908.

This is the fifth time I’ve done the walk, although the first time in winter. Each time I’m awe struck by the beauty from the river flats, through the bush to the view of the glacier.

A friend reckons it’s the best day walk in the county.

In my – biased and parochial opinion – I agree and that puts it up with the best day walks in the world.


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