Archive for January, 2020

Some people…

January 28, 2020

We had had a well earned early night after a few late nights and/or early mornings, we had just drifted off to sleep when I was woken by lots of noise from within the camp, I thought it was mainly people talking interspersed with shrieks and shouts however something didn’t seem quite right.

I woke Roy and said that I thought there was some sort of commotion happening in camp, he got up and dressed and ventured out to see what was going on. He wandered around the camp but couldn’t find anything amiss so we hopped back into bed. Next minute there is a loud whooosh and bang, we were up again and looking outside. The sky had turned red with the whole campground was aglow in a red hue, and after the yellow apocalyptic skies caused by the recent Australian bush fires, we were not sure of what was going on. However, looking toward the beach we could see a distress flare slowly descending through the night sky.

Distress flare, image copied from safety web site

With that, we were both out the door with torches in hand, off to the beach to see who or what was in distress, and who needed help. Much to our disgust, we found a family group laughing and giggling their way back to their campsite who said that they had let off what they had thought was a firework. A firework? In a closed fire season? In a sanctuary? What on earth are you thinking?

Who in their right mind comes camping for one night, brings with them a “firework”, to then make their way to the beach at 11pm to then “accidentally” set it off? As we were chastising the family group, who didn’t appear to be very remorseful, I mentioned that the setting off of the flare would probably start a chain reaction of emergency services into action, in saying that, a helicopter flew overhead.

We left the group, after they were told to be quiet and to settle down for the night as they had disturbed many of the other campers who were now also up and about, alert to a possible emergency. After reassuring other campers that all was well, we headed off back to the van. As we got back to our van, the drumming noise of the helicopter overhead circling repeatedly around the headland and waterfront was continuous so Roy rang the non emergency police number (105) to explain to them what had occurred, that it was no emergency, just idiots with mush for brains being $@*#@%+.

We crawled back to bed after all the excitement and I’m just falling asleep when we are woken again, this time with a knock, knock, knock, at the door. I leap out of bed, waking Roy on the way (the advantage? of wearing hearing aids and removing them at night means you don’t hear these things), I open the door, wearing my best nightie 🤣, to find two police personnel greeting me. It is now just before 1am.

They tell us that they wish to speak to the persons responsible for setting off the flare, and could we please take them to their campsite so they could make sure that they realise the consequences of their actions and the response, the manpower and costs involved. Roy again got dressed, putting in his hearing aids and donning his glasses before he headed off across the campground to wake the now sleeping group.

We left the Police to do their job, we don’t know what was said, how long they were with the campers or if their were any repercussions for their actions as in charges, fines or the like but I really hope that there was some sort of consequence.

The next day, the NZ Herald had a report on the act, mind you, they got nearly every “fact” wrong.

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12303042

But as you can read, it did trigger a major response from all the major emergency services including both ground and helicopter Police, coastguard and search & rescue with defence force personnel put on standby.

Agencies that were alerted

All in all, a major waste of resources and personnel time, all for the sake of someone’s idea of “fun”.

Green with envy

January 19, 2020

This year at Shakespear has been pretty amazing in many many ways, not only is the camp continually full of lovely families, everyone is complimenting us on the way the camp feels and how lovely it all is….touching wood here in the hope that it continues! We’ve made some lovely friends out of families who return year after year, and this year we’ve been rewarded with many many gifts, it is really very humbling.

On Friday I got a very, very, special present. At around 5pm as I was quietly sitting in my chair in the sunshine reading my book, I saw the tractor heading across the camp ground with what looked like a large crate on the front forks.

Bruce (Head Ranger) opened the tractor door and said I’ve brought you a present….a pukeko proof garden!

Pukeko proof garden

Roy inspecting the garden, complete with lift up front for easy access

I’m so excited, it’s silly!!

I forgot to take a picture of it when it arrived, as it was full of weeds but it wasn’t long before we had weeded it out and watered it in readiness to plant.

The following morning I headed out to buy a few plants ready to plant in my new garden, a variety of herbs and vegetables which I have now planted up after digging over the soil, watering it well and giving it a bit of fertiliser.

All planted up, and yes that is a tomato on the left which has now been staked and tied up.

Pukeko proof garden

Oh and if you are wondering, no we shall not be carrying this around with us, it will remain at Shakespear and will be removed from the campsite once we have left to the safety of the Rangers station for them to look after until we return.

We feel all rather spoilt but I can’t wait until I can pick some fresh herbs and veg.

It’s not all calm and quiet

January 13, 2020

Occasionally we have a little bit of excitement in camp, just to keep everyone on their toes. We were just about to start cooking dinner on Saturday night when a fire engine came into camp, they stopped outside our van and asked if we could direct them to the emergency? and could I unlock the gates? After reading on their pager where they were instructed that the emergency was located, I unlocked the gates and sent them off into the paddocks, leaving the gates open as they said another truck was on its way.

Well, three fire trucks, one specialist fire truck, two emergency utes, one police car and an ambulance later plus the duty Ranger Dave, it was all on.

Two fire trucks and the smaller specialist emergency tender outside our van.

Off duty Head Ranger Bruce and his wife Leanne, just so happened to be visiting us for the evening for a few games of cards (yes Marilyn, 5 crowns has us all hooked!), but we all sat back and let the emergency crews do what they needed to do.

Apparently, a couple had gone for a walk around the rocks, but got caught out by the incoming tide. They made the decision to attempt to climb the cliff to the safety of the farmland up behind the campground, he safely made it to the top, unfortunately his wife made it within a few metres of the top before sliding back down 4 metres or so, scraping and bruising herself, running out of energy and could not climb any further.

All the following photos are courtesy of Dave, who was on hand as duty Ranger.

Cross country fire truck, the sheep seemed unimpressed.

Fire truck on its way and a plan being sorted

Getting into gear

Safety lines attached to two utes

Getting ready to climb down

Checking all the safety gear before sending someone over the edge

The lady in question was safely and efficiently brought up onto terra firma before being checked over by paramedics. She was in a bit of shock, with scrapes and bruises but otherwise unharmed.

The nice firemen took her off to be checked over but before they left, they treated the kids in the camp to a lights and sirens display in their trucks.

Meanwhile the serious stuff of cards games continued! or we tried to continue but a constant stream of concerned campers wanting to know what was going on interrupted the games.

The moral of the story? Check the tide times before setting out around the foreshore and if you find yourself in difficulty either retrace your route and get a little wet (the sea was incredibly calm) or stay exactly where you are on dry land and call for help.

Tracking cards

January 6, 2020

Firstly, thank you to Marilyn (NB Waka Huia) for asking the very good question….what are tracking cards?

To give a bit of background information, Shakespear Park is a pest free sanctuary at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsular.

Map of the Park

Together with New Zealand Defence Force land to the north, most of the Park lies within the Shakespear Open Sanctuary. Although Okoromai Bay and Army Bay are situated within the park realm they are not within the sanctuary.

A 1.7km pest/predator-proof fence (completed March 2011) goes across the peninsular and protects the park’s wildlife which includes resident invertebrates and lizards, along with birds migrating from nearby Tiritiri island sanctuary and many reintroduced species.  

Poison airdrops were conducted in July 2011 to eradicate mammalian pests and the park reopened to the public three months later, pest free.

Access to the park for visitors is by road, through the pest proof fence with automated gates opening for vehicles and cyclists with pedestrian access through a side gate.

Entrance gates

To ensure that the park is kept free of pests and predators such as possums, cats, dogs, ferrets, rats and the like, extensive monitoring takes place. This is done with a variety means by the way of traps, cameras, lures, and tracking cards.

Tracking cards are basically inked cards which are set into small tunnels with some form of enticement or lure (usually peanut butter with rabbit meat used in every 4th or 5th card) so that when an animal or insect walks across the card, it’s footprints are left behind. Many places use these cards to check on biodiversity and range of animals within their area but at Shakespear they are mainly used to monitor pests.

The front of the card

The card opened up showing the ink pad with some peanut butter in the middle

The cards are set out once a month then collected the following week for analysis, and with over 200 cards being set out in the park you can imagine it is a mammoth job which is done with the aid of a myriad of volunteers. Each volunteer is responsible for a particular line of cards with the Rangers doing the Navy land and any other lines that need to be done.

How do they know where the tunnels are placed? If you have been into the park you will have noticed bits of coloured tape tied to trees or fences. Orange and blue tape is used and these denote either a tracking tunnel or a trap.

Tape fluttering in the breeze

Once collected, they are read and species identified by their footprints, then any pests can be targeted in the specific area that they were detected. The following are examples of some of the tracking cards:

Hedgehog footprints, and yes, they are a pest, they raid nests and eat eggs.

Skink footprint and tail print

rat prints

Possum prints

Frog prints

Weta (NZ native insect)

Gecko

Skink, mice, birds and cockroaches

Of course not all prints are of pests and from the last set of prints you will see that you really have to know what you are looking for to sort out what is what.

The Rangers are ably assisted by a great group of dedicated volunteers who not only ensure the Sanctuary is thriving for flora and fauna with an on-site tree nursery as well as monitoring of the many birds that thrive here, but also a safe environment for people to visit as it is also a working farm and open to the public for all sorts of recreational activities from picnicking to windsurfing, swimming, fishing, mountain biking and walking as well as a place for people to camp. We really enjoy being part of the great group of friendly volunteers on the park.

I hope that goes someway to explaining what tracking cards are and the reason why I was driving the ATV from the start to finish of some of the lines last week whilst Bruce put out the cards. The volunteers have a well deserved break over the Christmas/New Year period so I was doing my bit to help out.

A New Year

January 2, 2020

2020 is here, why is it that it seems just a short while ago we were celebrating the millennium? Time certainly does seem to fly.

First of all a quick look back on the past year and it certainly was an eventful one in more ways that one. We managed to catch up with lots of family and friends over the year, both here in New Zealand and in the UK. Of course our big news for the year was the arrival of our grandson Callum, we feel so privileged to have been there for his birthday and the first three months of his life. He is growing so fast and we cannot wait to head back to see him this April.

Callum with his cousin Beth

“who? me?” I can sit by myself!!

Health wise we have both been reasonably well, apparently my hip is healing nicely so I’m expecting to be able to have my other knee replaced sometime in the new year, all going well.

All in all 2019 was a good year and we are looking forward to the year ahead.

Meanwhile back at Shakespear, campers have come and gone. We have been very spoilt this year with many gifts from grateful campers of wine & chocolates, as well as some spoils from their diving and fishing expeditions…

Crayfish for dinner.

As well, we received a lovely HUGE hamper from the Rangers with all sorts of goodies that we have been thoroughly enjoying.

Antony went back home to work after Christmas, but was back again to join us for a week over the New Year and we have enjoyed having him around. And in response to a question on what game we were playing in the previous post, it was a game called Sequence. As well, many, many, many, games of Five Crowns have been played, and we have got Bruce (Head Ranger) hooked onto the game too. As Bruce’s family were away for Christmas and New Year, he has joined us most evenings for dinner followed by many games of Five Crowns. I haven’t kept a tally of wins but I’m sure I’m doing very well. I must add here that our obsession with the game is thanx to Marilyn & David, the Kiwi narrowboaters we met in the UK earlier in the year. We have even got to the point of making up score sheets to print off and use, such is our obsession!

I again went out driving the mule (ATV) for Bruce on New Years Eve whilst he collected tracking cards. I enjoyed the views over the park from the high vantage points.

A peek of the campground in the background

Te Haruhi Bay

The other little bit of news is that we are “world famous” in our own lunchtime! with an article published in the latest Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations Magazine

Magazine cover

We promise not to let the notoriety go to our heads!

And in responses to another request, my blog posts on sourdough making are coming soon, they are really, honestly!