Archive for the ‘regional parks’ Category

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!

A clean break

October 6, 2019

Sometimes it just gets to you, being parked on gravel that it. We’d had enough of being parked at Ardmore and we were both hankering for grass, nature, beach and some space around us. We decided it was ok to leave Ardmore but we would not be going too far as we still need to be around Auckland just in case. We packed up the van ready to move but with a few tasks to do along the way it was not going to be a quick getaway.

First stop was to Bruce Pulman Park to dump the tanks and fill with fresh water, it’s within a couple of kms from Ardmore and not too far to travel. It’s a very good dump station as it has plenty of room, accessible from both sides, drive in and out and basically level as well. Job done, from there it was along the road to the petrol station to fill up with fuel. We know which stations have good, easy access for the van as not all are accessible for us. Some have very low overhead structures, some have the pumps lined up in such a way making it nigh on impossible for us to get in or out, others are just in awkward locations. Filled with fuel we are on our way, taking the Western Ring Road hence avoiding the centre of Auckland, traffic, and the Harbour Bridge.

Our next stop was in Onehunga to Cleanco Truck wash. We had heard that this company also cleans motorhomes and that they do a great job of cleaning the vehicles so we thought we would give them a try.

Lots of men washing the van

I waited for a short period of time in the customer lounge, chatting to a couple of truck drivers whilst the attendants washed the outside of the van. Roy remained inside the vehicle as he then had to move the van from that particular bay to another bay where they could access the roof via mobile stairs and gantry.

About to clean the roof

At this point I left them to it to continue on the journey in the car so I could get a bit of shopping done along the way. Roy meanwhile stayed with the van, he said he had never seen so much dirt come off the roof as they cleaned it, and in hindsight they should have cleaned the roof first before the rest of the vehicle. A lesson learnt for next time.

With wheels polished, tyres siliconed, and everything sparkly clean he was soon on his way. And at just $66 for the clean, well worth the money we thought and we will definitely use them again.

We are heading as far as Shakespear Regional Park, back to familiar territory for a week of R&R in amongst nature.

The route

I met up with Ranger Emma on my way into the Park, and was very warmly greeted before catching up on all the news from the Park. Roy arrived shortly afterwards and he had a quick catchup with Emma before it was time for us to park up….on grass!

It is so nice to be back, with plenty of space around us, the joyous sounds of prolific bird life and the crash of waves on the shore. Bliss.

Parked on grass again.

We had just finished setting up, and I had just put the kettle on for a cuppa when from across the park we hear a familiar voice calling out to us. It was head Ranger Bruce. Although he was on his days off he’d heard we were back for a visit (thanx Emma) so he came down to see us and welcome us, how lovely is that?

Over cups of tea we caught up on all the news and happenings, and no Bruce we are not starting Camp Hosting duties early, we are just having a bit of a break before heading north again. The fish are calling.

The big move

February 21, 2019

After three and a half months in the Shakespear campground we have made the big move, just 750m Along the road to the SCC (Self Contained Certificate) camp area. This is because there is a large school group in the campground and we always vacate the campground at this stage and leave them to it. As you can see from the following photos, it’s pretty busy in here.

It does get busy over the weekends but for the rest of the week we are pretty much on our own.

We can still continue with our camp mother/camp leader roles from here and it’s pretty interesting what we see from our position here opposite the large public area whereas in the campground we are pretty much cocooned from the general public.

We did meet up with John & Sarah, they write a very good motorhome travel blog https://licencedtoretire.com. We enjoyed a lovely couple of days in their company and look forward to meeting up again soon as I neglected, yet again, to take any pictures.

I too have been taking things easy, hoping that by not doing too much my hip will heal quickly. We have had the official written report from the surgeon and for those interested the diagnosis is an “Avulsion fracture of the greater trochanter”. Sounds impressive doesn’t it? I can assure you that the only thing impressive is the pain, but with medication it is slowly coming under control, and I do get a good 3-4hours of uninterrupted sleep most nights now.

We have less than two weeks left here at Shakespear before we head off to parts unknown, and it’s not long before we are off to the UK again.

Bloomin’ lovely

December 15, 2018

It’s Christmas and the trees are all decorated, I mean the New Zealand native Christmas trees aka Pohutakawas, and they are particularly magnificent this year.

The pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) with its crimson flower has become an established part of the New Zealand Christmas tradition. This iconic Kiwi Christmas tree, which often features on greeting cards and in poems and songs, has become an important symbol for New Zealanders at home and abroad.

Pohutukawa and its cousin rata also hold a prominent place in Maori tradition. Legends tell of Tawhaki, a young Maori warrior, who attempted to find heaven to seek help in avenging the death of his father. He fell to earth and the crimson flowers are said to represent his blood.

A gnarled, twisted pohutukawa on the windswept cliff top at Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand, has become of great significance to many New Zealanders. For Maori this small, venerated pohutukawa is known as ‘the place of leaping’. It is from here that the spirits of the dead begin their journey to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki. From this point the spirits leap off the headland and climb down the roots of the 800-year-old tree, descending into the underworld on their return journey.

Colours vary as well with the flowers ranging from pink to red to crimson to a bronze red. There are also yellow pohutakawa, which I like to think of as my Christmas tree decked out in golden decorations.

I love the long twisting branches and the way the tree clings improbably to cliffs. Kids love playing amongst its branches and we all love to camp or picnic beneath their arching limbs providing much needed shade from the summer sun.

In times past, I was known for my elaborately decorated Christmas trees, always colour themed, and never the same colours repeated.

Now I am just happy to see nature’s best decorated trees in all their glory.

Back to Shakespear

November 17, 2018

We arrived late Sunday afternoon in glorious sunshine, we were set up fairly quickly and just as well because no sooner had we finished when the skies opened and the rained poured down. But not before I managed to take a picture of us all set up.

It’s lovely to be back although it sounds as though we could be in for an interesting summer as the booking system has been completely changed. Before it was just plain terrible, now it’s diabolical! It has obviously been set up by someone who has a) never made a booking before, for anything….and b) has never been on the working end of a booking system especially from the end user perspective. It should not be so difficult or convoluted, in fact it should be very simple. We have complained about the previous system for years (along with just about every end user) and now somehow they have managed to make it even worse. I bet someone was paid a lot of money to make it such a shambles. Getting off soap box now.

This last week was a week of appointments and checkups, culminating with me (Bernice) having one of my knees replaced on Monday the 19th. Interesting wee aside though, as part of the pre Op checks and tests, I was measured and guess what? Since I had my hip replaced I am exactly one whole centimetre taller!!! Every little bit helps.

The surgery and subsequent recovery is not something I am particularly looking forward to but I am looking forward to one day being pain free and much more mobile.

Since we have been back here at Shakespear though we have been amazed at the proliferation of bird life, we have some saddlebacks here in the campground with two new chicks that are making their presence heard and kiwi can be heard most nights. In fact tonight I could have sworn that the kiwi was just outside the door it sounded so close. I went out looking with my red torchlight (red so it doesn’t hurt their eyes) but I could not see it anywhere. The Tuis are amazing not just for their call but also their flying antics. I watched them chase away a mynah and a magpie yesterday. The pukekos are everywhere, there are robins and fantails and yellow heads and whiteheads and we have a thrush that seems to particularly like us as well.

All the hard work that the rangers and volunteers put in are really paying off with the bush line extending every year, it really is a huge asset for Auckland along with the other regional parks.

Always take the weather with you

July 16, 2018

How do you know that the Vannini’s are back at Shakespear? Look at the weather!

Our view went from this

To this

It seems as though we bring extreme weather events with us to Shakespear having been here before when the rainfall has been excessive. This time the planned public planting day had to be cancelled for the first time ever. The planting of trees was to have taken place on Sunday, in fact the area chosen to be planted was around a major slip that occurred last year to stabilise the hillside. That slip took place when we were again parked in the Motorhome parking area last year which you can read about here

Never mind, it all passed pretty quickly and we were safe and dry inside the van.

We did manage to catch up with a few of the Rangers whilst we were here as well as friends whom we have met here. We visited Skip & Mindy for a very pleasant day catching up on news and travels. And we hope we have managed to assist their daughter to convince them to head off on holiday to Europe with her later this year.

and this was our view on the way out today

On the road again

July 13, 2018

After nearly two weeks at Ardmore taking things very quietly, we decided that it was about time we got a move on. First things first though, we need a COF which is due at the end of the month but we might as well get it done whilst we are here.

On Wednesday we took a trip down to the VTNZ testing station in Takanini to see the friendly fellows that work there. We only had to wait a short time in the queue before it was our turn. Why is it that it feels like you are taking your child off to sit some important exam, you are nervous and on tenterhooks, hoping like mad that your precious baby passes all its milestones? Of course it passed its COF and with a friendly wave from the very personable staff, we were on our way again, back to Ardmore via the petrol station for a quick fill.

We wanted to stay another night at Ardmore so that Roy could again get up a silly hour to go round to Antony’s to watch the football. Thursday morning was the England vs Croatia game and we were all hoping that against all odds that England just may be able to make it through to the finals. However, it was not to be.

After Roy had returned from watching the game, we got ourselves sorted and by midday we were on the road again. This time we are not heading too far away as we are not sure how I will fair, sitting for any length of time with my hip still in recovery mode. But with padding from some cushions for the one and half hour journey north, we were soon parked up at Shakespear Regional Park.

I cannot begin to explain how nice it is to be back here, the quietness is almost deafening with just bird calls adding a lovely background noise. The sea is calm so there is almost no noise from waves lapping the shore and as it is winter there is hardly another soul around. Bliss.

We are staying here for a few days to catch up with Rangers and other volunteers whom we have become friends with over our years camp hosting here before wending our way north. Watch out snapper, here we come!

Kiwi release

March 13, 2018

It’s 3.39am and as I lie here awake (yet again), I am listening to the call of a male Little Spotted Kiwi here at Shakespear Park. How do I know it’s a male? Because I used Mr Google to look up the call of the little spotted kiwi and listened to the male and female calls with my headphones on, then removing the headphones to listen to the call, then headphones back on again to confirm it was exactly what I was hearing.

Last weekend another 20 kiwi were released into the park and again we were invited along to witness the event, however this time we were to have a little bit of involvement. And this time last year we were fortunate enough to be invited to the release of 20 kiwi into the Shakespear Open Sanctuary it was a very special and moving event which you can read about here.

The crowds gathered; invited guests, representatives of iwi, Navy, SOSSI, council and interested groups were present. Earlier we had assisted putting up the marquees and setting out the chairs as well as helping with the portioning of all the afternoon tea cakes and slices to accompany a cuppa later in the afternoon. We arrived to watch the ceremony and took our place at the back of the crowd.

However, we were not there for long before being asked if we would like to participate in the event by carrying out the kiwi in their boxes and then return them to their handlers. Of course we jumped at the chance to be part of this special event.

That meant that I was unable to take many photos so the only ones I have are ones that others have taken.

that’s Roy at the back of the procession (I’m on the other side of him) with Pat & Sue just in front of us.

These kiwi are the little spotted kiwi, there are not many of them on mainland New Zealand with half of theses kiwi coming from Kapiti Island near Wellington and the rest from Tiritiri Matangi Island just off Auckland.

The kiwi were welcomed onto the site by dignitaries

Speeches were made, Karakia sung, before we had to pick up our charges and return them to their quiet zone where a few of them were introduced to the crowds by their handlers.

our charges…Waikawhia and Hugh or better known by their monitored tracking numbers 53 and 63.

Ginny, one of the volunteer trained handlers, getting up close to a kiwi.

Kiwi were later quietly released around the park where they will hopefully breed and flourish. I look forward to many more nighttime calls.