The weather in Wellington this summer school holidays has so far been very kind to us and it’s been perfect for getting outdoors and exploring the copious number of regional parks, town belts walks and nature centres.
Having my parents to visit, all the way from the UK, has been an extra motivator to get outdoors and enjoy sharing some amazing natural experiences together.
Of our three daughters the most enthusiastic participator in all this has been our youngest – Alice – coming up six year’s old in February. She loves nature and walks for ages without a complaint – totally immersed in her natural surroundings, like a little forest fairy (long may that last!).
We recently visited the amazing Catchpool and Orongorongo Valley – Rimutaka Forest Park. The native trees and plants in these valleys are so richly green and varied. There are beautiful beech trees towering to the sky, their leaves carpeting the forest floor, along with soft moss that calls out to be touched.
Huge northern rata trees tower to the sky with epiphytes populating the trunks.
Beautiful Ponga trees filter the sunlight through to the forest floor, illuminating our footsteps.
Every step is filled with wonder. My parents, young Alice and I walked for nearly two hours, playing the ‘tortoise and the hare'; with my parents being the steady tortoises and young Alice being the hare – which kept temporarily turning into a ‘statute fairy’, as the tortoises passed, and then zipping past them up the track (with our dog, Cocoa, and I chasing after her!).
Of course our dog was on his lead the whole way, as Kiwi birds populate the forest (but being nocturnal we obviously didn’t see any – but it would be amazing to camp in one of the huts and perhaps hear their incredible call).
One place we visited, where bird call of all types was brilliantly plentiful, was Zealandia, the incredible valley, just ten minutes from central Wellington, where a predator proof fence has created a sanctuary for native birds to breed, feed and thrive. In the photograph below, just trailing up in the forest on the left, you can just about make out part of the fence.
As we stepped into the park we were immediately greeted by a couple of nectar giddy ‘Tui’, dive bombing across our path to the next flax flower to feast upon.
High in the sky above us circled Kaka, the north island native parrot, and Keruru, the plumptious native wood pigeon of New Zealand.
Meanwhile, our little ‘Wellington Wild Thing’ crept along, dressed like a cat (which the fence is designed to keep out of the sanctuary!), and found the Zealandia ‘Wild Thing’…
We enjoyed a beautiful walk up above the dam, to the ‘Discovery Area’, where there were ‘Hihi’ feeding stations in amongst the forest. These delightful birds flitted in and out of the trees around us and are fascinating to watch.
The sound of bird song filled the valley as we made our descent down from the feeding stations, across the dam and back to the visitor centre, stopping to marvel at the tuatara on the way (Alice was intrigued by the baby ones).
It was a beautiful walk.
On another occasion we made a stop at the regional park known as ‘Rivendell’ (since the Lord of the Rings movie) at Kaitoke Regional Park.
We didn’t walk, on this occasion, but decided to enjoy some time by the river (it was a scorching day!) and found a lovely swimming hole for young Alice to cool off in.
After all that sunshine and fresh air we were ready for some shade, under a canopy of trees…
And… an ice-cream (which was a very special treat – as when we usually visit there’s no sign of an ice-cream truck; but this was a scorching public holiday, in the middle of summer, with more cars and tents than I’ve ever seen – usually we can roll up to the main car-park and find a space with our eyes closed)!
It’s no surprise that any mention of the school year starting, at the beginning of February, is met with a down-turned face and tearful eyes from our young Alice. She is definitely at her happiest discovering in nature, usually skipping along and humming to herself and her imaginary friends. She’s a very special little Wellington Wild Thing! xx
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