Freedom at it’s Best

Day 27 late afternoon, Arthur’s Pass – The long-sufferings itinerary for our last night in Aramoana saw us driving down a relatively short gravel track, across the Mount White bridge and down to the most idyllic deserted spot alongside the Waimakariri River.

This really was the perfect place, it had it all – mountains, blue rushing river, bridge, open space, views to die for, a special place for our last evening meal – rib-eye steaks, new potatoes and stir fried veggies.


Of course with all this beauty there has to be one fly – literally – in the ointment…..SANDFLIES were EVERYWHERE!

View from our window

But….with a view from our sleeping quarters like this, we could put up with anything!


We wondered if anyone else would arrive to camp at our special out of the way place…luckily for us nobody did!




and Sunrise



Our adventure begins…… Aside from the usual body search/pat downs as my metal hip set the security sensors into overdrive all my worries about surviving the long flight – elephant legs, blood clots, acute stiffness, plane crashing, hyperventilating over long hours in a confined space – thankfully came to nothing. Flying Air New Zealand, premium economy in their comfy adaptable space seats did much to soothe both hip and overactive imagination.

Clear blue sky was the forecast in Auckland and it didn’t disappoint. A quick shower and change of clothes and we were ready to explore. Our hotel concierge suggested a harbourside walk to the ferry terminal, from there we could catch the half hourly ferry over to Devonport and maybe climb two of the fifty or so volcanic cones Auckland is built on and around. Considering our lack of sleep we were feeling surprisingly energetic!

It was Auckland anniversary day – a public holiday – the quiet harbour would soon become a bustling hub of life as the biggest sailing regatta got underway.

The ferry crossing was short approx ten minutes. We decided to climb Mount Victoria first being the nearer of the two. The journey was straight up from the ferry drop  taking us past rows of quaint shops and cafes. The steep climb up to the top was well worth the stunning panoramic views out over Auckland to the sky tower in the distance and the Bay surrounding us, water sparkling between the many flotillas of sailing boats from small dinghys to stately yachts.

Ice cold beers beckoned on our descent in one of the cafes we passed on the way up,before walking back towards the harbours edge to continue our short tour of Devonports coast route.

Deciding north head – the second volcanic cone was within our range we walked on and up once more. Again the view from the top was just as stunning. Both were once fortified village sites with gun embankments and bunkers. The Navy still maintains a presence here today.

Back down at the waterfront there followed late lunch a tasty affair consisting of: venison burgers, chips and salad washed down with another refreshing ice cold beer, and the standard glass of water to dilute the alcohol effects!

The ferry back was a blustery affair, I was grateful for my hoody, not so the long-suffering who put a brave, now rather fast reddening – no holiday has ever been complete without his starter holiday glow – face as the cold wind whipped through us with the speed of the boat.


And so to bed……..zzzzzzzz



Invader in the garden!



The naughty badger called in for a visit again last night without invitation – his usual style.  Our lawn this time was left intact much to long sufferings delight.

His upbeat mood was not to last…..


Returning from our Sunday morning excursion out in the surrounding countryside,

we both as is our custom took a turn around our estate. These days our amble around our ‘estate’ is a much quicker affair in our much reduced plot, nevertheless even in a small space there is much to stop and marvel at along the route.

Some of the 300 odd bulbs – the cause of my much maligned wrist anguish – planted in the meadow out the front are pushing up through the grass. The thought of the spectacle to come tempers the daily wrist twinges!

Granny’s snowdrops dug up with care before the move and lovingly transplanted into the border near the back door have pushed through the earth. I will miss the flowers this year but in the promise of the new shoots Granny lives on in this new garden.

Back to the badger then…On closer inspection although the lawn was happily intact the adjacent long border was the scene of much destruction. Plants were uprooted and tossed to one side, bulbs strewn about, some partly eaten.

Badgers are omnivores eating both plant and animal matter. Judging by the holes through the border his diet last night consisted of plant roots, worms, bulbs and maybe the poor resident mole lurking underground!


At this point on sight of the uprooted plants the long-suffering – his delight quickly turning into ‘Victor Meldrew’ mode – made to slope quietly back to the house knowing full well a digging session was imminent.

And of course as is my way, once the spade comes out I can usually find some other digging jobs for him to do…….

First Frosts

Most mornings during the week when I leave the warmth of my bed it is still dark outside.  At six o’clock all is quiet in my tucked away village, as I drive out to town for the gym, pool or spinning class I usually engage in before work.

This week however I have been struck down with a dreaded bad cold ‘maybe flu’ it has put me out of action regards keeping fit, work or anything else remotely physical.  Last week I went about my normal daily activities but felt lethargic, my whole body ached – not just the bad side – everything was an effort, coming home after work all I wanted to do was lay down and sleep.

Come Friday the reason for my lethargic state presented itself in all its sniffing, sneezing, fuzzy headed glory.  Nevertheless I did feel better generally and not so tired. With tissues in hand, on Sunday my ‘long suffering’ and I walked a challenging – for me – five and a half mile trail to the top of Bulbarrow Hill – the second highest point in Dorset some 274 metres.

Sunday night saw me relapse in spectacular style, sweating one minute, shivering the next.  Consequently I have not been able to work at all this week so far.  From a business point of view this is not ideal, yet I find myself through the fog of my fuzzy head feeling thankful for these few unexpected mornings at home, restlessly awake to see the sun rise on the first frosts this winter.

As the dark slowly turned to light pulling back the bedroom curtains revealed the summerhouse below, its roof sparkling and glittering white, over the bridge the grass leading down to our inherited stream pale and stiff, the water a gentle flow rather than the torrent of only a week previous.  Fields beyond our boundary glowing burnt orange their surface streaked with long shadows from the low sunlight.

Time has been on my side to leisurely rejoice in what gems our new garden has revealed.  The grass border, it structural stems stiff and upright in shades of bronze, red and ochre, dense underneath providing cover and shelter for foraging wildlife.

To the front of the house the oval leaves of a large cotinus ‘Grace’ have turned translucent red from their former deep purple. Cornus ‘Midwinter fire’ are starting to live up to their name as stems glow brighter orange red as the last leaves fall.

The Magnolia ‘Stellata’ flowered gloriously soon after we moved in, but now devoid of leaves the swelling pale grey, white furry buds of next years display are clearly visible on its bare architectural branches.

Hopefully these first light frosts are just the start of many harder ones to come although my fingers at work will berate me for those words as they become numb and throb as I work. With short often dull days ahead I will only have to look out at the promise of those pale buds to lift me from the melancholy of cold wet winter days.  In addition I have the delight of working in other gardens all with their own special winter surprises and hope for each new season, thus spurring me on from getting too maudlin!