We headed to Riccarton House on Sunday. The House itself is closed because of earthquake damage, but there is a flourishing Artisan Market in the grounds each Sunday, and this was a perfect autumn day for strolling. The market has quality stalls, many selling jewellery, and they include a bespoke footwear maker. Deans Cottage, beside the House, is the oldest building on the Canterbury Plains, built in 1843 from local pit-sawn timber.
We went through the predator-safe entrance into the magnificent Riccarton Bush, Canterbury’s sole remnant of kahikatea floodplain forest. The 600 year old trees are the latest generation of a forest that was established 3,000 years ago. Although I’ve officiated at weddings at Riccarton House, it’s years since I visited the bush. It’s now become a kiwi creche, where juvenile kiwi, hatched at Willowbank, spend a few months acclimatising before being released into the true wild. There are signs admonishing you to stay on the path, lest you disturb a sleeping kiwi. The birdsong was almost deafening and we were thrilled to see piwakawaka/fantails and kereru/wood pigeons.
We lunched at the Riccarton House Bistro, which has been set up in a marquee beside the house, and still uses the house kitchen. Lunch was delicious roast lamb. There is only one choice, presumably because this is the easiest way for them to manage. The bistro seats about 50, at communal tables and I liked the opportunity that gives to talk to other people (reminds me of Auckland’s Fed Up, and Christchurch’s early Spagalimi’s). There was live music with keyboards and guitar. Our lunch had been purchased at half price through a GrabOne voucher, so was very good value.
“The bush is simply glorious
bistro and market add a plus.”