Posts Tagged ‘Avon River’

There were new things to see on this morning’s trip to Turanga.

New mural

A new mural on the fence beside the Cathedral seems almost to invoke Julian of Norwich.

In Armagh Street the endangered black-billed gulls are nesting again.

Gulls on nests

The site owners weren’t quick enough to deter them so they’ll have to be left alone until breeding is finished.  I feel sorry for the people in quarantine in the Crowne Plaza opposite who can’t quite see the nests, unless some guests on the upper floors have strong binoculars.

A fine waka is moored on the river near the Manchester Street bridge.


Commercial waka rides are due to start soon, and will be an unusual experience.  I’ve been on the Otākaro in a canoe and in a punt, but a waka will be a novel experience.

A mural, birds, and waka too
each day we can see something new

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Our Cottage is sited close to the Ōtākaro/Avon River, near the Barbadoes Street Bridge, where the tidal waters of the estuary meet the fresh waters of the river.  The area has special significance for both Māori and Pākehā, because it was the site of the pā of Tautahi for whom Otautahi/Christchurch is named.

Just across the river is the area now known as Cambridge Green.  The water which flows there from Te Wai Pure o Tautahi, the ceremonial waters of Tautahi (St Mary’s Stream) into the river was used to bless the marriage of Tautahi to Riki Te Auru, a Waitaha princess.  This marriage consolidated the bonds between the families of Kaiapoi and Port Levy.  The water is still used by Māori for ceremonial purposes.

Across the road is The Bricks cairn which marks where the Deans brothers landed in 1843 because their boats, which were shipping bricks for their Riccarton homestead, couldn’t go any further.  The brothers unloaded their bricks and proceeded by canoe to what was to become their home at Riccarton.  Some of those bricks are now incorporated into the cairn that marks the spot.  This whole area was the focus of early Pakeha settlement, and it is where trade and commerce commenced in Christchurch when Māori brought supplies of potatoes to the first Pākehā settlers.  The allocation of land sections was worked out from here, and the first commercial buildings were around this site.  In 1851 there were four cottages in this area which formed the first Pakeha settlement on the plains.

The Bricks cairn

Inner city Christchurch was carefully planned with the streets in a grid pattern.  The Avon Loop was originally part of the Town Reserve, set aside for a botanic garden, with an area in the north for the cemetery.  The soil within the Loop proved to be unsuitable for a botanic garden and this was moved over to Hagley Park.  William Wilson known as Cabbage, who became the first Mayor of Christchurch in 1867, then established a plant nursery where he sold the settlers such essentials as privet, gorse, and broom.  He owned 18 hectares from the present Avon Loop right down to Ferry Road.  In 1863 the Cottage land was conveyed by Superintendent Moorhouse to lawyer Thomas Papprill, and in 1864 Papprill sold to Wyatt Travers. In 1872 it was sold to Steere, and after this a certificate of title was issued to Arthur Appleby.

In 1877 Appleby sold it to George Levitt Binning, a City Council Labourer.  (Binning’s wife Ann (Hannah, nee Southwick) was buried 6 May 1897 at Linwood, aged 56 years.  Her residence then was given as 186 Barbadoes Street North.  George Levitt was buried 4 November 1898, aged 64.)   This led us to believe that the Cottage may have been built in 1878, but in 2019 a History Librarian showed me a picture dated 1877 which shows our cottage.

At first it would have been just the two front rooms, and was probably constructed from a kitset, selected from a catalogue, and shipped from Australia.  In 1858 a Christchurch builder advertised “Prefabricated houses of four rooms, ₤20, and ₤2 to erect.  Ours, being only two rooms, would have been cheaper.  An article in “Press” 15 July 1989 suggested that although the dwelling referred to in this advertisement was an unusually cheap example of its type, the portable, prefabricated house was commonly the property of the more affluent immigrant.  The construction is conventional with mixed foundations of concrete pile and stone, timber floors, light timber frame, weatherboard exterior cladding and a galvanized corrugated steel roof.

In 1893 it was transferred from Binning to his daughter Jane Eliza Goodwin, wife of George Elliott Goodwin, Clerk, “for her separate use”. (Jane Eliza was born 7 May 1867, baptized 10 June 1867.  She married George Goodwin, 6 February 1890, at Oxford Terrace Baptist Church.  He was born in London U.K. and aged 20 when he married).  It’s intriguing to wonder why Binning might think his daughter would have separate use for a house.

We found an antique birthday card inside one of the walls.  The back is inscribed: To my dear son George Elliott Goodwin from his loving mother on his 20 birthday.  May joy and . . . . (indecipherable).   With love always.

George Goodwin’s birthday card

I wonder why his daughter Jane
was left a house for her domain

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‘Lift’ by Phil Price

Barker’s Plantation, at the corner of Kilmore and Madras Streets has been enhanced by a sculpture.  ‘Lift’ by Phil Price was made in 1992 (although the plaque says 1993) during the artist’s residency at Queen Mary Hospital in Hanmer.  At this stage he was keen to demonstrate his ability to make large permanent outdoor works, and fascinated by flight and movement, but had not yet started to make kinetic sculpture.  The raised surface around the sculpture is designed to mitigate any risk of climbing and to protect the artwork when the grass is being mowed.  The work has been offered to the City Council on long term loan for at least ten years.

Nucleus seen in 2006

In 2006 ‘Nucleus’ a kinetic sculpture by Price was installed at the junction of High, Manchester, and Lichfield Streets.  This was removed for maintenance in 2017, and returned in 2018.

There’s lot’s of artworks in our city
some are attractive, some are witty


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This sunny spring Sunday was perfect for taking a kayak on the Avon.  As we approached the Antigua Boatsheds we were thrilled to see a new duckling family on the riverbank.

Ducklings on riverbank

It’s seven years since I’ve hired a boat beside the Botanic Gardens and there have been some changes.  There are now two separate boat hire businesses and it was the one with kayaks we were after.  The cost is $15 for an hour’s hire, and well worth it.  I’d remembered to have any valuables in zipped pockets, and discovered there are now lockers if you want to store a backpack.  The kind boatman held the kayak steady for me to get in, handled me a paddle, and off we went.

Heading upstream

It’s a sheer delight to paddle gently up the river, past ducks and flowering trees.  There were some family groups in larger kayaks and some in punts.  I was pleased to find there are now two female punt persons.  The river is calm and little effort is required to manoeuvre the craft.  We enjoyed our hour of water-based pleasure.  On the way back I attempted to take a selfie – more practice needed, I think.

Returning downriver

I realised afterwards it might have been a good idea to bend my knees occasionally, as my legs were quite stiff when it was time to get out.  Luckily the boatman was there to assist.

On the way back through the Botanic Gardens we admired beds of tulips.


By now the car park was full, with many families out to enjoy the flowers and the sunshine.

To take a ride upon the river
is Christchurch’s best journey ever

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It was my privilege today to lead the Earthquake commemoration at The Bricks beside the Barbadoes Street Bridge.  It’s the third time I’ve done this, representing the Avon Loop Planning Association who host this annual event.  After a brief introduction, I sounded a gong for two minutes’ silence, then a piper played Abide with me while we threw our flowers into the river, remembering the changes the earthquakes brought into our lives, and thinking of our hopes for the future of our city.

Piper Gordon McAlpine

This area of the river has special significance for both Maori and Pakeha.  It was the site of the pa of Tautahi for whom Otautahi/Christchurch is named.  On the other side of the bridge is Te Wai Pure, a sacred stream which flows into the Avon, and which has been used by Maori for ritual purposes since Tautahi and his wife Riki were married there.

The Bricks cairn marks where the Deans brothers landed because their boats couldn’t go any further and this whole area was the focus of early Pakeha settlement.  It is also where the tidal waters of the estuary meet the fresh waters of the Avon, a fitting symbol of the bi-cultural heritage of the Avon Loop.

The effects of the earthquake eight years ago are still being felt by many of us, especially children as an article in today’s Press describes.  People who came to The Bricks appreciated the opportunity to be part of a low key commemoration and to come back to the Community Cottage afterwards for refreshments.

We can’t forget eight years ago
when all our lives were altered so


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I was delighted to see these swans on the river close to my home.  A mother and toddler were feeding them bread, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them it’s not a good idea.

There were black swans in Aotearoa at the time of the first human settlement, but they had disappeared by the time Pakeha started to settle.   They were reintroduced from Melbourne as a game bird in the 1860s, and they regularly fly here from Australia.  In the 19th century 40 black swans were imported to control watercress on the Avon Otakaro River, but they all flew off to settle elsewhere.

I saw one last year near the Margaret Mahy playground, but haven’t seen them in the Avon Loop in recent years, so it was good to see this pair today.

“It’s good to see this graceful bird
upon our river, undisturbed.”

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I often see Canada Geese on the river, but over the years I’ve never seen a Canada Gosling, and I wonder why.  Do you know?

N Z Birds Online tells me this species “Nests as solitary pairs but often in close proximity to other members of the flock. Monogamous, with female completing all of the incubation over about 27 days, and the gander actively defending a small territory around the nest. The nest is a down-lined ground depression often hidden amongst rushes or short protective vegetation. Clutch size generally 5 white eggs. Laying is mainly in September–October but can also extend considerably later in the North Island, and second nestings have occasionally been recorded in December–February. Both parents actively guard the young during their 8-9 weeks of growth until capable of flight. The family may remain together for several months and join with other pairs and families into an extended flock. When pairs nest in close proximity, amalgamation of broods and shared parental duties are common.”

Have any of my readers seen a Canada Gosling?

“I wonder where the goslings hide
somewhere along the riverside.”

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Usually we see ducklings in September.  Now it’s almost November, and I hadn’t seen a single feather.  A friend told me yesterday she’d seen some around the Loop, so after breakfast at Little Pom’s, Stephen and I walked slowly around the river with our eyes peeled for ducks.

First we saw a family of nine stripey Paradise Ducklings:

Then a group of three newly hatched mallards, still with yolk on their faces (hard to see them in the iddle of the river):

A couple of adolescent ducks and their mother came to see whether we had brought breakfast for them:

Finally we found another small family beside the Barbadoes Street Bridge.  These ones were paddling furiously against the current:

Good to know there are new ducks around.  They don’t sit still to pose for photos, but they are a delight to behold, and I’ll be taking another walk soon to check on them.

“It’s such a lovely piece of luck
to contemplate a tiny duck.”


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A lone paradise shellduck was sitting on a tree by the river this morning.  Where is her mate, I wonder?  They mate for life, so I hope he’s not far away.

“A lone duck sitting on a tree
she looked as lonely as can be.”


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A great jet of water pouring over the river and Oxford Terrace prompted me to investigate.

It turned out to be a Fire Brigade Training exercise.  They simply lift up the cover of a fire hydrant and plug into the water main.  The bright sunlight provided a rainbow in the water.

The firemen assured me they were kindly washing the road.  When I inquired what might happen to any car coming down Oxford Terrace from Hurley Street they demonstrated how they could change the direction of the water flow.  It’s good to know the brigade is prepared for all kinds of fires.

“I went across to see because
I wondered what the water was.”



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