Ah, New Year resolutions. I make a few every year at this time and, amazingly, I find I have kept some of them. Inspired by happy memories of our nine month stay in New Zealand I suggest some resolutions for 2016, in no particular order of importance.
There is a beautiful little corner in the north of the south island of New Zealand, one of so many gorgeous regions of this wonderful country which I visited with a small group of New Zealand wine writers for a couple of days to keep an eye on Nelson.
Nelson is one of the smallest wine regions of New Zealand. With a smidgen over 1000 hectares planted with vines its production is 2% of all the country, whereas its mighty neighbour, Marlborough, over the hills to the east is the largest producer with 22,000 hectares of vineyards producing 73% of the wines of New Zealand.
Nelson enjoys a sunny climate where orchards flourish as well as vines. South of the Tasman Bay, the region is protected to the east by the Richmond Hills, to the west Kahurangi and the Southern Alps to the, er, south. When we arrived, in spring, there was a dusting of snow on the adjacent hills.
Nelson has been hidden in the enormous shadow cast by Marlborough and I certainly got the feeling that Nelson was hiding its light under a bushel! There are no big players here, no national, and no international wine groups though the only disadvantage is that there is not the financial clout to promote the region. However this lack of local corporate clout does work in the favour of the thirty or so wine producers whose individuality shines through as we were to discover with the wines.
There are two distinct geological areas within Nelson:
The softly rolling Moutere Hills are formed from the weathered gravels of an ancient river system. The gravel threaded clay soils are renowned for producing wines of richness and texture, and there is no irrigation except for very young vines.
Waimea means ’river gardens’ in Maori – with stony soils of alluvial origin, high sunshine hours and a moderating maritime influence, the wines are lighter and more poised in style with aromatic varieties succeeding well. Irrigation is required as the soils are free draining.
During our few months in New Zealand we have discovered a national fondness for sculptures and sculpture parks. Perhaps because it is easier to share your choice of art if it’s on show in your garden or park. And New Zealand is a country that embraces the outdoors!
NZ Sculpture OnShore is a biennial exhibition of contemporary New Zealand sculptural work. The event raises funds to support NZ Women’s Refuges. Since 1995 ten outdoor sculpture exhibitions have been held and over $1.34 million has been raised for NZ Women’s Refuges.
How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli
Mr Disraeli sounds a tad gloomy but when you work a 5-day week the weekends do become rather special and looked forward to.
So on an overcast, rainy Saturday a couple of weeks ago we drove the 20 minutes south to visit the Auckland Botanic Garden. In fact someone told us that when you travel in Auckland the journey always takes 20 minutes, which seems to happen more often than not!
Typical of the short modern history of New Zealand the Auckland Botanic Gardens were only opened in 1982. But the temperate climate of this fair country has enabled the trees and shrubs to become established quickly. Indeed I think all New Zealand is a botanical garden, witnessing trees awash with flowers in the depth of the Auckland winter!
As well as a collection of indigenous plants there are a number of special areas: African plants, roses, camellias, magnolias, palms, edibles, herbs as well as an arboretum.
Not forgetting the Potter Children’s Garden which enthuses kids and the young-at-heart and where self-discovery is encouraged within the garden with the many interactive features.
Click on the photos to see what is happening
The African garden
Plants, shrubs and trees brightening up the overcast day.
The gardens are home to birds too.
Kereru, the New Zealand wood pigeon, a big chap with gorgeous plumage.
Tui, or parson bird, are one of New Zealand’s most accomplished songsters and are superb mimics. They are often in the trees by our house in Three Kings and enliven the mornings with their melodious call.
There was a reminder that it is still spring with trees nearly in blossom over a host of narcissi.
You can row your boat up the creek and pitch your tent. Well, at least the artist thinks you can…
As you can see, the amenities are fully organic.
In spite of the rain there was a delightful splash of colour provided by a wedding group.
The sun also came out giving us time to sit and contemplate these beautiful gardens.
There is handsome art amongst the Auckland Botanic Gardens which added to the pleasure and inspiration from our visit. We look forward to returning to see the roses in full bloom.
The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and Mother Nature. ~Jeff Cox
Auckland Botanic Garden
102 Hill Road
Kiaora Bro! Hello! A Maori greeting emblazoned on the wall which matches the welcome from the friendly staff at this great little cafe in Raglan.
We were staying with good friends who live near the little coastal town of Raglan, which has a laidback atmosphere because of several good surfing beaches nearby.
After an invigorating, blustery walk along the beach we’d worked up a good appetite we felt it was time to be rocking It in Raglan. It was time for brunch, one of New Zealand’s delightful customs. Brunch is a meal that seems to be served all day in many cafes and diners – fortunately none resembling the greasy spoons of yore in the UK!
The Rock-it cafe is a recent venture, situated in an unprepossessing shed which shows its origins. It started as a surfing shop, which still occupies part of the building,
and also accommodates a local radio station’s studio, Tractor Radio 88.2 Raglan.
Like so many places in New Zealand the welcome is terrific!
It was good to get out of the wind and choose from the menu displayed behind the counter. Most of the food is prepared on the premises using local produce where possible, with one exception that we discover later.
We started with hot drinks. My particular NZ indulgence is a moccachino, a combination of hot chocolate and coffee. The former for, er, my memory and the latter for the kick! Another of New Zealand’s delights is the respect and pride they have for making good coffee, as here.
Click on the photos to see the dishes.
Our food didn’t take long to arrive and, as you can see, it was a good thing that we’d been out for our invigorating walk!
A visit to Rock-it would not be complete without a taste of an intriguing speciality which I’d never heard of – the Cronut. Have you heard of this pastry?
A cross between a croissant and filled doughnut, this delicious (and calorific) confection is the exception to their home cooking rule as it is made by a specialist baker in Auckland.
On a fine day as well as more seating on the deck there is a great safe open space
and a tractor to play on.
We were intrigued by this bench-with-no-view… Click on photos to see why.
The Rock-it cafe serves delicious friendly food and is a good addition to what is on offer in Raglan. It has just been granted its alcohol licence and is open on Friday evenings as well as every daytime. As it is just outside the town by a creek you can paddle your kayak there!