Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Farming on a different scale

We've driven a most amazing road in the past couple of days, thanks to a tip from Tony & Claire in Auckland. A 200km cross-country single-track (and 150km of it just gravel) took us from Blenheim, on the north east coast, to the skiing and spa resort village of Hanmer Springs, north west of Christchurch. Much of the track was originally a sheep-drovers' road and then it was 'improved' to allow maintenance access for the main electricity grid power lines which were installed in the late 1950s.

The road passes through Molesworth Station, the biggest farm in NZ at an amazing 181,000 hectares. Most of this land is pretty inaccessible by vehicle and very mountainous and, by the late 1930's, grazing by 95,000 sheep and an uncontrolled rabbit population had rendered pretty much useless any farmable land that there was. The run holders (tenant farmers) "walked off the property" in 1938 so the management of the station reverted to the Crown and since then there has been a systematic improvement programme in place.

Today the farm is home to 10,000 beef cattle - Angus and Hereford crosses - which roam free. During the 'warmer' months they are moved up into the higher pastures and are then brought down into the lower areas during the winter. It's real cowboy country - a permanent staff of 5 is augmented by a team of herdsmen who round up the cattle on horseback (there are 80 horses and 40 working dogs), aided by spotter planes to locate them. The land consists of some large plains around the Acheron River and very impressive mountains that still had vestiges of snow on them.

We took 2 days to do the trail, camping near the farm station overnight. We'll post some video of the trip when we get it edited but, in the meantime, here are some photos:

A suspension bridge built in the 60's by the electricity company - two others washed away in winter floods!

The car begins to gather dust

Evening light at our camp stop

The centre section of the road is closed at night in summer and all the time in winter
The Acheron River in the valley

Time for  a wash!

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