A Walk Back in Time

Celebrating our nature reserves

It took me awhile to come around to the idea of day trips. For years, I thought it wasn’t worth lacing my boots unless I’d be overnighting somewhere, lugging a ton of gear in and waking at least a day’s walk from anything. But that’s not always possible and gradually, my desire to spend time outdoors has overcome my prejudice about only spending a day in the bush. I came to realise that that’s better than a whole weekend spent in and around houses.

As a result of this all or nothing attitude, it’s taken me even longer again to see the appeal of short walks, simple strolls. I’ve come around to this too, thankfully, because otherwise I would have missed the several bush reserves in the area where I live. Postage stamp size parks of native bush, maintained by DOC or volunteers but not part of any National Park. Stepping into them, you soon find yourself enclosed, the rest of the world gone. It only takes a few metres, before there’s little to show you’re not in a bigger forest.

These reserves might be tiny, insignificant next to our national parks, but they mean there’s life in the most surprising places. Suddenly there’s one there amongst the farmland, just down the road from the Gladstone pub. And while our parks tend to preserve mountain bush, these section off flat land, swamps, the sorts of terrain that have otherwise been cleared and drained. As a result they’re home to plants and beasts not commonly seen elsewhere, kingfishers, swamp kahikatea, and mudfish – slippery brown things which can survive without water by absorbing oxygen through their skin.

There are reserves like this dotted throughout the country, islands in the blank green of pasture. DOC’s website lists some, Forest and Bird, and the councils look after a few more. Many of these reserves are the gifts of local farmers from decades gone by and I suppose it’s possible they acted out of guilt, wanting to preserve some of the landscape that their industry irrevocably changed. But even if true we can be thankful, their actions have preserved what would have otherwise been lost, leaving us with these snapshots of another New Zealand, the chance to take a short walk back in time.