A stroll in the bush

Monday 15 June 2015 – Auckland, New Zealand.

I have been in New Zealand for three days and have pretty much had no sleep since arriving. A combination of strange beds – three nights and three different beds, and trying to sleep when I should be getting up for work has not been helped by my failure to sleep easily. So I am tired.

I have had a good couple of days so far, I have completed all the shopping I need to do, cuddled my grandson and seen all of my Auckland based family and some of my friends. It feels like I haven’t stopped, but in reality it has all been a fairly static trip so far. I was going to go for mountain bike ride on Saturday morning but the weather conspired against us, today was going to be a trail run but Vicki, who I was to run with, had a monster race over the weekend so we decided to make it a walk instead. It suited me, as I said before I was tired.

The original idea was to run up Mt Pirongia in the Waikato, a spectacular run/walk that I have not done, but seeing as we were not going run it seemed a bit silly to get up before dawn to drive for a couple of hours just to walk. We decided to head to an old favourite, Piha – where there is good coffee as well as good trails.

Piha is not my favourite beach on Auckland’s west coast, it is a close second to Karekare. However, Piha was one of my favourite places to trail run. Wonderful trails with awesome views and the bonus of a great cafe where turning up looking for coffee covered in mud and smelling a bit was not overly frowned upon.

Disappointing as it was, with hindsight, walking rather than running was a good idea. I have hardly run in weeks and Vicki has been knocking out fast paced ultra-marathons like they are going out of business. There was no way I would have survived a run like Pirongia. Walking meant we could natter for longer – including up the many climbs, and nattering is something we do best on our runs.

We had decided on a nice loop from the end of Glen Esk Rd, that captures all the good things about this section of the Waitakeres – a nice stream, kauri trees, some views and some glorious twisty, rooty single track.


Kauri die-back is a serious issue for the Waitakere Ranges – as well as other areas of native forest in the north of New Zealand. Kauri Dieback is caused by a fungus like disease that is killing kauri trees, it was only discovered in 2008. It is a spore that that gets into the roots of the tree, spreading up and eventually killing the tree, trees of all ages are affected and it is thought to be spread by animals, birds and humans. There are numerous spray stations around the park.



Like a lot of the waterways in the park in the early 19th century the Piha stream was dammed and then used to float kauri logs down to logging mills on the coast. The remains of some of the dams can still be found in various locations.



We headed up Centennial track from Piha Valley track.



There are still a couple of fun sections on the trail, yet to be made day tripper friendly…



With a rewarding view down the valley.


Vicki had been telling me about the work the council had been doing on ‘maintaining’ some of the tracks, especially those on the Hillary Trail, the 85km long section of trails made famous by Sir Ed Hillary. This basically means widening the trail, removing anything remotely challenging and then covering the track in gravel, – thus removing half the fun of bush walking, but making the trails easier for those who don’t want to get dirty I guess. On the Forbes Trail it was pleasing to see they had not been every where !



Our final trail was the Maungaroa Ridge track, one of my favourite trails.


It is a great running trail, especially going anti-clockwise as there is more downhill, there are also some really nice kauri sections and it was lovely to see they are all still standing.




There is a look out just off to the side of the trail before it drops back down to Glen Esk Rd and back where we started.


And back over where we had just walked.


The Piha Cafe was closed due to a power outage, which was a real bummer, so Vicki and I headed back into Titirangi for a late lunch in one of the many cafes there.

It was a really nice day out, great to catch up with Vicki and share each others news and solve all of life’s issues.

Flying away.

Friday 12 June 2015 – Auckland, New Zealand.

In life time I was only travelling for 28 hours, but I left London on Wednesday and arrived in Auckland on Friday – at stupid o’clock, 5 AM. The vagaries of travelling east meant I lost half a day – so I am still wondering what happened to Thursday. Though wondering what happened to a Thursday is not an unusual occurrence. Not because I do anything on a Wednesday night, it is just one of those unexciting, meaningless days in a normal week that makes Saturday seem further away that it should be.

I have been looking forward to this trip back to New Zealand for a while, though I am not really having a ‘holiday’ holiday, this trip will mainly be about sorting things out. I was originally planning on a trip in May (previously it was January, and then Easter), but my work project conspired against me each time. Missing May meant I missed my mum and two of my children’s birthdays, but this trip allows me time to celebrate my grandson’s first birthday, a fairly momentous occasion and worth heading ‘home’ for. What I was mainly looking forward to was handing over my work to my newly hired contract helper and walking out the office door last night ! Freedom !!!

I did start the day with a few remaining work tasks before heading off to the airport at 10:00 for a civilised flight time of 1:30 pm. Over a few years I have accumulated a few air miles on my credit card so decided I would use them and upgrade myself to premium economy on the leg to New Zealand, which means I fly Qantas via Dubai and Melbourne. I am not a big fan of multiple stopovers but the upgrade and the timing of the flights made this the best option. Sitting here typing in my wide premium economy seat with extra leg room and a glass of pretty decent red wine I am not going to complain about the extra stop. I will see how it all feels once I arrive in Auckland! There was a slightly late departure, though a glass of bubbles eased the pain somewhat.


It is a long way to Auckland from London, with this set of three flights taking just over 28 hours to get me there with over 24 hours of that being flying time. I watched five movies, mostly terrible, read one magazine and half a book, ate four meals, drank red wine, coffee and whisky and what felt like gallons of water and slept not at all.


Did I enjoy it – No.

Was it tolerable – Yes.

Am I glad I came over – I will just have to see.

St Mary’s Church, Walthamstow.

Sunday 07 June 2015 – Walthamstow.

Like the Parkland Walk from yesterday, an exploration of Walthamstow’s St Mary’s Church has been on my to-do list for over a year, and since becoming a worker I have just not had the time or the inclination to explore it, even though it is only a ten minute walk from home…

St Mary’s has had a longer history than I first thought with the first church being built on the site in the 12 century, though not much of the original building remains perhaps just the footers at the end of the internal columns right at the front of the church. Reconstruction, modification and expansion of the church regularly took place over the next 400 hundred years with further work in the 19th century.

This was slightly wasted as the church was extensively damaged during the second world war and all the railings around the church yard were removed for the war effort – to be replaced in the 1950s.

It was a fairly last minute decision to walk up and take some photos, we had been having some quite nice weather and the grass around the gravestones was long and moody and I knew that if I left it until my trip to New Zealand this week, it would all be mowed flat when I returned.

I have not used my big old DSLR for ages, but once I started using it again I realised how much of a mistake that was. I love that camera.



























A walk in the Park(land)

Saturday 06 June 2015 – Parkland Walk, London.

The Parkland Walk has been on my list of things to do for ages and ages, I cannot remember how it got on the to-do list or where I discovered it, but it looked like it was worth doing – mainly just because it was there to be done.

The walk follows the path of an abandoned railway line that was ripped up in the 1970s and turned into a park in 1984, it goes from Finsbury Park up to Highgate, it is not particularly long, particularly interesting or particularly scenic. But it is a really lovely short walk, taking under an hour from start to finish. It is also incredibly popular, I have never seen so many runners in London on a Saturday morning. It was a nice sunny day, though cool and very windy. A good running or walking day.


I am sitting at my mum’s dining table in New Zealand as I write this, I am tired after three days with almost no sleep, and jet-lagged from my flight over from London, so not feeling the most effusive today.

The path is surrounded by a narrow band of scrub and trees which mostly the hide the houses that run close to the path.



As the path is based on an old railway line there are numerous bridges along the way as the path passes under the roads. These are the heavily graffitied and a reminder that we are in the middle of a city.




There was also a really cool little playground under the trees.


Just past the remains of Crouch Hill station I spotted this sculpture lurking in one of the arches, quite frightening ! It is the Spriggan and is by Marilyn Collins, it was installed in 1993.  According to urban legend, a ghostly ‘goat-man’ haunted the walk in the 1970s and 1980s and children dared each other to walk the walk between Crouch End Hill bridge to the Crouch Hill bridge in the darkness. The sculpture, and Parkland Walk generally, provided the inspiration for Stephen King’s short story “Crouch End” I can see why!


This section off the path ends just before Highgate Station when the lines go into old tunnels that have now been blocked off as they are now the home to bats.




We walked up past the station and across into Highgate Wood.


After seeing a sign pointing to a cafe we decided to take a break and sit down for coffee and cake, before backtracking a bit and heading up/down to Highgate.


We walked down through Waterlow Park in Highgate and on to Gospel Oak station to catch the train back to Walthamstow. El did. I took a detour through Shoreditch and grabbed a couple of new release records on the way. I wanted something new to listen to on the plane, but neither came with download codes which was a wee bit annoying.


It was a lovely walk, somewhere new to explore and something I would recommend on a sunny day. London never fails to amaze me with the amount of outdoorness there is.