Grand things are happening at Pukemokemoke, the 40ha bush reserve beside Tauhei Quarry.
A little bridge has just been built and installed at the new wetland which is being developed near the log hauler site, and work is underway on a shelter for the area, complete with 12-seater picnic table. Excellent progress is being made on an interpretive sign for the lookout, which will give information on the landscape, history, geology and flora and fauna.
Both projects are funded by Kath Des Forges in memory of her husband Brooke, a well-known councillor who, with David Johnstone, shared the vision of developing Pukemokemoke as a reserve. The plan is to unveil the new features at the end-of-year barbecue.
But grand things happen at the reserve every day, says Friends of the Reserve manager Alan Leadley.
He, and others, started the day early, installing the little bridge which was ably built by Trust chairman Dr Warwick Silvester. Then they looked at a possible new tractor, piled up two trailer-loads of wood and visited Kath Des Forges to get her input into the perfect stain for the picnic table.
This, as it turns out, is rustic oak. “It will look beautiful. A retired builder in Hamilton put it together, and it will be lovely in the small shelter.”
Only a few years ago the former Methodist Minister, who lives in Hamilton, had been wondering how to spend his retirement. Then he got involved with the Reserve.
“I’d always gone for walks up there, but in the last three years I’ve been paid a small retainer to help develop and coordinate various projects.”
First he had to set up the Friends group – it now has 40 members, and many other interested people who like to be informed of what’s going on.
“Sometimes it’s old-fashioned donkey work, doing the hard yards involving spades or loppers. Some of it is more creative, thinking of ways to make the place more exciting for recreational walkers, school children or university students on educational visits. There’s always something going on.”
Just last weekend a busload of teacher trainee students from Waikato University spent a busy Sunday checking out the botany of the reserve.
“And they were busy trying out the special teacher resource material which was launched last October. That was a two-year project, put together by Robyn Irving and is aimed at teachers, for them to come to the reserve and use the material, based on the curriculum, with their students. Back in March 150 Hillcrest Normal Primary students spent a productive day there.”
The patch of lowland bush is rated a Key Ecological Site by Waikato District Council. “There’s a rich diversity of plants there; 80 native ferns alone,” he says.
Then there are regular working bees, held on the third Saturday of the month.
“It might be planting in the winter or spring, possibly weeding or doing any number of other projects, like dealing to the privet – there’s always something that needs doing. And we can cope with any number of volunteers, the more the better.”
It’s not all hard work – there’s a definite social aspect to the working bees, as N8N can contest when we took part in one recently. After a vigorous afternoon planting carexes (wetland sedges) in fairly muddy conditions, there was time afterwards to eat pikelets and drink tea.
“We get people of all ages and from nearby or further afield – there are two very dedicated families who come from Scotsman’s Valley and Te Aroha, they’ve seldom missed a session.”
One young regular will soon be bringing eight of his fellow St Paul’s students to spend a weekend working at the reserve as part of their Hillary Challenge.
“We got it all set up today so it’s easy for them to get stuck in. We’ll get them planting, mainly, but on the Sunday they might help clear the area for the new shelter. It’s lovely to see young people getting involved in something like this, and getting into the outdoors.”
Occasionally Alan even gets to spend quiet time at the reserve. “I do just enjoy the place. If it’s inclement weather, I can just sit there and listen to the birds and sounds of silence. A beautiful peace and tranquillity can be found out there.”
The subscription for the Friends of Pukemokemoke is $10 per Friend or $20 per family. For further details contact Alan Leadley, 07 855 2919 or mobile 027 224 9622 or send an email. He’d love to hear from you.