Friends keep reserve on track

Pukemokemoke Reserve has a lot of friends – Keith Holborow has recently taken over from Alan Leadley as coordinator for the group who beaver away, rain or shine, at the little bush reserve.

Number 8 Network is chuffed to welcome Keith as a regular columnist, but very shame-faced about not even carrying a boxload of bolts up that hill. Three cheers for Keith, Bob, Jack and Malcolm.

The workers: Jack Brinkman up on the landing and standing below, from left, Keith, Bob Dawson and Malcolm Watkins.
The workers: Jack Brinkman up on the landing and standing below, from left, Keith, Bob Dawson and Malcolm Watkins.

MOST VISITORS to Pukemokemoke head up to the lookout for its 360 degree views of the North Waikato. On a crisp clear day they might even catch a glimpse of Ruapehu way to the south.

It wasn’t a clear day and it was more soggy than crisp as the four of us slogged our way up the bush track to the summit. We were heading for a work day to rebuild the lower flight of lookout stairs. A brisk southwest wind was delivering regular showers, but in between there was sunshine.

The group was Bob Dawson, Jack Brinkman, Malcolm Watkins and me. All of us are supposed to be retired. In fact, we are all still workers, but strictly volunteers now.

The lookout tower at the summit was built a long time ago by the enterprising originators of Pukemokemoke Bush Reserve and it has withstood the battering of the wind, rain and sun ever since. The top of the hill is a tough spot on a bad day and the years had taken their toll on the lower stairs which now needed a new set of treads.

Consultation time
Consultation time

Preparation is important for jobs in remote locations. The new treads had been designed, pre-cut and pre-drilled off site, ready for their final assembly and fitting at the summit. Wide stairs need long treads and long treads are heavy. They had been carried, one by one, from the car park up the track. Sherpas also carried the ladder, the steel anti-skid mesh, the brackets, the bolts and the tools. Today was the culmination of more than a week’s work.

The first task, no small matter, was to remove the old treads. Wire cutters sliced through the anti-skid mesh, a hand saw cut the wooden treads in half and a pinch bar, block and lever were used to remove those halves from between the runners.

Essential additional equipment
Essential additional equipment

When Jack paused to check his progress and tentatively smiled I called for a tea break. The sun was shining, the tea was hot, Malcolm ate his signature hot cross bun (where does he get them from more than a month after Easter) and we all relaxed out of the wind for a few minutes.

Ruakura’s Melody Childcare Centre kids arrived. They were having their weekly day in the bush and, as usual, were keen to come up to the summit. They looked very smart and well prepared for the conditions in their blue rain jackets and backpacks. None of them seemed surprised that the stairs had disappeared. Perhaps little kids are used to grown-ups doing unexpected things.

One by one the new treads were put in place and through-bolted to the runners. I went to give Bob a hand while Jack and Malcolm took on the exacting task of positioning the treads correctly.

The job settled into a steady rhythm. The next tread, the next shower, the next burst of sunshine. Annette and David arrived to take photos but wisely retreated back to warmer conditions at lower altitudes when they were done.

With just one tread to go we took a short lunch break. We kept warm by laughing at Jack’s stories from his lifestyle block days. Bob, a retired dairy farmer, was both amazed and horrified by them. Malcolm and I vowed never to leave the suburbs.

Finally the last tread slipped easily into place and Malcolm bolted it home. We tidied the site, loaded up and began the slow trek down, weary but satisfied.

It was good to know that the lookout was being kept in good shape. Everyone who walks up through the regenerating bush and climbs the tower gazes out at the view and marvels at the beauty of this special corner of the country. Long may they continue to do so.

Puke tools

  • The next Pukemokemoke working bee is on Saturday 20 June, from 1 – 5 pm.
  • To find out more, email Keith here.

N8N is thrilled to have you on board, Keith.  We look forward to sharing more stories from the Friends. 

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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