Friday, 8 January 2016

Grahamstown Gazette: the Summer edition

Every month I write a local heritage-themed column, on behalf of The Treasury, for the Grahamstown Gazette. Here's my piece for the January edition.

From The Treasury:

No summer holiday at ‘The Thames’ in the early twentieth century was complete without a trip up the coast to Tapu. The area was home to a number of small baches and cottages, as well as a popular swimming hole and plenty of good spots to set up camp. Tapu provided an escape from the hustle and bustle of life in Thames – still a major centre during the period, although perhaps not quite as dominant as it had been in the days of the gold rush.

Well known as the ideal spot for picnics and camping on this side of the peninsula, hundreds of families made the trek up the Coast Road by car, bus, bike or horse over the decades. Travelling the road itself, however, was not quite such an enjoyable experience. In a lengthy letter to the editor of the Thames Star in 1914, ‘Interested’ lamented the state of the road up to Wood’s cottages (at what is now Ngarimu Bay) and on to Tapu. ‘Interested’ was particularly frustrated by the road works, wondering why they had been left until the busiest part of the year to be completed. ‘At present it is cruel going over parts of the road where the new metal is. The majority of horses have to endure a lot of whipping to urge them on, while some are unable to get through at all... the ordinary coach horse’s lot is hard enough in the summer without having it added to.’

Nearly twenty years later, photographs of buses from Grundlock’s Coast Service show the roads still made the trip up the coast a rather intrepid one. The bridge crossing Tapu Creek was washed away in a storm in the 1930s, and was replaced with a temporary structure. The ruins of the old bridge made a great spot for the visiting children to go eel fishing. The kids would also spend hours searching the coastline for kauri gum to take home, as well as lumps of quartz rock - easily mistaken for gold.


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