New Zealand and Australia, both located in the southern hemisphere, experience spring while America and Europe welcome the fall season. Despite the time difference, spring is the same all over the world: It is the time when nature transforms to yield new life.
It is such a joy to see the arrival of the pinkish cherry blossoms on the trees as a sign that spring is coming. after winter’s impression of being trapped in a huge freezer, spring’s arrival is like an oasis in the desert.
New Zealanders are anticipating the re-greening of the land, the blossom of flowers and warmer weather. For all of three months, the entire country will celebrate spring by hosting art and cultural events, food and wine, and gardening.
In Canterbury, New Zealand’s largest region, a Spring Fair was held for one day in orton Bradley Park, set in a sheltered, north-facing valley at Charteris Bay at Banks Peninsula, about 30 km from Christchurch, the biggest city in Canterbury.
There is an information centre, plenty of picnic areas, gardens, hiking trails, golf courses, tennis courts, beaches, historical cottages and farm machinery in this area. There are plenty of activities you can do year-round here: walking, hiking, horse riding, picnicking and camping. There is something for people of all ages.
I came to this park twice. The first time was in the summer when I joined the Indonesian community in Canterbury who were hosting a barbeque. My first impression of this park was that it was very green and vast. after wandering around, we had trouble retracing our steps to our gathering site since the park contained so many picnic and barbecue areas. The second visit was when I came for the Spring Fair.
As my car approached the gate, the spirit of spring was already palpable and I could hear lively music and laughing children in the distance. The sunny weather attracted hordes of visitors to the fair. There were colorful and attractive stalls selling antiques and collectibles, limited edition books and a variety of plants, arts and handicrafts. The stalls were located in a large grassy area called the entertainment area, the highlight of which was the jazz music performances by a duo singer and guitarist. While the adults browsed the stalls and enjoyed the music, the children amused themselves with pony rides, water walkers, a bouncy castle and a money ladder.
In the area connecting the entertainment spot and an old cottage, I found the food and drink stalls. The selections were tempting. I was hard-pressed to decide between the freshly baked waffles, the Mediterranean dishes, German Bratwurst, baked potatoes, pita or donuts (Honestly, I tried a bit of everything). I took my lunch while enjoying the melodies of the Sumner Silver Band, which was started in the 1880’s and is believed to be one of the oldest bands in Canterbury. I was impressed at the age range of the band members: from 11 years old to 80+, due to, I imagine, grandparent members inviting their children and grandchildren to join.
After lunch I entered the cottage where a photographic exhibition was being held by a community photography club. This historical homestead was built in 1848 and was once the home of Orton Bradley, after whom the park is named. Orton Bradley was considered one of the earliest farm foresters and possessed a strong interest in science. As a result, he built many sophisticated farm machines in his era, much of which is still maintained by the park management. Before Bradley died, he left his farm estate in trust to be used as “a national park for the benefit and enjoyment of the New Zealand people”.
During my first visit I did not have the chance to explore the park, so I took the chance now. Spanning 653 hectares, the park has numerous, well-marked hiking tracks categorized by the fitness level of the walkers. I chose the short walk that lead to Big Rock.
During my walk, I gazed about me in wonderment at the native birds and plants. visiting the park in the spring gave me the opportunity to see the Rhododendrons blossoming as they only do in spring. I found several whimsical art installments interspersed throughout the park including a door in the middle of a clump of trees painted red on one side and purple on the other – a great site for taking photos.
After 15 minutes of walking I reached Big Rock, which is one of the strategic viewpoints for taking in the scenery. The view from the height was stunning: a 360° panorama of an infinite green landscape shadowed by towering trees and fringed by the blue sparkling waters of the Peninsula. I stayed there for quite a while, imbibing the spring atmosphere and realizing for the first time what Hubert Church really meant when he said spring is “like a love too long withheld.” Enjoy spring, everyone.