Friday 1 August 2014

Wild Ward Beach

Our next stop was at Ward Beach in Marlborough, just south of Seddon and just around the corner (Cape Campbell) from Marfells Beach where we stayed way back in November when we first arrived in the South Island.

The camping area is beside the rugged & wild Ward Beach and is located on land that belongs to a local farmer. The site is actually right next door to the Ward Beach Reserve where no camping is allowed, but open the gate and drive on through & anyone can camp on the other side of the fence for a small donation to the farmer, to be left in his letterbox back up the road.

What a great spot this would be in the summer and by the look of the signature stones left behind in the rock garden it looks like a lot of other people think so too.

The only problem we had was that the sun disappeared behind the high hill behind us early in the afternoon and with a cool southerly wind blowing the temperature dropped rapidly. We stayed for two nights over the weekend & were the only campers there although there were a few cars each day arriving in the reserve to check out the beach or have a break at the picnic tables.

I loved the isolation, it was great to walk the wild beach, dodging waves and climbing over piles of driftwood & logs beachcombing & looking for seals and being the only person for miles. The very first afternoon I found a seal pup curled up fast asleep on a rocky ledge above the beach, it was gone the next morning and was the only seal I saw on this part of the coast.  I love laying in bed at night, all warm and cosy, listening to the crashing waves, tumbling gravel & howling wind just outside the window. I've always loved wild beaches and especially wild beaches in the middle of winter. But being so close to the surf does come with it’s challenges, the ute & “Out There” had a heavy coating of salt spray over them by the time we left.

The Flaxbourne River mouth is beside the reserve and would be an ideal safe swimming spot in the summer. The river & beach have been used as a boat landing & launching spot for many years. In the early days wool, tallow & flax were shipped out from the beach, nowadays local commercial fishermen launch their fishing boats from the beach. And the boats aren’t that small either, at other beaches we’ve seen an assortment of old tractors lined up to haul the boats, here there were two or three large rusty bulldozers backed into the hillside.

At first we wondered why there were dozens of large bulldozer tracks on the beach and down to the water’s edge. We thought someone must have been rearranging the foreshore….. and in fact I suppose they were and on a regular basis. It would take a lot of skill & fast work to drive the boats onto the trailers which would have been backed into the surf by the bulldozers. Further back down the road we saw some of the fishing boats in yards beside large sheds. Crayfish is obviously the catch of choice here.

It’s amazing how often we are stumbling across little pockets of history in the most unexpected places and how the local communities are keeping their history alive. We drove through the settlement of Flaxbourne on the way to the beach, well in fact it’s more a collection of farm buildings & a few houses now. Established in 1847 the  23,000ha Flaxbourne estate was “the first great South Island sheep run”  which ran over 60,000 sheep.  A thriving community once lived here, with a huge tallow plant and up to four flax mills in production. One of the old boilers was on display beside the information board, between 8000-10,000 surplus sheep were slaughtered and rendered down for tallow each year which was then shipped to England from Ward Beach. Eeuw yuk!

Across the road from the boiler was another  historic building, it was built in the early 1850s for wool storage and later used as a telegraph station, and where the districts mail was received and sent. Stage coaches also stopped to change horses. The shed then became the site of the first school when Flaxbourne Station was cut up into smaller blocks. Inside the shed and behind a security fence was a whole range of old farm equipment that had been donated by the locals and on the wall were information boards and photos from the past.

In the sheep yards near this spot there was an odd building (left middle photo), a square building with a little square vent on the roof. It had a stone wall to about thigh height, wooden sides and a corrugated iron roof. I’d love to know what it was used for, it looked a bit like a dove cote or perhaps a animal nursery or stables. The stone wall gave the impression that it could have been a reservoir too (but not likely as it was sited in the middle of the yards).

Further up the road was a paddock that contained a small herd of Highland Cattle, a mix of cows & bulls I think but because of their super shaggy locks it was hard to tell. They seemed to be very docile but I’m not sure I’d like to be on the receiving end of a gentle nudge from these guys. They were very cute all the same.

These two were obviously good mates, the one on the right was nuzzling, licking & tugging the others ear.

It was funny how they stayed in their own colouring even though they were all in quite a small paddock. "What short legs you have.......but your horns make up for it....."

This fellow was definitely a bull.

Built in itch scratchers!


  1. Fantastic blog and Thank you for sharing your tales and adventures.

    1. Thankyou for commenting, much appreciated & I'm glad you are enjoying it.

  2. Surely the square vent has something to do with Eeuw yuk!

    Another Goodie to tick off for a visit!

    1. You know Jimu, I hadn't even given that a thought! You know me, all fluffy bunnies & cute kittens but I guess it could well have been a slaughter house.

  3. The Highland cattle are gorgeous but as you say you'd have to watch out for the horns.


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