For one of my morning walks while in Napier, I drove to Park Island (which is in fact now known as Western Hills but will forever be Park Island to me). Park Island was for many years the HB Hospital Board farm on the outskirts of Napier city. Dad managed the farm for over 20 years and my whole childhood (except for the first 2 years) was spent living and growing up on the farm.
The farm had a Jersey dairy herd & pigsty of around 400 pigs. The Jersey cream was sold, the skim milk fed the pigs & supplemented the food waste that came from both the Napier & Hastings hospitals.
Park Island Farm was surrounded by two large farms; the Harbour Board Farm & the Lagoon Farm. Before the 1931 Napier Earthquake most of this land lay 2 metres under seawater and waves lapped the base of Park Island. During the quake thousands of acres of land were lifted out of the sea and this reclaimed land became these two farms. Eventually the Harbour Board Farm and part of the Lagoon farm were taken over by Napier City Council to become the suburb of Tamatea and to supply sports fields for the growing city. The Hospital Board Farm (Park Island) was also acquired and became the new cemetery for Napier called Western Hills. This might seem strange to those that don’t know the area but in fact was a natural move as the two older Napier cemeteries, Park Island & Wharerangi are on small hills of their own, right beside our farm hill. I grew up with these older cemeteries as my playground.
Nowadays there is a walking track that runs right around the outside of ‘our hill’ and the old Park Island Cemetery. It does feel strange walking the track as the memories come flooding back.
I parked in the sports field carpark and climbed up the stairs to the start of the track, this is looking over the fields towards Tamatea. This was the Harbour Board farm once and we used to raid the pea crops that grew along our farm boundary which ran on the edge of the dip below. I still hate raw peas, I ate too many once and was sick.
This old aerial shot of Park Island (c1978) shows how the city was slowly encroaching on the farms. Our farm was the hill and the land in the foreground and the bottom section of the red square. Sports fields and buildings are now well established inside the red area. The green area has only recently turned into residential and is part of Tamatea. The top blue line is now the road into the sports fields and access to the cemeteries. The bottom blue road is now a main arterial route from Taradale into Napier or heading north past the airport. The orange arrow is our house, the yellow the pigsty; the red star the horse paddock and the cowshed is circled in yellow.
This photo is looking towards Taradale, with Sugar Loaf and the Mission Vineyard at the rear right. This sports complex is on our old farm land and has been built across the old Park Island Road. The cowshed is just off to the right. Well it would be if it was still there. It has only just recently been demolished.
Along the track are quite a number of old fruit trees, plums in particular. Nowadays they’re not very tasty but along time ago they tasted just fine to a child’s palate and they also provided a fair amount of pocket money for an entrepreneurial farming family with four kids. We had a novel way of collecting them too if we couldn’t reach the branches- some trees hung over steep banks. Dad would park the Bedford truck under the tree and Mum would lay out some foam squabs across the flatbed to cushion the fall, then someone would climb the tree and shake the hell out of it. Problem solved and more than enough bags of plums to sell.
Back in those days, Sunday was the day the city folk went for a ‘Sunday Drive’ to the countryside or paid a visit to the gravesite of their loved ones. And of course who should be sitting at the bottom of the hill beside the only road that lead into the cemeteries? Yep, us kids! We’d be seated on makeshift chairs behind a table, under a sun umbrella with hand painted signs loudly proclaiming we had bags of plums and bunches of flowers for sale. We used to make a fair amount of money too; who doesn’t need fresh flowers for the grave and sweet plums to eat on the way home?
Some of you may remember this post from awhile ago, Living Memory about a photo I took of Mum holding a photo of a photo of the farm. It explains quite a bit about what was on this farm before the 1931 earthquake and the reason why there were hundreds of fruit trees scattered around the farm; they were left over from an Old Peoples' Home & orchard that came down in the ‘quake. This plateau which now contains the gravesites of many, once had an old barn in the centre- the one shown in that Living Memory post. The track I’m on runs around the gully on the right, the old pear trees and a few plums are still growing there.
I divert off the track for a short distance, climb over the fence and walk up to where the road now sweeps around and up to our old house. The headstones are slowly working their way up to this level. This was the turn around area for the farm vehicles and a large shed was off to the right. That’s me on the right, a friend in the middle and my sister on the left.
The house veranda played a very important role in our lives; it was a play room, a gathering area, a lookout over the farm and one end eventually became Mum’s pottery display area & shop. If only this veranda could talk, it could tell some stories; a lot of parties were held here, this is my fifth birthday party; I’m third from the left. Mum is at the head of the table.
I carried on along the track and eventually a staircase takes me back to ground level again and then the path runs behind the hill, I pass by the back of the pigsty paddock and cross over behind the old Park Island Cemetery.
The track hugs the hill and runs along side our old eeling creek. On the other side of the creek was the paddock where we hosted the Poriate Pony Club every weekend. Nowadays a ruddy great expressway runs through the middle of it along with one of Hawkes Bay's many cycle trails.
Round the next bend is our old horse paddock, many happy hours were spent riding and schooling our horses in here. Another barn was located where that shed is and the road into the pigsty ran past the front of it.
There’s now a few dirt piles and a shed where the pigsty used to be. I wonder if the high pitched squeals of 400 pigs at feed time can still be heard?
|That's me on the left|
It is here, in this little cove tucked into the side of the hill on the side of the road, where there are now a selection of fitness activities for passing walkers & runners to complete, this is where we used to have our fruit & flower stall.
And this was our drive to the house, which now looks a lot different to the narrow gravel track that we used to travel up.
One day I’ll return home.
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