Friday, 9 September 2016

Moa Creek Cemetery- Ida Valley

Catch-up, late March 2016

A few days after our Upper Manorburn road trip we did another long day travelling a circuit that took in the Ida and Manuherikia Valleys in Central Otago. We'd travelled both valleys on previous visits but there were a few places we hadn't stopped at before, and one place that had been closed which we'd put on our 'must visit on a return trip' list (I have a few of those!). It was a lovely warm late summer's day which also made it much more pleasant exploring. 

Here's the first of a few 'shorter' blogs on the trip (yeah right), we stopped at a number of places and they all deserve their own spot in the limelight.

Moa Creek Hotel (former)
Our first stop was at Moa Creek, we've stopped here and passed by on a number of occasions on our way to Poolburn Dam. The old Moa Creek Hotel stands on the corner of  Poolburn Road. I'd looked for the Moa Creek Cemetery previously but couldn't locate it. This time I wasn't leaving until I found it. 

There are no sign-posts but by scanning the nearby paddocks with my binos, I located a tiny hill with, what looked like headstones on top, with an information shelter roof at the base. Problem though, it was across a large paddock of knee-high (and higher in some places) lucerne with no visible track. 

There was nothing for it but to 'bushwhack' a route through on a more or less direct line, which was fine until I came to a large boggy patch and then a pond, both surrounded by lucerne double the height. I heard a few scurrying noises as I moved through the crop, a duck flew out once, but I tried not to think about what the others might be. Heavy dew made it hard going and soon my legs and boots were soaked. Eventually the soil soured, the crop thinned and was patchy near the cemetery, making it much easier to walk.

After 30 years of neglect and with the threat of the historic cemetery being reclaimed by the land, a restoration project was instigated in 2010 by the descendants of those buried in the cemetery.

Although it would seem that the lovely wrought-iron gate is not stock proof- a pallet protecting the entry into the cemetery!

I hope you can read the information panels- they're not the best quality but I know there's a few people out there who like to know all the background history- hi Dad!  (Click on the photo to enlarge).

As is also the case with many of the early cemeteries, the Chinese had their own section, here it's at the foot of the hill.

Some of the Chinese headstones were located at the Alexandra Museum and were returned to their original positions.

At the top of the hill the graves don't look towards Moa Creek...

... they face north, taking in the magnificent view right up the Ida Valley to the Hawkdun Range.

A wrought-iron fence surrounds the MacIntosh family plot which takes a commanding position on top and at the front of the hill.

Stabilization of MacIntosh Memorial Column was done as part of the restoration work.

Some of the grave sites still need a bit of work and it's a shame the weeds and rabbits have made themselves at home around and under the plots. It'll not be long before the cemetery succumbs to the ravages of time once again.

New Zealand's pioneer families certainly had a lot of heartache.

It's just as well some of the headstones have holes drilled in the stone to form the letters, it looks like a dark filling was then inserted in the letters (which has now fallen out of most of them). It's a pity this wasn't done on a lot of the headstones I've seen at old cemeteries where the words (and history) have long faded away.

I took a few last photos and fought my way back through the lucerne to the road where David was patiently waiting for me.

We headed off, north up the east side of Ida Valley coming across a flock of sheep being moved, along the way.

The dogs were whistled in to push the sheep over to the left and the shepherd called out that we'd be right to head along the verge to get past them. 

Trouble is, once the dogs set about barking, the sheep took off at a gallop and stretched so far out that we had to take evasive action to miss a deep overgrown drain that suddenly sprung up in front of us towards the end. A sharp yank of the steering wheel to the left by 'Possum Bourne' and we just cleared the culvert, very nearly bowling a couple of sheep in the process. 

Leaving the flock behind we carried on up the road passing the historic Ida Valley Station woolshed on the way.

Our next stop was at the famous Idaburn Dam which looked totally different to our last visit when it was full of water and nearly frozen solid.

It was a shock to actually see how shallow the pond was and to even see half a dozen sheep grazing on the surface towards the back.

The ice had started to melt around the edges on our last visit and we were concerned about people walking on it or attempting to skate (we could see recent blade marks). But having now seen the depth, it wouldn't have been so bad after-all if they had fallen through the ice while skating (just cold legs & a bruised ego).

A Frozen Idaburn Dam- August 2015
The Idaburn Dam appears in a number of TV ads and is often shown when there’s a hoar frost in the Maniototo. It’s also the home of the Roaring Game, that ancient Scottish sport of curling and is famous for the Bonspiel, the grand tournament which occurs when (and only when) the ice reaches 14cm thickness. That’s when the Ice Masters put out the call to curlers nationwide to come and play within 48hrs- an event I'd love to capture. Perhaps next winter we'll be somewhere close and I'll hear the call too.


  1. My husband says those holes were filled with lead, and that this was a common thing here in the UK on gravestones from 1870s and 80s. I, meanwhile, was struck by the tragedy of the two little boys drowned at the Dam. Fascinating stuff. I hope they can maintain this cemetary, but thanks for adding some documentary evidence for the record. As always, a pleasure to read.

    1. Of course! Lead it will be, thankyou very much Kathy's husband. I love filling in missing pieces. I'd even hazard a guess and say the missing lead has been removed by unscrupulous people over the years, to sell.
      Yes, I too thought how sad it was about the drownings, and especially when you see a baby and a 20yo with the same surnames gone early as well. A tough life indeed.


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