Friday, 10 November 2017

Molesworth- Part 2; Cob Cottage Camp


Continued on from Part 1

So that's where it got it's name... 

The DOC Cob Cottage camp is in a large paddock that includes the cottage. It's a basic camp with a couple of very clean long-drop loos and a water tap.  With the camp to ourselves we had the choice of sites.

We parked up beside the stream, back off the dusty road and away from the willows; perfect!

According to the Station cook (who visited a couple of times to give one of the farm dogs a swim), the Molesworth Stream is a very popular place to cool off in the summer. There's a nice deep pool called the 'spa pool' at the bottom of the waterfall (off to the left here). It's also the home of a few eels, while I was standing in the water on the edge with my tripod set up to take this shot one came along to check out who was disturbing the peace! Luckily I had my gumboots on and not my jandals!

There's also a reason to visit Molesworth in autumn too, across the stream and along the steep banks of the stream are dozens of wild gooseberry bushes! They have spread far and wide through the high country, I saw plenty of bushes along the Acheron River and Molesworth Road too. Most probably brought in by early settlers and spread by birds and hungry horsemen! 

The historic Molesworth Cob Cottage was built by a runholder as a single room hut in 1866 and extended several years later when it became the homestead for the station until the current homestead was built in 1885. For a long period the cottage provided accommodation for musterers and rabbiters, DOC now look after and maintain the cottage.

There are numerous information boards on Molesworth Station inside the two room cottage along with a few old furnishings. And several families of starlings, who frightened the life out of me as I opened the door into the darkened room- they made a dash for it, flapping and squawking, like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'!

There's a short walk up the hill behind the cottage, through the 'kissing gate' and across a paddock...

...which takes the walker to a viewpoint out over today's farm settlement nestled in a shallow basin below Mt Chisholm (1518m). Mt Chisholm was named in honour of the 1942-78 farm manager Bill Chisholm whose foresight and ability helped turn Molesworth from a severely eroded sheep run into a profitable and sustainable pastoral beef farm. The nearby Rachel Range is named after his wife.

This is as close as you can get to the historic farm buildings of Molesworth Station; it's working farm and the manager and farm workers need their privacy. Molesworth Homestead is on the far left, the cooks house is on the right at the rear (don't forget to click the photos to enlarge- use your back arrow to return to the blog).

The information board names the various buildings but you need to 'twist' it to the left 90% to place the buildings correctly. Some are hidden behind the mass of leafy willows above.

The farm's stockyards are on the edge of the camp...

...and as the cattle and calves had recently been mustered in for something major- they were in the yard paddocks for most of the weekend- cattle, farm workers and dogs passed by often. 

I was also lucky enough to take a ride with the Camp Host around to one of the farm cottages- called the Molesworth Ministerial- which is in the settlement, it's used for accommodation for DOC employees that are working on the Station. So I was able to take a few shots from within the compound down below.

The view back to camp from the lookout is spectacular on such a blue sky day; you can see the 5th-wheeler tucked in behind the poplars in the background. David is trying to track a number of skylark's that we flushed while walking up the track. Some of them are singing to us from way up above, others are back on the ground weaving their way through the grass trying to distract him from looking for their nests. 

Two beautiful horses spotted me from down below and came galloping around the edge of the hill looking for us as we disappeared back down the track. They were in great condition although they both needed a bit of mane work, it hung over their faces and down their necks when they stopped to for a pat. 

There is a DOC Camp at both ends of the Molesworth Road; Cob Cottage & Acheron House, and they are manned by camp hosts right through the season. Many of the hosts are RV owners and NZMCA members and they either stay in the Ranger cabins or in their own vans. The cabin is beside the gate onto the Molesworth Road; they keep an eye on the camp, vehicles coming and going, clean the loos, answer questions and lock the gates each evening. The road is open from 7am to 7pm.

It was on our first night (Friday) in camp that we learnt the road was closed until Monday, which was a bit of a shock. Of course we knew the road was closed at the Clarence bridge washout but we were only intending to drive to there and then return to camp. I had phoned the DOC office in Blenheim to double check before we had left too.  And while the person did tell me that there might be a bit of traffic on the road because they were undertaking a 1080 poison drop over part of the Station for Bovine TB possum control, they didn't say the road would actually be closed. 

It was just as well that we had no time constraints, we had planned to have a rest day on the Saturday after the drive in, then do the Molesworth Road on Sunday and head out a day or two later. So waiting one more day was going to be neither here nor there, although I was anxious the stunning weather we were having was going to break.

A few trucks and other vehicles passed through camp each day while helicopters flew overhead at daybreak heading for the drop zone. On Sunday afternoon once the drop had finished at least 25-30 vehicles headed back past us. We saw all manner of vehicles and trailers, large & small carrying so much equipment including 20 or so large hoppers and 2-3 small 'dozers. It was hard to believe there was so many people and so much activity happening in such a isolated area. 

As it turned out we couldn't drive the road until Tuesday because they had to walk a 6km section of the road that was within the drop zone, checking for and removing any bait that had landed on the road. The road opened about 2pm but it was far too late to attempt the return drive so we waited until the next day. 

In the meantime I made the most of fantastic scenery surrounding the camp...

I drove back up the road for the photo above and on the way spotted a couple of hares up to no good. One spotted me and hopped off (literally) before they both hopped away to hide behind some bare brambles. Realising that I could still see them they disappeared over the bank behind the fence.

I crept up slowly and looked over the didn't take this one long to decide he was outta there, the other one had already disappeared. We must have seen at least two dozen hares during our road time in the high country yet we only spotted two baby rabbits in all the time we were there. 

One morning I looked out and there were two big bunnies feeding on the grass outside the van, they shot off like scalded cats when they spotted me. I wondered about their babies, I've never see a baby hare (known as a leveret for the first year). Unlike rabbits, baby hares can run within a few minutes of being born so I think they must hide in the undergrowth until they are weaned. I do find them quite strange creatures, they just look too big for their bodies, wise beyond their years and cute but not really, if that makes sense. 

Here are some more photos from around camp, these ones were just down the Molesworth Road a few kilometres.

A hidden pond near the river
A much smaller Awatere River flows through Molesworth; you'll recall from the first blog, this is the river we followed all the way up the Awatere Valley (or is that down... the river flows down which is north but the valley goes up which is south...doesn't make sense).

The Molesworth Station airfield and buildings are across the river from the camp. The snow-capped mountains are part of the Inland Kaikoura Range.

I climbed the hill behind the camp and followed the fence along... a bluff high above the river, looking across the airfield to the mountains behind.

I sat there for a long while soaking up the magnificent views, and the peace and solitude. 

David filled in some of his downtime by waterblasting the Ranger, he was very pleased with himself that he was able to blast away much of the dust that had coated the paintwork and filled every nook and cranny on the way in. He didn't mind that it was going to be coated again just as quick; at least he knew the first layers were gone. 

With the water blaster plugged into the generator, a small water pump running off the dinghy pump battery and the hose submerged in the stream he was able to give the ute a good going over without using too many precious resources.

As is often the case in the high country, the days are hot and sunny with clear blue skies, then as evening approaches the storm clouds roll in threatening thunder and rain...

...which also means there's a chance of a great sunset.

Then night falls, the wind drops, the clouds depart and millions of stars come out to play...

...and so did Shellie. I had the perfect location to do some night shots and have a bit of fun and games with light painting. 

Light painting is a photographic technique where shots are made by moving a hand-held light source (usually a torch) over or around the subject while taking a long exposure photograph. It's not as easy as it sounds and takes quite a bit of trial and error to get photos you're happy with.

The ghost of Molesworth Cottage- the trick is to not capture a shadow of yourself in the exposure, to get in there fast and back before the your outline has been captured; 

It also helps if your torch doesn't have a mind of its own and decides to switch modes to red flashing or pulsing in the middle of a shot. 

I also captured  a number of shooting stars.

As per usual, when I'm out shooting I lose all sense of time (it often gets me into trouble). At least this time David only had to look outside to find me....if he'd been awake. I went out just after 9pm and was more than a little surprised to find it was 1am when I stepped back in the door!

To be continued... (and the one you've been waiting for, The Road) Part 3


  1. Breath taking as always Shellie.

  2. We presume that one would have to use the water blaster VERY gently while cleaning the vehicles? Beautiful photos once again Shellie, we really enjoy the time and effort you put into making your blog so special.

    Robin and Jenny, Romany Rambler

    1. No, not at all Jenny, the waterblaster is not very big although it is quite powerful, it also doesn't have an adjustment. David washes the surface dust off first and then uses the waterblaster to wash it down. It's been fine so far *touch wood* :) Pleased you're enjoying the Molesworth blogs.

  3. Some beautiful photos in an awesome park of the country Shellie, really enjoying reading your blog. You should consider writing your own book of your travels with your amazing photography. Enjoy your time on the road 😀

    1. Thanks Jill, much appreciated. Maybe on day when I have a bit of spare time I'll write that book! :)

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Karyn, I love doing night shots and you'd think I'd have plenty of time to practice in some awesome areas but I just don't know where the time goes. I made sure I made time at Molesworth....mind you the mild weather helped encourage me :)


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