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Nelson New Zealand
and crops, and crafts. And some great outdoor activities"
Nelson is a major craft centre. Potters (attracted by the high quality clays in the area), weavers (probably married to the potters), glass blowers, jewellers . . . artists and artisans of all types, styles and descriptions are busy all over this region.
But the reason for the creative concentration is not really quite that simple. The area was for many years rather isolated. The land was subdivided into relatively small holdings. This initially reared a hardy breed of individualists.
Later artisans and craftspeople could purchase those same small holdings at modest cost. Brought together, these economic and social strands nurtured a community with artistic and aesthetic traditions which make it one of the more interesting regions to visit today.
Nelson is also the jumping-off point for visiting the north-west corner of the South Island, an area that offers a wide variety of outdoor adventures in an untouched wilderness. In particular Abel Tasman National Park and the Abel Tasman Walk.
World of Wearable Arts and Classic Cars Museum, Nelson Cathedral or Broadgreen, a fine example of a colonial country home, built in the mid 1850s and modelled on a Devonshire country house.
The first bishop of Nelson, Andrew Suter, who held the post from 1867 to 1891 was not only a keen painter, but an avid collector. He gave to the city what is generally regarded as the country's finest collection of early watercolours. Housed at the Suter Gallery, the collection, while not large, is an important one. The painting shown here, by Gottfried Lindauer, is one of their collection.
Nile St and South St are charming little precincts with working-class cottages built between 1863 and 1867.
Galleries and Studios
In and around the city you can find galleries and studios displaying and creating the work of world-class craftspeople doing stuff like glass-blowing, pottery, jewellery, exclusive designer handknits, hand-painted silks, woven and fibre creations,
If you have seen Lord of the Rings, the forge of Sauron himself is to found here. Well, no, not actually. But in the workshop of Jens Hansen the rings for the movie were fashioned. Jens, a silver and goldsmith, was in residence for many years in Trafalgar St. He is now dead but his studio carries on in the care of his two sons. . . go in and watch precious metal workers at their craft. Their most famous commission was to make The One Ring for Lord Of The Rings.
Like most parts of this country there's a smorgasbord of adventure activities in the region including paragliding, sea kayaking and quad biking.
Beyond The Fringe
Out west beyond Nelson is some of the most interesting outdoor pursuits country in New Zealand - Takaka, Abel Tasman National Park and Farewell Spit. To the south is the Nelson Lakes National Park. And on the road to the West Coast you'll pass through the Buller Gorge. All of them have many adventure opportunities.
Harwoods Hole, on the south west edge of Abel Tasman National Park, is the largest tomo (cave) in the Southern Hemisphere at 370m deep and 70 m wide. It's a half day's work to get there - there's a half hour walk from the car park alone.
The Buller River is one of the last great gorge-girt rivers undammed - undamned? - by the hydro-electricity planners' grab for yet more power. I was motoring from Westport to Motueka a while back and, crossing the Buller River on the Buller Bridge, paused to watch the slow progression of a rabble of rafters below. Some of them, forsaking the, er, "comfort" of the raft, were simply floating down the river in their wetsuits. They looked up and, seeing me gawking from the window of my SleeperVan, hailed and waved. I waved back and thought what a great way to enjoy the natural outback Kiwi experience. Floating through it at the gentle pace of a river. But you can also kayak or just rip along in a jet boat.
Oh, yeah, I nearly forgot. The hops. The hops? Yeah, yeah! You know . . malted barley, yeast, fermentation, hops etc. etc. Beer, ale, lager, bitter, brown. This region is where NZ gets all its hops. You'll see them in summer, long vines of them, especially in the Moutere and Richmond areas. In fact there are only three places in the world that can grow high quality hops . . . and right here is one of them. Just thought you'd like to know that.
A New Zealand Travel Guide is written by David Morris and published by
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12 March 2012