Eastwoodhill – a tree lover’s sanctuary

Never heard of Douglas Cook? Me neither. Or at least not until I visited Eastwoodhill, the arboretum he established between the 1930s and 1960s.

Cook was a little eccentric for his times. Gardening in the nude and reciting poetry, as well as loving trees, weren’t the usual preoccupations of mid-20th Century New Zealand sheep farmers.

But Douglas Cook has left a long-lasting legacy.

Eastwoodhill, 35km from Gisborne, in the Ngatapa Valley, covers more than 131 hectares and contains a collection of over 3,500 trees and shrubs. Cook also founded  Pukeiti Rhododendron Park Trust, near New Plymouth, on the west coast of the North Island.

At the arboretum we began by wandering past the gardens of the old homestead.

View from Homestead garden

View from Homestead garden

And then across wide, green lawns bordered with rhododendrons, to hide beneath the weeping elm before A green room

A green room

marvelling at the Redwood  piercing the sky.


An American Redwood

Check out the vista from the path, looking towards the Fibonacci Spiral.


Looking down on the Fibonacci Spiral

The spiral is based on ancient mathematical principles, which I think means that the spiral expands ever outwards exponentially and proportionally. (Any readers who have a mathematical bent are welcome to elucidate.) It was built in honour of Bill Williams. He bought Eastwoodhill from Douglas Cook and then gifted the arboretum to the people of New Zealand.

It wouldn’t be New Zealand without these fellows to keep us company! They seemed to be enjoying the shade at Poet’s Corner, where Douglas Cook originally planned to hold recitals.


Poet’s corner

Further up the slope we met Iron Man.  He’s a recent installation which represents “the morphing from man to land” (from the artist’s notes).

A tree, I am this tree

A tree, I am this tree

We passed by several ponds. The frogs were quiet the day we visited.


Peaceful pond

From here we climbed for a few minutes until we reached the The Lookout. It was a lovely spot for lunch. Our only company were tui and the occasional kereru. (Too bad we’d left the thermos in the car and had to make do with bottled water).


Our lunch vista

At the bottom of the hill we reached a planting known as Sholtos. Douglas Cook planted this stand of Italian Cypress, with a Mount Atlas Cedar at its centre, to celebrate the baptism of his son, Sholtos.  It was sixty years before the full effect of the planting was realised.



And around the corner we came to the The Fibonacci Spiral.


The Fibonacci Spiral, nearly renamed …


… John’s folly

The ball is held in place by water with 15 psi pressure. The system eliminates friction, which means the ball spins easily. I tested that out – it rotated for ages.

One of us (not me), in the name of science, poked his fingers between the ball and the water to see if the suspension was working.

As you may know, I do go to the gym and I do have muscles that I once didn’t but I cannot, and never will be able to, lift 750kg of granite. Fortunately, for him, it all ended well. I can announce here the publicity material is accurate, that granite ball is suspended in water. And the effect is not affected by poking your fingers beneath it. Not at all. And he knew that before he tried … yes sirrreee, he really did. It’s science you see and he’s a believer.

Around the corner we were back where we started. These cute bird houses were on display next to the gift shop.


Shelter for the birds

At the car park, it was time for our cuppa and more food.


In case you’re wondering I  shared the cookie with he who still has fingers.

There’s a small admission fee of $15.00 per adult and no charge for children. You get a brochure which identifies points of interest and includes maps for six different walks. They range in length from forty-five minutes to three hours and are graded from easy to steep.

We chose the Yellow Walk which took about an hour, not including our lunch stop.  The path was well formed although I wouldn’t recommend slip-on sandals, mine tended to slip off on the steeper slopes.

Tell me, have you visited an arboretum recently? If so, where?

You may also be interested in

Summer comes early in Gisborne

or  All Souls Day Wander at Otatara Pa

For walks all around the world visit Restless Jo.

31 replies »

  1. Thank you for putting the link from your autumn visit Jill, I missed this post. It is a perfect compliment to autumn and yes some of the photos are taken from the same spot.


  2. What a beautiful place to have a walk. Stunning views, Jill, and I love the Iron man. He looks quite a giant. Everything looks so wonderful green and fresh and it looks like it was quiet on the day you visited. Do they allow dogs into Eastwoodhill? I can imagine it being such a fantastic place to take the dog for a walk as well.


      • Makes perfect sense then, Jill, although perhaps if dogs are kept on leads then they can take this walk? Oh, I just love those colourful bird houses in that tree as well. Makes it almost look like a Christmas tree with all the colours. All that would be needed are a few lights and hey-presto 🎄Santa would not miss that tree and perhaps Iron Man would also get a gift from him?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic place to walk Jill and I never came across such an eccentric sheep farmer in my farming days but thank goodness for these people when they leave behind such an enduring legacy. I visited Pukeiti a number of times when we lived in the Taranaki. One of my favourite gardens. New Zealand really is a clean GREEN place.


  4. super fun… the variety of photos gave this post a flow of personality that was delightful. The up view of the redwood took my breath away – and the “I am this tree” is so unique and still has me curious. and what a cookie – just the energy food for an arbor adventure. ha!


  5. I have been to Pukeiti – though it was many years ago. Wish I’d known about this eccentric character then!!
    I do know about fibonacci numbers, but had to look up how they relate to nature and leaves and such – fascinating stuff, just wish I could remember it for more than two minutes…
    Lovely pictures of a beautiful garden.


    • Thank-you for visiting VioletSky and welcome to my blog. It’s decades since I visited Pukeiti. Now, of course, I’m very keen to see it again. In spring, I think.
      I’ve worked out the pattern on Fibonacci numbers but not their relationship to nature etc. It’ll take more reading and more concentration for me to suss that one out.


    • My thoughts exactly, Dan. You can’t see it in the photo but there’s a type of sunken space near where the sheep are in the photo – idea for hiding from work with a good book, or for reciting poetry to others.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoyed this post Jill great photoes especially the angle of the Sholtos photo Pukeiti Rhododendron Park brought back memories I lived at Oakura while working on the Maui Pipeline. 😃


    • Woa! That pipeline! What a job that must have been. Dramatic surroundings, too. Douglas Cook didn’t leave notes explaining what he was trying to a achieve with that planting. But I found it very symbolic for a christening, with the cyprus wheel and then the cedar as both the hub and the spokes.


    • You’re right about that. But he achieved an amazing amount. During the 50s he became preoccupied with the threat of nuclear war and worked even harder to expand the arboretum. His aim was to preserve Northern Hemisphere species for the future. It’s an amazing place to visit.

      Liked by 1 person

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