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.
And then across wide, green lawns bordered with rhododendrons, to hide beneath the weeping elm before
A green room
marvelling at the Redwood piercing the sky.
Check out the vista from the path, looking towards 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.
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).
We passed by several ponds. The frogs were quiet the day we visited.
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).
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 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.
At the car park, it was time for our cuppa and more food.
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?
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For walks all around the world visit Restless Jo.
Categories: Off The Beaten Track in Aotearoa