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Walking into nature

Carterton group Thrive Community will be leading the trek up Mt Dick for the Wairarapa Walking Festival. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Erin Kavanagh-Hall

Whether you’re a seasoned bushwalker, a history buff, a bird-watching enthusiast, or just enjoy splashing through a stream with the family dog – Wairarapa’s latest festival event has “something
for everyone”.

Over three days next weekend [March 26-28], Carterton will be playing host to the first annual Wairarapa Walking Festival – a series of guided walks to be held throughout the district.

The festival, organised by Carterton District Council’s Walking and Cycling Advisory Group in partnership with the wider Carterton community, is designed to promote walking as a healthful and communal pastime and encourage Wairarapa residents to further explore “their own backyard” and its natural beauty.

The outdoor excursions, each facilitated by a Wairarapa community group, cater to a range of ages and fitness levels from gentle urban strolls for people of all abilities, to a rigorous early-morning hike up Mt Dick lookout track.

Several walks are intended to challenge body and mind while visiting the region’s variety of heritage sites and public artworks and providing commentary on its terrain, wildlife and waterways.

The festival also doubles as a fundraiser, with participants invited to donate quality second-hand jackets, both children’s and adult sizes, to the charity, Wairarapa Winter Jackets.

Carterton Deputy Mayor and festival marketing manager Rebecca Vergunst said the event will, for its first year, be confined to the Carterton area – but plans to eventually include “more amazing landscapes” from Ngawi to Mt Bruce.

With travel options more limited due to covid-19, Vergunst hopes people will take the opportunity to adventure within their home region and discover some of Carterton’s better-kept secrets.

“There are some real hidden gems in Carterton. Beautiful places that are tucked away, and you wouldn’t usually think of visiting,” Vergunst said.

“We also wanted to promote walking as a social activity and give people the chance to connect with their community while being active.

“It’s an opportunity to meet other like-minded people, who enjoy keeping fit, and are also interested in things like art and history.

“We’re looking forward to seeing people getting out and about, enjoying the outdoors and each other’s company.”

The Wairarapa Walking Festival is the brainchild of new Carterton resident Celia Wade-Brown.

The former Wellington mayor, Green Party Wairarapa candidate, and passionate walker and cyclist, pitched her idea to the Walking and Cycling Advisory Group.

It was inspired by similar events – including the Waiheke Walking Festival, which packs over 50 walks into 18 days.

“There had been a lot of focus on cycling in Carterton, which was great, but I wanted to see the same energy given to walking,” she said.

“Walking does get a bit forgotten – it’s easy enough to take it for granted as we do it, in various forms, almost every day.

“But it’s so good for us – it keeps the heart active, it strengthens the bones, and it’s wonderful for mental health.”

The advisory goup formed a committee and, after “a lot of brainstorming”, finalised a schedule of nine walks over three days.

The festival will kick off on the morning of Friday, March 26, with Walking With Wheels – a relaxed promenade through the Carterton township, open to users of wheelchairs and mobility scooters, as well as parents with prams.

In the afternoon, the Carterton District Historical Society will be hosting a walking tour of the CBD’s historic landmarks, including the old Wakelin’s Flour Mill, Carterton Courthouse, Wairarapa Farmers Co-operative Association building, and colonial homesteads.

This will be followed by an “urban art walk”, exploring Carterton’s sprawling collection of open-air artworks, including its vibrant range of murals by local creatives.

Four events will take place on the Saturday starting with an introductory-level tramp up Mt Holdsworth, led by Masterton Tramping Club.

Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae kaumatua Ra Smith will be leading a “hikoi and korero”, starting at Carter’s Reserve, and exploring the history, stories and culture of the local iwi.

The day will be rounded off with a rural dog walk in the Mangaterere Valley, trekking through bush, streams and farmland, and an evening tour of Fensham Reserve, hosted by Forest and Bird Wairarapa.

Sunday will begin bright and early, with a trek up to the Mt Dick summit – not for the faint of heart or foot, but worth it for the stunning views of the entire Wairarapa plain at the top.

In the afternoon, Wade-Brown will lead a stream bed walk through the Mangaterere Stream, a chance to learn about the flora and fauna within, and “connect with the natural world”.

“There’s nothing quite like splashing along through ankle deep water, while listening to birdsong,” Wade-Brown said.

All festival events are free of charge although the Maori cultural walk will be followed by a hot drink at Hurunui-o-rangi Marae, so a koha [gift or donation] will be appreciated to cover the cost.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes are welcome at the rural dog walk, but they are preferred if they are well-behaved and socialised around other dogs.

  • Anyone wanting to participate in the walks needs to register online, either at the Wairarapa Walking Festival Facebook page, or at eventfinda.co.nz

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