horsesI was born and bred in Rochdale, an industrial town in Lancashire on the outskirts of Manchester nestled under the nearby Pennines. Like Christchurch it suffered from chronic air pollution as its natural tendency to winter inversion layers laden with dirty smoke from “those dark, satanic mills”. Despite this my curiosity to know what was “up there” led me to join the Scouts and induced a love of hiking, culminating in an ascent of England’s highest peak – Scafell Pike – in 1960!

Emigrating to NZ in 1962 I was soon embracing its bush and mountains mainly in the Tararuas. Many years later as I neared 40 I needed time out and despite being a committed atheist I thought I’d try a shorter version of Christ’s 40 days and nights in the wilderness. I opted for a solo tramp starting at St Arnaud in the Nelson Lakes National Park and ending in Arthur’s Pass.

Having crossed Waiau Pass I had a near death experience as I took the wrong line on descent and found myself precariously perched over a massive bluff. The next day I found myself in the most beautiful valley – the upper Ada – which was adorned by an array of multi-coloured alpine plants and flowers breaking the rather monotonous green and grey of the NZ wilderness.  The Fairie Queens dominated the skyline and the horses of St James station roamed with gay abandon. Now here’s the rub – are there any CHS members out there keen to undertake a “tour” on shanks’ pony under my leadership to view and identify these glorious flora?