Mt Bruce: wildlife centre disappoints; pioneer museum enthrals

Easter Saturday today and a lovely morning after a light frost. A good day to check out the Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre about 75 km north of Martinborough. We hadn’t been for eight or ten years and as it keeps getting trumpeted as a great tourist attraction we thought it was time to check it out again. Unfortunately it disappointed, and we thought it gave poor value for the $15 entrance charge.

The wetlands at Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre were quite nice.

The wetlands at Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre were nice enough.

Mt Bruce claims to be a paradise for birdlovers, with all the endangered species that are nurtured there, but they were mostly invisible. We saw very little in the netted enclosures. Perhaps if we’d hung around for an hour at each location we’d have seen more, but you need to be a serious enthusiast with time on your hands to do that sort of thing. All we saw in the enclosures was one kokako, one stitchbird and three or four kakariki. We vaguely saw a kiwi poking about in the darkened kiwi house. Outside the enclosures we saw a couple of tui (which we can see any time we like on our property in Wellington) and a single takahe. There were some eels in a creek. The bush and wetlands were nice, but nothing to write home about.

One takahe ten years ago; one today. Just a big pukeko really. It's nice they are looking after them, but there's no visible improvement in their numbers at Mount Bruce – at least where the public are allowed to look.

The only takahe on display. Last time we went there may have been two of these rare birds. Just a big pukeko really. It's good they are looking after the takahe, but there's no visible improvement in their numbers at Mount Bruce – at least where the public are allowed to look.

I’m sure we saw more birds on our previous visit. There was one big improvement though – the audio-visual centre’s clever new exhibits, opened late in 2008, were better than the ‘real thing’ outside.

On to Eketahuna for an indifferent “baked on the premises” meat pie and awful coffee. Poor old Eketahuna – every time we go there, the place has declined further. Few of the main street shops are still open. The 18-hole golf course seems to be the most progressive thing in town.

museum-entrance

The entrance to Mount Bruce Pioneer Museum is modest, but it opens into an Aladdin's Cave of artifacts and memories.

Then back south again for what turned out to be the highlight of the day. On the way to the wildlife centre we’d seen a sign for the Mount Bruce Pioneer Museum, so we checked it out.

The same Columbus valve radio we had when I was a kid. I spent many happy hours twiddling its knobs, discovering the big world out there on the short-wave bands. Foreign languages! Morse code! Most stations faded in and out, but reception was usually pretty good for Voice of America and Voice of the Andes. Unfortunately the latter station only peddled religion. I used to believe that if Dad would put up a really big aerial, the world would truly be my oyster. Actually the aerial was pretty long, but I always thought he was short-changing us.

The same Columbus valve radio we had when I was a kid. I spent many happy hours twiddling its knobs, discovering the big world out there on the short-wave bands. Foreign languages! Morse code! Most stations faded in and out, but reception was usually pretty good for Voice of America and Voice of the Andes. Unfortunately the latter station only peddled religion. I used to believe that if Dad would put up a really big aerial, the world would truly be my oyster. Actually the aerial was pretty long, but I always thought he was short-changing us.

It was a collection of pensioned-off household, office, farm, transport and business items, many well within our own memories. We wallowed in nostalgia. Though nominally a ‘pioneer’ museum, most of the items dated from the 20th century. We expected a few household artifacts, old pitsaws and rusting farm machines, and it had all that. But on a huge scale, put together over 36 years by Henry Christensen, a Mount Bruce farmer. Henry has created a shambolic museum curator’s nightmare – the antithesis of the homogenised, flashed-up and dumbed-down institution that is Te Papa. No interpretation here – you just look through the profusion of stuff and think your own thoughts about it. Sometimes that works.

We thought the $5 entrance price was good value. Certainly better value than $15 at the Wildlfe Centre and possibly better value than the $0.00 entrance fee at Te Papa. But sadly, we were the only visitors during the hour and a half we were there. and this on a fine holiday weekend with people out on the road.

petrol-pumps1

Old petrol pumps and oil drums. We haven't seen Plume petrol in a long while.

Thermos flasks, Thermette, plug-in electric rings, carbide gas lighting system, gold pan, gas burners, salt and pepper shakers, baking moulds, keg spigots, etc etc etc. Typical of the mad (but not maddening) confusion of displays.

Thermos flasks, Thermette, plug-in electric rings, carbide gas lighting system, gold pan, gas burners, salt and pepper shakers, baking moulds, keg spigots, etc etc etc. Typical of the mad (but not maddening) confusion of displays.

Vacuum cleners - Electrolux, Tellus, Goblin Ace and others. Even a Dustbuster from relatively modern times. Hospital bed pans, variations on Edward Landseer's mighty stag painting, old framed photos, bedsteads, hanging scales and more.

Vacuum cleaners – Electrolux, Tellus, Goblin Ace. Even a Dustbuster from relatively modern times. Hospital bedpans, variations on Edwin Landseer's mighty stag painting, old framed photos, bedsteads, hanging scales and more.

Carbide lamps, torches, obsolete torch batteries and some of the many old bottles in the museum.

Carbide lamps, torches, obsolete torch batteries and some of the many old bottles in the museum.

Rotary hoes, potato harvesters and other small motorised farm implements.

Small motorised farm implements.

Cream separators and old bottles.

Cream separators and old bottles.

Inside a huge new building to accommodate some of the larger items. Old fridges, electric ranges, washing machines, an old printer's linotype machine, a not so ancient fax machine (1985) that is nevertheless enormous, horse gear, steam engine, portable boiler, replica viking ship and more.

This large new building accommodates some of the larger items. Old fridges, electric ranges, washing machines, an old printer's linotype machine, a not so ancient fax machine (1985) that is nevertheless enormous, horse gear, steam engine, portable boiler, replica Viking ship and more. This place is a dumping ground for everything!

Part of a large collection of old books, scrapbooks, magazines and photo albums stored in the attic. I found a couple of old books written and illustrated by Kiwi soldiers during WWI, and published in London. I was able to photograph a few illustrations that may come in handy for a new book by Brendan O'Carroll that I am publishing.

Part of a large collection of old books, scrapbooks, magazines and photo albums stored in the attic. I found a couple of old books written and illustrated by Kiwi soldiers during WWI, and published in London. I photographed a few illustrations from them that may be able to be used in a new book by Brendan O'Carroll that I am working on at the moment at Ngaio Press.

Just some of the larger farm machinery at the museum.

Just some of the larger farm machines at the museum.

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6 Responses to Mt Bruce: wildlife centre disappoints; pioneer museum enthrals

  1. Pingback: Visitor in no mood to savour the attractions « Alf Grumble

  2. Guy says:

    I’m still intrigued by Mt Bruce’s talking tui – the world’s only talking bird with a Kiwi accent?

  3. Guy says:

    Oh, wait – he lives at whangarei. I’d always thought he was at Mt Bruce.

  4. Click through to Alf Grumble’s blog to read the back and forth that grew out his umbrage.

  5. Fred Frazier says:

    Pretty good! Great to see something other than a parrot talking so clearly. I’ve never seen a Tui, let along a talking one. Are they easy to train?..and Are they plentiful (any Tui, not just talking ones – ha!)

  6. “;” I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives great information **-

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