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.
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.
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.
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.
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.