Followers of this blog will already know that my other half and I do a lot of travelling. We hitch up our caravan and take the slow and easy-path for weeks on end to discover this beautiful country. During our sojourns we love exploring, travelling down unknown roads, visiting historical sites, taking in the spectacular scenery, and enjoying local walks. Needless to say, while we away earlier this year, inspiration came when I least expected it. Even though Elinor (Book 2 in The Art of Secrets series) has only just been released this week, book three is already starting to take shape in the back of my mind. Her name is Lucy.
It was our visit to the Waihi area that inspired me. Walking along a small part of the extensive beach and driving from one end near Bowentown into the township of Waihi Beach at the other, made me think about how the early settlers would have used that beach for horse transport, and the calmer waters of the harbour would have provided safe anchorage for shipping. Further afield in Waihi township, the workings of the Martha gold mine that provided so much employment for the district is worth a visit.
But in many ways, the depictions of family life scattered throughout the area: bronze statues lining the streets of Waihi, the old cemetery, and the well-known murals of Katikati, captured my attention the most.
The day we visited Athenree Homestead, however, cemented the inchoate thoughts floating in my brain. Named by Hugh and Adela Stewart after their home district in Ireland, they became significant figures of the time. His brother, George Vessey Stewart was regarded as the founder of Katikati in 1874. But more about them later.
For various reasons, the house fell into disrepair after the Stewarts’ died, and the current Athenree homestead is the work of tireless volunteers who decided to restore it to its former glory. I highly recommend a visit, to see how it once was.
Taking the old steam train from Waihi to Waikino Station in the Karangahake gorge, gave us further glimpses into the working life of the area. Then walking along a section of the historic track through tunnels, across bridges and alongside the battery to Owharoa falls and back only highlighted the endless drudgery for many. Although, if you dig a little deeper, those settlers had an interesting and varied social life. I’ll be sure to mention it.
And if you should ever want to look up your own ancestors, do ask. There are a number of historic societies, genealogy groups and libraries who have information and would be wiling to help. But my favourite source of historical detail is PapersPast. I frequently get lost amongst its pages.
History, and family history especially, is a fascinating subject – and one I love. Do you share that love with me?