Auckland Baptist Tramping Club

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A group of 18 people had an enjoyable and informative day exploring the town of Thames with local historian Russell Skeet. We met at the Totara Memorial Park at 9:30am, and Russell told about the Maori land wars and other stories about the deceased now at rest in the cemetery.

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We went on to the John William Hall Arboretum, the first arboretum in NZ. John planted this in the 1870s when the native bush around Thames was being cut away for the gold mines. As we walked the bush track Russell pointed out various native trees, and the asparagus fern, a pest weed that is an invasive pest. We pulled out a few of these weeds as we carried on.

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From there we went on to St George’s Anglican Church. As we entered the church the organ was playing. Russell spoke about the Victorian Gothic Revival architecture of this building, including the seven pairs of lancet windows down each side and the pointed arches inside, representing the sacraments. John the organist went to the grand piano to play a couple of jazz numbers including Honeysuckle Rose before returning to the organ to finish with a couple of pieces.

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We had our lunch at the bandstand in Victoria Park that was built in 1901 and still stands on its site near some large pohutukawa trees planted about the same time. Russell handed out various information booklets, including Historical Grahamstown for the Thames Heritage Festival in 2013, and historical notes on Tararu to Waikawau.

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The forecast rain began to come down, but only light allowing a walking tour of Grahamstown to go ahead with umbrellas. Places we saw included the A & G Price building, an old hotel that is now a boarding house, and the Thames School of Mines.

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We were finished shortly before 3pm, and got back to Bracken Ave at 4:30pm, thankful for the information Russell had shared with us as we visited the various places.

COST: travel from The Bracken $30