51. Blenheim and the North Island

In Blenheim we undertook a bit of tidying work on my sister-in-law’s property – fun! It felt good to be doing something useful again – we did a few useful things while back in the Nelson region over the past month (on and off)!
We took time off to visit two wineries, Wither Hills near Blenheim and Peter Yealands out in Seddon.
On the way to Seddon, we stopped to look at the old bridge over the Awatere River. It’s a train track that once held a vehicle road underneath. You can’t even see that there’s an old vehicle way underneath until you climb down to it…
This bridge was opened in 1902, and three trains brought along half of Blenheim’s population for the opening day (a public holiday was declared for the day).
An information board told us that this river was once well used by local Maori, there being a huge settlement of people here who would gather food at the Wairau Lagoons and Kaparatehau/Lake Grassmere. In 1847 a whopping great flock of 3000 sheep were driven through to establish the first sheep station at Flaxbourne.

You can see the new road off to the right, that leads into a short tunnel on the other side of the river. This new road was opened in 2007.
This shows the old road that ran beneath the train track. The road slats/planks have all been removed, making it impossible to cross, and the old entry road piled with shingle and left to grow over.
Peter Yealands Winery – this was my favourite. There’s music playing over loud speakers to make the grapes grow better. The building to the right is huge, and covered over in solar panels which power the entire operation.
After spending some time in the visitors centre and sales shop we drove ourselves around a tour of the vineyard. This winery is HUGE and covers hill after hill. It was developed and run by the hardworking Peter Yealands, who recently sold it to electricity company Marlborough Lines, where it remains in local hands – Marlborough Lines is owned by it’s subscribers.
Here come the chickens, running towards us at full tilt! We were warned about these, so whenever we wanted to stop for a view of the winery we moved into chicken-watch mode and made sure we took off before they reached us, not wanting to run over any that got under our wheels. They are important to the winery as they help out with fertilisation and eating insects. I assume they come running because they’ve learned that cars contain people who feed them nice things – I don’t know of any other chickens who engage in this kind of behaviour!
This is the back of the winery – grapes are grown right to the sea, a practice developed and fine-tuned when operated by Peter Yealands.
The beach in the distance is Marfells Beach – that was one of my earliest blogs for our year of exploring, and I walked along this beach to the point at Cape Campbell where there’s also a lighthouse.
All the prunings of the grapes at this winery are turned into bales, and used to create windbreaks, or to fire the furnace. Nothing is wasted in this operation which aspires to sustainable practices.
We drove home in the sinking sun, these being our shortest days of winter at present.
Next day, a quick morning walk onto the Wither Hills…
You can see Mt Fishtail in the furthest-away ranges, and lots of grapes in the valley.
The small town of Blenheim, surrounded on all sides by grapes and wineries.
…followed by a night trip across the Cook Strait to Wellington.
Leaving behind the lights of Picton.
The south coast of the North Island.
Oh! Not forgetting Ted, dressed as he is in his medieval clothes. Our friends at Nelson Lakes allow Ted to go places with trusted people so he can see new things. This is only his second trip away from home. Ted watched a whole movie with Kevin while crossing over on the ferry.

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