Australia and New Zealand Mini Series Part 24: North Island, New Zealand: Rotorua and the Redwoods Treewalk

This is the twenty-fourth in my series of short reflections on different places in Australia and New Zealand, as experienced during my November 2019 visit. Today is the eighth of my posts on New Zealand’s North Island.

map of New Zealand
map of New Zealand
Map of Australia and New Zealand

In my last post I wrote about our visit to Rotorua, situated on the shores of Lake Rotorua and famous for its thermal areas full of natural wonders such as boiling mudpools and geysers. I described our visit to the awe-inspiring Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, a very popular tourist attraction.

The Lady Knox Geyser at Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Rotorua is justly famous for its many attractions, and we visited another of these after lunch on the same day of our visit to Geothermal Wonderland. The Redwoods Treewalk offers a tranquil experience, walking through the forest canopy among the graceful, majestic Redwood trees, along high swinging timber walks suspended from slings secured around the tree trunks.

When you arrive at the Redwoods Treewalk visitor centre you will find that everything here has been constructed to harmonise with the natural environment – even the toilets. They were probably the most beautiful ecologically-inspiring toilets I had ever seen (although in fact we did see some other beautiful toilets in New Zealand – the Hundertwasser public toilets in Kawakawa, which are so exceptional they are on the tourist route as an artistic destination in their own right).


The toilets at the Visitor Centre of the Redwoods Treewalk, Rotorua – harmonising with the natural surroundings
The Visitor Centre at the Redwoods Treewalk
winding path through the forest at the Redwoods Treewalk

Reaching the start of the treewalk, you climb up to the first platform.

the start of the Redwoods Treewalk

The treewalk is a peaceful, almost meditative experience, once you have acclimatised yourself to the feeling of the swinging timber walks 20 meters above the ground. Informative signs along the route give you plenty to find out, pausing on your journey. You may very well wish to spend some time at each of the platforms, just to regain your feeling of standing on a solid surface once more!

As you make your way along the treewalk you will also see giant lanterns suspended from the trees. These are the Redwoods Nightlights, an art installation by artist and ‘sustainability champion’ David Trubridge, and at night they illuminate the trees and no doubt thrill the hearts of all those who take the walk after dark.

SC Skillman, psychological, suspense, paranormal fiction & non-fiction. My next book, Paranormal Warwickshire, will be published by Amberley Publishing on 15th June 2020 and is available to pre-order now either online, or from the publisher’s website, or from your local bookshop.

A Lost Garden Rediscovered and Given New Life: Guy’s Cliffe Walled Garden, Warwick

I love gardens which once were lost, but have now been restored.

View of Guys Cliffe Walled Garden with poppy installation
View of Guys Cliffe Walled Garden with poppy installation

How poignant and symbolic they seem, and how inspiring when they are recovered and given new life.

A famous example is The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall; but we have a rediscovered garden just down the road from us.

Just off the road between Warwick and Kenilworth you will find Guy’s Cliffe Historic Walled Garden. It used to be the kitchen garden for Guy’s Cliffe House, the atmospheric mansion about which I have already written on this blog. You can read my post here. But after the last heir to the estate, Sub-Lieutenant Algernon Percy, died in the First World War, the estate was broken up. For years this walled garden was lost beneath thick undergrowth, but in the last few years, the garden has undergone restoration by a team of devoted volunteers.

Guys Cliffe Walled Garden Fernery
Guys Cliffe Walled Garden Fernery

I’ve visited the garden a few times, sited behind Hintons Nursery off the Coventry Road, Warwick; and my son Jamie, a horticultural student, has also spent some hours volunteering in the garden.

Guys Cliffe Walled Garden, Warwick
Guys Cliffe Walled Garden, Warwick

The garden now is testament to the dedication of those who’ve freely given their time and expertise and hard work to bring it to its present state. It’s an ongoing project and has been featured on Gardeners’ World.

Recently the gardeners have installed a new poppy wall mural to commemorate the Battle of Jutland,  in which Algernon Percy, the last heir to the estate, died.

What an inspiration this garden is; and it is also full of atmosphere, invoking a strong sense of the lives of those who worked here and loved the garden and nurtured it in the past.

How to find it:

The Walled Garden is at the back of Hintons Nursery.  

Access & parking via:

Hintons Nursery, Coventry Road, Guy’s Cliffe, Warwick   CV34 5FJ

 

 

 

Angels and Supernatural Experiences: Book Review

Angel on My Shoulder: Inspiring True Stories from the Other SideAngel on My Shoulder: Inspiring True Stories from the Other Side

by Theresa Cheung

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books where you feel the title and cover image give a misleading idea of the contents. An Angel on My Shoulder was passed on to me and I admit from the cover I thought it was going to be rather sentimental. Instead I found it totally rivetting and full of authentic stories. Several things fascinated me about these:

1) I could identify with a number of them from my own experience, though I have tended to think of them as synchronicity;
2) Each one had a distinct element of the supernatural;
3) Far than being sentimental, they had a strength and simplicity which was compelling.

Many described sudden and shocking bereavement, which most of us dread. Yet the authors of the accounts had experienced a compelling supernatural intervention which totally changed their attitude to the tragedy, to death itself, and to the meaning of life, and lasted for decades afterwards – providing the sort of comfort and reassurance that some might only achieve, if at all, with years of counselling or psychotherapy.

The author’s stance in relating these stories is very measured and balanced. She fully accepts those who take a “reductionist” view of these events and prefer a rational explanation, and she invites us to make up our own minds.

I found the whole book very convincing, not least because of the cumulative effect of so many stories told by different people unknown to each other who had all had similar experiences. It had the same effect upon me as another book I’ve reviewed called Miracles.

In her summing up, the author refers to “organised religion no longer providing the structure and certainty that it used to” and I found myself thinking that although the church does indeed offer structure and certainty, more and more people feel unable to identify with it, because it doesn’t seem to meet their needs and appears irrelevant to their lives. But the stories in this book suggest, to one way of thinking, that God is finding other ways to connect with people totally outside the confines of “church”, finding ways to communicate his love to them – through angels.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Rain Soaked Odyssey of Delight Round Highgrove Garden


Drenching rains accompanied our tour round HRH the Prince of Wales’ intriguing garden at Highgrove but with so much to wonder at, we all kept going and completed the tour.

Highgrove Garden made me think of the plot of a children’s book, quirky, fun, playful. At every turn there is a new surprise, like something dreamed up by Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear. It was an odyssey through a quirky and unpredictable environment.

Vistas and views and angles, abundant ferns and eccentric topiary, temples, thatched tree house and giant slate pots abounded.

The downpour intensified as we went round, yet everyone was so entranced by the garden, it remained a minor issue – even when we waded through deep puddles on the unmade paths.

Moving through the garden is like progressing from one chapter to another in a beguiling story. If fairies inhabited this garden they would be the wild, anarchic spirits Shakespeare portrays in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I particularly loved the juxtaposition of wilderness and artistry.  HRH The Prince of Wales has invited artists and sculptors to run wild with their imagination; everywhere you may see the evidence of free expression and creativity.

In summary, this is a unique and profoundly inspiring garden.

Inspiration From the Parapet at the Top of the Tower of St Mary’s Church Warwick

As I sit here typing these words I gaze over the trees to the top of the tower of St Mary’s Church Warwick.

St Mary's Warwick (photo credit www.stmaryswarwick.org.uk)
St Mary’s Warwick (photo credit http://www.stmaryswarwick.org.uk)



The decorated parapet at the top of this tower is the highest place you can be in Warwick (which is this year celebrating its 1100th anniversary). I’ve climbed to that platform and gazed down over the Beauchamp Tower of Warwick Castle.

We live on a hill to the north of Warwick town centre and following our neighbours’ removal of some trees, we now have a new view across to that tower. I can see it now from where I sit as I type these words. I find it uplifting and inspiring.

The tower of St Mary’s can be discerned from miles away. It’s the first landmark which announces that you’re approaching Warwick, when you travel from Stratford-upon-Avon.

As someone who loves history, I like to imagine how it would have been for those approaching many hundreds of years ago, as they first caught a glimpse of that tower and said, “There’s Warwick!”

Warwick has a number of claims to fame in English history; we may think of Richard Neville, known as Warwick the Kingmaker (as Sellars and Yeatman remark in their comic classic 1066 And All That, any baron who wished to be considered king was allowed to apply at Warwick the Kingmaker’s, where he was made to fill up a form“); we may think of that treacherous crime that was committed, when Piers Gaveston the King’s favourite was lured to Warwick Castle by the Earl of Warwick and ended up being dragged to Blacklow Hill and horribly slaughtered.  An Earl of Warwick was responsible, too, for the trial and sentencing to death by burning at the stake for Joan of Arc. This area is rich in history.

Most tourists coming to the Midlands head first to Stratford-upon-Avon and then to Warwick. And after Warwick Castle, St Mary’s Church is for the majority of visitors their next stop. It has the beautiful Beauchamp Chapel, where, among others, is the tomb of Sir Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, favourite of Queen Elizabeth I; and also, in the adjoining Chapter House, the tomb of the ill-fated Sir Fulke Greville, who was murdered by his manservant in Warwick Castle.

Perhaps the view of that tower connects me to a sense of story, and that’s why it inspires me so much.

What do you think? Do you too feel inspired by mediaeval churches, castles, and other historical places? Why do you think we love them together with all their associated stories of past misdeeds and treachery?

A Vision of Healing Through The Power of Prayer in Leamington Spa

Over the last few weeks I’ve been taking a few hours of  time out from revising my novel, to do voluntary work for our local Christian Healing Centre, The Well.

The logo of The Well Christian Healing Centre in Leamington Spa
The logo of The Well Christian Healing Centre in Leamington Spa

I help to update the website, assist the Director of The Well, Rev. Anne Hibbert, with her blog, proofread publicity material and prepare leaflets advertising forthcoming events.

What a truly inspiring organisation this is. All those at The Well celebrate 10 years of existence this year. It began with a vision which Anne Hibbert had in a garden in Leamington Spa.

The Rev Anne Hibbert, whose vision led to the creation of The Well Christian Healing Centre
The Rev Anne Hibbert, whose vision led to the creation of The Well Christian Healing Centre

I myself have also experienced healing through prayer at The Well. Truly God has ‘unstopped the ancient wells of healing here in Leamington Spa’ for many people testify not only to physical healing through prayer, but new peace, joy and a changed attitude which transforms situations.

Many people come in through the doors of the Royal Pump Rooms on Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week, to the prayer teams who are waiting to pray with and for them; these may be people who are Christian, or who have no faith at all; they may be adults or children.

The power of prayer in every life-situation has been testified to many times. If you are experiencing a problem which you believe is intractable, I recommend that you too consider asking for prayer.

What a privilege it is for me to play a small part in helping Anne take this vision forward into the future.

Cutty Sark Uplifted and Renewed – Fantastic Transformation

It’s been twelve years since I last visited the Cutty Sark at Greenwich – and what a fantastic transformation.

The Cutty Sark 14 Sep 2013 (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)
The Cutty Sark 14 Sep 2013 (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

Greenwich and its neighbouring Woolwich in south London are part of my family background, and so this area has been familiar to me from childhood.

This made my return to view the Cutty Sark even more inspiring.

I found the whole visit very uplifting – appropriately so, as the Cutty Sark herself has been uplifted in the most amazing way!

The exhibition area beneath the ship is excellent, with its collection of ships’ figureheads.

Collection of ships' figureheads at the Cutty Sark (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)
Collection of ships’ figureheads at the Cutty Sark (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

And we were later delighted to find ourselves sitting at cafe tables with the ship apparently hovering just above us.

Everything about this attraction is first class, and it is a credit to London and to our British heritage.

The Cutty Sark uplifted (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)
The Cutty Sark uplifted (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

The high standard is maintained in the shop, too, which is full of stylish souvenirs for sale. How could I, as a writer, resist buying myself an attractive cream and gold spiralbound notebook with the motto on the front: Where there’s a will, is a way.

This motto, carved into the ship’s elaborate decoration, is a play on the surname of Jock Willis who commissioned the Cutty Sark (launched in 1869).

For the twenty-first century transformation of the Cutty Sark can certainly be seen as a perfect illustration of this motto in action.