Tandeming to a conservation vacation

It was November and time to get fit, so Jonathan and Bronnie decided to try a new way of getting to and from Rameka – by tandem power!

After catching a ferry across Cook Strait, they biked around Queen Charlotte Drive and over the mighty Mangatapu Saddle.

The route via Maungatapu Saddle might be 10 km shorter than the highway, but at 740 metres elevation, you can understand why it isn’t the main road. The downhill was steep and rocky in places – and it was a blast!

After a long day, we were ready for an early night, and a similarly early start the next day. We wanted to ride the highway to Motueka before the traffic built up. So we left at 6 am, while most drivers are still in bed.

Once at Totaranui, it was only a 2-hour ride to Takaka for lunch, before the final 10-km push up to Rameka. By then, it was raining solidly, and the thought of another early night was quite tempting.

The next day, the rain had cleared and our first task was to weed the trees that were planted in memory of Martin Langley in 2019. They ranged from only 30 cm short to 2 metres tall. Fivefinger was doing best, followed by ake ake in the open and wineberry if it had some shelter. Kapuka was struggling for some reason. Maybe the slope doesn’t get enough sun. We will weed them for another few seasons and see if they start growing.

We also spent time planning new projects, such as fencing off deep tomo beside the track, choosing a site for a sculpture and planning where a new sleeping pod could go – we might put it on temporary wheels so it can be moved around. Extending the sleeping options at Rameka will make it a whole lot easier for people to join us on our trips across.

After four days, which included more weeding and a committee meeting, we headed back via the Rameka Track, Canaan Downs and Nelson.

Our eight-day holiday was half riding half conservation work – a very satisfying balance!

One week in September – 1,000 trees planted

1,000 trees were safely planted in September 2021. It was a bit stressful this time, as COVID lockdowns meant that our trip, which is usually in August, was delayed by a few weeks.

A big thanks to the following tree planters:

Alison, Grant, Karen, Chris, Bob, Bronnie, Jonathan, Richard, Nicole, Geoff, James, Ann-Louise, Maryann, Jeff, Marilyn, Katie, Claire, Stuart, Andrew, Evan, John, Winnie, Mike, Terry, Merryn, Rosa, Felix, Amy, Ruby, Archie, Ricky, Corina, Paul, Greg, Fil, Albie and two-man Josh.

Many hands really do make light work.

Also a big thanks to those who have made donations from afar to help pay for the trees, tree guards and ongoing tree care. This project is sequestering more than 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

Celebrating Our Volunteers

We often talk about the great people who volunteer at Rameka. Three of the most enduring must be our stoat and rat trappers, Fill and Albie Burgers and Paul Kilgour.

Emails arrive in our inboxes on a regularly basis, updating us on what these three have been up to. Their thoughtful messages fill us with visions of Rameka and sudden hankerings to be away from our desks and back on the land. Here’s an example from Albie and Fill of one of their latest wanders around the block.

“Hello All,
We checked the Great Expectations, Boundary & Odyssey traplines
yesterday, 22 December. A hot day, 30 degrees, and we were happy to
splash in a very shallow pool at the bottom of the Odyssey at the end of
trapping run.
Rebaited stoat traps on GX and B1 to B6 with white bantam eggs (thanks
to our friends, Hennie and Brian, who sometimes have spare eggs for us
and appreciate us trapping). Rebaited the remaining stoat traps with
erayz.  Rebaited all the rat traps with peanut butter.

Caught NOTHING, ZILTCH, ZERO

Plenty of birdsong, the usual riroriro, californian quail, weka, a
kereru, piwakawaka, korimako and several tui. There’s a favourite spot
where we stop for a cuppa – the point where Great Expectations first
emerges from the pines and there are beaut views across to Farewell
Spit. We used to call it “Rat Corner” and set up five traps pretty close
to each other as there was a plague of rats there. However, we haven’t
caught any rats there for months and almost always see at least one tui
there, very likely nesting nearby, so it’s now called “Tui Terrace”.

We had a happy encounter with a juvenile korimako in flax flowers near
the top gate. It then flitted to a nearby flowering rata, one of the
first lot planted. Joy! Another rata near the Lair is flowering
stunningly, too. Also saw a Cinnabar moth fluttering about as we sat at
the cafe/station at the top of the project. Have only previously seen them up the Cobb, sitting with wings folded and not doing much. Interesting that they were introduced into New Zealand to control ragwort.

All the best for Christmas and the New Year
Albie and Fill”

Fill and Albie at the Lorax Lair in November 2021

See what I mean?

Thanks Albie, Fill and Paul for all the great work.

May Regrouping at Rameka

May marks a significant anniversary for Rameka. It’s when the project first kicked off way back in 2008 and is generally the time for the Rameka AGM. Last year’s was delayed until September because of COVID, so only eight months on and it was time for another reflection on how the project is going. And so? In a nutshell, the Rameka carbon forest is going bloomin’ awesomely!

Of course, a trip to Rameka is never just about one thing. Jonathan (as the chair of the Rameka Incorporated Society) and Bronnie went across for six days, and spent the week of sunny days catching up with Rameka and the locals – of both the human and non-human varieties.

And it kicked off with a workparty to tidy up the start of the historic Rameka track from the Rameka cafe towards the pines.

Bronnie and Corrina showing how it’s done on the upper Historic Rameka track
Amy Thornborrow and her son Archie got stuck in to make the tracker easier to ride. They were having way too much fun for the job.
Marie Langley showed impressive form by walking up from the totara car park … and then walking back down again afterwards – a total of 10 km of walking not to mention the digging!
Ricky Ward, looking very happy with his section!
Jonathan took his time and was extra fussy with his section.
Bruce ‘the powerhouse’ Chick turned up, even though he’d just blasted through the Heaphy the day before and was absolutely trashed from that.
One of the things we like about this photos is all the trees beside the track were planted and are thriving now. They took a few years to get going though.
Here is Project Rameka secretary Amy Thornborrow test riding the section of track that we’d spent the morning rejuvinating.

But the week wasn’t just about the tracks. There was also a bit of time dedicated to checking in on tree plantings – weeding around little seedlings that had been swamped with rank grass and removing plant guards from trees that had shot up and away and no longer needed protecting.

When Ginny Woods rode Tour Aotearoa in 2016, she decided to use the opportunity to raise money for trees to go in on various projects around the Nelson Tasman area where she lived. At Rameka, we planted most of the trees Ginny donated in the area shown below, and as you can see, they are thriving. If Ginny were still with us, we’re sure she would be happy to see her small forest claimed by fantail, weka and robin.

Wineberry, mahoe and pittosporum were the packhorses planted in this area. Their rapid growth will help support the slower-growing natives, such as hinau and rimu that are tucked in amongst them.

Jonathan and Bronnie also spent time with pest control officer Matt Shoult, sorting out areas for the spring planting at the end of August. This year, we’ll be aiming to get back into a site that was damaged by a landslip after heavy rain many years ago. It’ll be good to get some plants in the scruffy bracken-filled area.

The weather continued to play ball and was warm enough to re-stain most of the Rameka Creek bridge – something that we need to do fairly regularly to keep the bridge in good condition.

Without traps and trappers, the stoats, weasels and rats would thrive. Instead, it is the weka, fantails, robin and ghecko that are thriving, and that’s in no small part to our diligent team of trappers Paul Kilgour and Fill and Albie Burgers. Jonathan and Bronnie spent an afternoon in the Burgers’ wonderful shed helping repair tired old traps. Fill and Albie will take the traps back up to the project next time they do their rounds.

Here are Fill and Albie Burgers and Jonathan repairing traps before taking them back into the hills.

We’ll be back in August for tree planting. Can’t wait!

Planting post COVID

In late 2020, I think a lot of us were feeling it; the urge to get out and move on from the restraints of COVID lockdowns and all the associated concerns.

In the last week of August, a large group of Wellingtonians made the pilgrimage across to the Bay and, along with some locals, let loose their pent-up energy to plant 1,200 trees over two quite different sites.

Planting super tough species on the explosed spur facing northwest below the Great Expectations pine block

It was a wild time planting 200 native trees down the exposed spur. We planted: flax, puahou (five finger), akeake, kānuka, kāpuka and kōhūhū. We’ll be monitoring this site with great interest, and any species that survive the challenging conditions of the area – and particularly those that flourish – we’ll be looking to plant more of in future. So, the word is out; start growing now!

Obviously, the site wasn’t as daunting as we anticipated – or at least, not for these two intrepid backpackers who joined us (but remain known only as the ‘cool hats backpackers’)!

Thanks to Bevan and Gera and Chris and Bob from Nelson; Geoff, Maryann, Marilyn, Jeff, Bronnie, Richard, Nicole, Jonathan and the ‘cool hats backpackers’ for their awesome efforts scrambling all over this site.

The next site to be planted was a big area near the connector track, which avoids a bit of road section for the historic track at the top of the project. This sits about 450 m above sea level and faces east. The bulk of the plants went into this site. The planters involved in blitzing this large area included Amy Thornborrow, Phil Castle, Ricky and Corina Ward and Paul Kilgour of Golden Bay; Helen, Jeff, Marilyn, Bronnie, Nicole, Richard, Geoff, Jonathan, Terry, Merryn, Ann-Louise, Evan, Stuart, Rick, Winnie, John and Andrew of Wellington. Here are a few pics of the team in action …

The site had been sprayed months earlier to remove rank grass and make the planting easier.
Each plant needed a plastic guard to protect it from weeds, wind and pests that might want to nibble at it. The guard also makes it easier to find the plant again months later once the weeds have grown up again.
The ground wasn’t as easy to work as Marilyn and Richard are making it look – there were rocks and holes hidden all over the place.
Nicole is standing in an area of trees we planted in 2017. It looks like they’ve finally settled in and should take off from now on.