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Collingwood – nearly the capital of New Zealand

collingwood-3.jpgWalk down Milnthorpe beach from my home to the village of Collingwood. Named after Cutherbert Collingwood, hero of Trafalgar, Collingwood was nearly the capital on New Zealand!

A low sand island allows thousands of wading birds to safely roost at high tide. On low, the cockle flats are exposed and you can walk way out into the void, amongst the birds and herring skipping. The hills flatten, Golden Bay’s arms curve embracing, and Mount Burnett looms feminine, either a reclining lady or a pair of breasts.


Fantastic sand patterns emerge, blue sky reflected into pools and puddles. Not many people on this beach. Jellyfish pink pudding, the odd paddle crab. Be careful crossing the Aorere River, lest you die the New Zealand death.

My great-great-great grandfather, John Riley, landed near Collingwood in 1855, and is buried in the rocky cemetery on the gorse-covered hillside above town. His sons ran the pub and shop in the town, and did well out of the gold rush that would have made Collingwood capital.

collingwood-1.jpgI went to school at Collingwood Area School, recently turned 150 years old. Memories of Collingwood childhood are rolling down ivy covered banks, or sneaking through the gorse. Millers garage, white painted. Grandmas house, with lollies. Fishing. Sir Ed opening the playing field. Zin Zan Brook having the high-jump mat nearly fall on him.

Now every time I visit I walk down the main street, whisting a cowboy tune, as the westerly wind blows across Ruataniwha estuary. You could eat Rosy Glow chocolate, have a beer at the pub, spend $5 buying a loaf of bread at the shop, but the beach is the best part.

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