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The history and early days of Stanley Brook and Tapawera

(March 2011)
by Coralie Smith

The sun wasn't shining as we left Decks Reserve for our day out in Tapawera. We have a bit of a jinx on our outings in March but this year we didn't get wet but we didn't get sun burnt either.

Viv Barker was there to greet us as we called in first at the old Stanley Brook School building, which I personally have whizzed past on the way to the West Coast or Christchurch but never stopped to look at closely. Viv and his sons' farm at Stanley Brook as have their forebears before them.

The soil wasn't really suitable for stock but the pioneers persevered and a thriving community once lived in this isolated spot. Two churches, a school and a library served them. The buildings are still maintained but used for other purposes. The library was a real delight. Still full of books, it had us oohing and aahing over books we hadn't seen for years.

On to Tapawera where the Information Centre lady opened up their rooms for us as it threatened rain. Joyce Phillips entertained us with her memories of the Kiwi railway station and the week that the women of Tapawera District sat on the railway lines to try and stop it from being broken up. They lost the battle but the station itself is now the pride and joy of the Tapawera Historical Association and houses many of their stores of photos which they share with the public inside the tiny building.

Roger Carleton told us more about the history of Tapawera, the township of which wasn't formed until the railway came along. The settlement was more towards the area known as Mararewa where the cemetery lies. Roger is a keen historian and a railway man. He was able to bring alive those glory days when the train ran to Tapawera. What a difference it would be today if the railway dream had continued.

After lunch we visited the flour mill at the back of a farming property near the cemetery. Standing in faded red iron paint, with all its working gear, it has been a mill, a blacksmith, and a butchery business. Full of historical machinery and ironware, we clambered up the stairs to see how it all worked. Fascinating stuff. A tourist attraction, suggested someone.

We ended the day with coffee at The Hidden Café a mile or two further south. Again, situated on a farm, it was a surprise after driving down a twisting lane to come across a modern café and gift shop run by Rachel Carson. They also have accommodation and David Carson is the artist who makes saw blades into sculptures. These along with all sorts of other sculptures, made from a wide range of materials, make the walk by the stream a very pleasant way to view the modern Tapawera home to many artists and artisans.

Stanley Brook school

Stanley Brook library

Tapawera flower mill

Kiwi Station, Tapawera

Stanley Brook war memorial

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