Manawatu Walking Festival

Walking his way

Frank Goldingham is the face of walking for New Zealand. As the editor of ‘Walking New Zealand’ he has a passion for great walks and outstanding photography, and his magazine was the first in New Zealand to publish the ‘green prescription’, which refers to a doctor’s recommendation of using exercise to boost health.

Now in its 195th issue, the magazine has fostered the trend for designer walking. It provides stunning and spectacular pictures for the adventurous and artistic person, highlighting both national and overseas walks.

Manawatu Walking FestivalThe idea for the magazine came about fifteen years ago while Frank was visiting Australia. “I was walking the ‘city to surf’ when it occurred to me that there was a running magazine but not a walking magazine”. This idea has since grown into a successful nationwide magazine with more than 4,000 readers per month.

Another project that has grown out of the magazine is the Manawatu Walking Festival.  “I realised that there were walking festivals throughout the country such as Mangawhai and Waiheke Island but not in the Manawatu”.

The weekend long festival went from February 28 to March 2, and focused on putting Manawatu “on the map” and bringing people together to enjoy the great walks of the area.

“We had 170 participants which is great because even though it is small, it will grow. I prefer the idea of walking and ending up at a café where you can sit down and have a chat – which is what made the festival so popular”. Frank says he is already looking forward to organising next year’s event.

FrankIn terms of favourites, Frank feels the vineyard walk was one of the most successful because “you don’t associate Manawatu with wine. The biggest surprise though was the popularity of the Twilight Beach Walk, which is a 9km walk from Foxton Beach to Himatangi Beach”. Some of Frank’s personal favourites include the Bridal Track, the Gorge Walk and the Fern Walkway in Pohangina.

Along with his passion for walking, Frank is also a keen photographer and publisher. He started the Feilding Herald newspaper from scratch, and has also published a number of royal tour and photo books. “Back when there was no television I would be on royal tours, so I would write a book and it would be on sale the next day”.

For those unconvinced, Frank believes that walking has become so popular because it is cheap and enjoyable, and is an activity for everyone and anyone. “It is a great way to meet people and explore some great places of New Zealand. There are a lot of varieties and it doesn’t cost a lot. All you need is a good pair of shoes and you are on your way”.

Plant to Plate

A generation growing food for the soul

Some might take for granted the ability to grow and prepare their own meals, but when retired school principal Ros Powell plants a seed, she’s passing knowledge to generations of people who are learning, for the first time, how to garden and cook.

Most weeks of the school year, Ros Powell and fellow volunteers take vans with gardening equipment and a mobile kitchen into schools, inspiring young people to be more involved with what they eat.

Home grown goodnessEstablished four years ago as a charitable trust, Plant to Plate Aotearoa is a community programme, free to all primary schools across Palmerston North and the Manawatū district. The programme is led by teachers and assisted by experienced, enthusiastic volunteers who enjoy passing on their skills to children and their teachers.

The programme was started by several retirees who saw a need in their local schools. “We began with nothing, purchasing items from our own pockets and catering for several events to cover costs,” Ros says. “People donated goods to us and further assistance came from Awapuni Rotary Club, Palmerston North Inner Wheel, Pioneer New World, the Palmerston North Environmental Trust and the Palmerston North City Council.

“Our first morale boost came early when Awapuni Nurseries donated seedlings to Plant to Plate Aotearoa used in each school we visited. Other highlights were a substantial three year grant from The Tindall Foundation and the gift of a vehicle from Awapuni Rotary Club. In 2010 Plant to Plate Aotearoa won the Palmerston North Trustpower Community Award for Volunteerism, which really validated the work we do.”

“Our mantra is seasonality, thrift and independence.”

Plant to Plate volunteers are invited into schools to give a minimum of three gardening and cooking sessions to a class of children. The children build the gardens themselves using
simple wooden boxing; they learn how to plant seeds and seedlings, make compost and care for their school gardens.

“Our mantra is seasonality, thrift and independence,” Ros says. “For the cooking side, we use staple ingredients from the home store cupboard and produce that is in season, to
create simple, delicious meals together, while having fun.”

Menu items include soups, breads, salads, muffins, miniquiches and potatoes in several forms. The class is divided into two groups during the three-hour session, with one half gardening and the other cooking, before swapping over so that each child participates in both activities.

Ros says that even teachers have been surprised at the response from children, who are so enthusiastic about food growing and cooking – possibly influenced by the proliferation of cooking shows. “The surge in TV cooking shows has certainly been good for us. The kids are excited to get involved and don their aprons – boys equally as much as girls.”

Fun making food

Each session concludes with a sit-down meal. Tables, aprons, tablecloths, cutlery, glassware and dishes are all provided, and the children are taught to lay place settings for the meal – a skill that Ros says is surprisingly rare these days.

“A large number of families no longer eat at the dining table, so this is something new and exciting for some of our kids. They call it their ‘restaurant’. Plant to Plate sees eating together as a social skill, so we place importance on good manners and friendly conversation at the table.”

To date, Plant to Plate Aotearoa has worked with more than 3500 children from 36 primary schools across the region – sometimes visiting more than one school in the same week.
“We’re thrilled when we’re invited back to a school to see that the programme’s teaching has become ingrained,” Ros says. “Connecting with the Earth keeps children healthy and encourages economic and physical independence.

“What we do isn’t unique, but our mobility and the way that we operate across the schools in Palmerston North and district are,” she says. “Our vision is to teach as many children as we can life skills around the growing and cooking of food, and help them to learn ways to care for the environment and Earth’s resources. It gives us back something as well – a real sense of contribution and achievement.”

“The kids are excited to get involved.”

Ros says the volunteers range in age from retired people to part-time workers, volunteers from the Multicultural Centre and international students from Massey University.

“It’s so rewarding for us to have such a worthwhile project in which to invest our time and energy. The international volunteers from China, Korea, the United States, South Africa, Russia and Britain have been wonderful and really enjoy the opportunity to integrate with our community – and we learn something from them as well.”

While the programme is a rewarding one, she says that at times it can be confronting. “We do see children for whom food security is an issue, particularly at a time of recession as we have now. There are genuinely hungry children out there, and it’s important that we as a community appreciate the circumstances our children are faced with every day, in order to make a difference.”

Making that difference, she says, is part of a unique privilege that is creating a lasting legacy. “Parents sometimes stop us in the street to tell us they’ve started their own gardens at home, or are using our recipes for their meals.

“We’ve been so grateful to have wide support for something we are so passionate about, in the form of volunteers, grants, donations and sponsorship. This is work that is is good for the soul.”

Shepherd's Rest Van

Modern-Day Shepherd

A safe place to stay, a ride home, or even just a free sausage. These are just the obvious aspects of what Shepherd’s Rest and the Street Van offer. Since their formation in 1995, the Palmerston North Street Van and Shepherd’s Rest have been doing their part to support the safety and wellbeing of the people in the city, from students out on the town to the homeless and those trapped in cycles of addiction.

Lew FindlayThe driving force, both behind the scenes and out on the streets running the Street Van into the wee hours of the night, is Lew Findlay. The Street Van group was established to help mitigate the dangers faced by some people at night. Lew recounts how “a group of us decided we had to do something about the street problem in Palmerston North. I had kids, and I didn’t want my young kids growing up like that”.

Nearly 20 years later, Lew feels that the service is still vital, and if anything there are more reasons to be doing it now. The organisation has expanded hugely, now operating three Street Vans with 180 volunteers. Lew has been thrilled with the way students have also got involved, with Massey University and UCOL students now operating their own teams and regularly running the vans. “They came to us, the students themselves. They wanted to do something.”

The other side to the organisation is Shepherd’s Rest, which offers low-cost accommodation to anyone in need of a home. Making up a huge portion of Shepherd’s Rest’s tenants are those who would otherwise be homeless, and Lew feels that they do not get the care they need elsewhere.

Street Van“People from out of prison, where do they go? People from out of hospital, where do they go? Someone comes out of a mental health facility, who takes them in? No-one. So that’s why we take them. No-one wants to know a drug addict or homeless person unless they’re in their own family.

“There are certain people whom we won’t take back, mainly
because their actions have affected other residents. But other
than that, we never say no.”

The Street Van and Shepherd’s Rest are more than just Lew’s passion. His wife Meriam and two oldest children, Sarah and John, are all volunteers, and Sarah also runs youth groups teaching children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. “My kids grew up around the silo, around alcoholics and drug addicts. They have never gotten drunk and they never do drugs, so there you go. They’ve seen it, they know what happens.”

Some would question the wisdom of putting your children into these situations, but Lew strongly disagrees. “People say, ‘How can you let your daughter be close to them?’. My daughter feels totally safe around these people; if anyone so much as looked at her they’d get smacked.” Far from a threat, the people Lew has met through the Street Van and Shepherd’s Rest have become surrogate family members. Lew laughingly tells how a few years ago his daughter “went to the pictures and was with a boy. I had four drug addicts ringing up to tell me my daughter was out”.

At the end of the day, Shepherd’s Rest and the Street Van can be best summarised by Lew as, “Sometimes, it’s just about doing something nice”.