Thursday, 26 April 2012

Waipu - golf, stunning scenery and history

One thing, among many, that we are blessed with in New Zealand is an infinite number of beautiful and accessible golf courses.  As a keen golfer it is always a pleasure for me to play on a course I have never played before so last week when a couple of friends invited me to join them for a game at Waipu I jumped at the chance.  Waipu is just south of Whangarei, around an hour and a half's drive north of Auckland. It is a well groomed, coastal, links course with stunning views and excellent greens.  We had a brilliant day strolling down the fairways under glorious skies with waves rolling in on the shore and  dramatic islands dotting the sparkling sea. We were charged only $10 each green fees and  pretty much had the course to ourselves.  It was a great way to spend a day. HINT: The green fees vary from day to day and depending on the time of day so check with the club beforehand if you want to be sure of the charge.

Views of the Waipu Golf Course

The nearby tiny village of Waipu boasts a museum recording one of the most remarkable migrations to New Zealand.    Scotsman Norman McLeod was a feisty character who lost his preaching license in his village in Scotland due to conflict with the established minister and consequently left to settle in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1817. There was already quite a large settlement of Scots there due to the land clearances in Scotland and many others soon followed.  By this time Norman was a fully ordained Presbyterian minister and his stern, firebrand style appealed to many of his fellow countrymen who became faithful followers known as Normanites.  After a few years of harsh weather conditions and failing crops the Normanites led by Rev McLeod decided to try their luck in Australia.  The sea trip was gruelling and challenging but they finally made it.  Australia, however, was not the promised land they had hoped for, land prices had soared due to the gold rush and three of Rev McLeod's sons died of typhus there.  The struggling group once again,  looked for greener pastures.  They made a plea to Governor Grey of New Zealand for some land, he obliged and the Normanites sailed for New Zealand settling in Waipu and the surrounding area in 1853.  Eventually others followed from Scotland with the number of settlers rising to almost 1000. They spoke Gaelic, maintained their heritage and thrived in New Zealand. Today their descendants number tens of thousands. Although Gaelic is no longer spoken and there has been much intermarriage  Waipu is still immensly proud of its Scottish heritage with a Scottish Heritage shop and many of the street names reflecting the history of the Normanites, there is even a registered Waipu tartan.  In order to celebrate its heritage the village holds an annual and highly popular Tartan Week and Caledonian games celebrating all things Scottish..

The history of the Normanites is reflected in the street signs. The museum at Waipu is worth a visit.  It is an excellent, small museum with audio visual and interactive displays and a superb gift shop with a wide range of products including tartan rugs which can be made to order.