Back in the mid-late nineteenth century, Chelston was the site of a sawmill, one of many that gobbled up the native bush on the Peninsula. The milled logs would have been carted to the summit and then down to the rail line at Little River for transport to Christchurch, or maybe down to the wharf at Port Levy – whichever way an arduous task for man and beast. Today Chelston is a small farm with homestay accommodation in The Stables (dating back to sawmill days) and the Shearers’ Quarters (1942).
Port Levy (Puari) was a significant Maori settlement pre and post European arrival. Today the village is small but there is a sizeable marae and plenty of evidence that this remains a Maori enclave. With the exception of the church, school (now a community meeting place) and a few colonial homesteads at the head of the harbour, the village to the south and scattered farm settlements to the north, Port Levy is empty of human habitation. While just ‘over the hill’ (up Purau Valley) from Lyttelton Harbour, it feels much more remote.
Being here over Christmas is a way of avoiding the commercial and social whirl of the festival, which I find increasingly distressing. It is an opportunity to explore another little part of the Peninsula, not so far from my own home in Governors Bay and sharing some of the same historical characteristics. What Elaine (who is renting The Stables) and I didn’t anticipate was that our arrival at Chelston would be heralded by magnitude 5.8 and 6.1 earthquake aftershocks – the most significant since June. The wooden Shearers’ Quarters rattled, rolled and bounced in response to a shallow undersea rupture in Pegasus Bay. Our immediate thoughts were for family, friends and our homes in Cashmere and Governors Bay. And so our holiday began with a swift journey back to Lyttelton Harbour to check my house (in particular the still marginally-secured water cylinder) and enable Elaine to contact neighbours regarding hers. A little more breakage and spillage, but nothing (comparatively) of significance. The news not so good from the eastern suburbs of Christchurch where yet more liquefaction has occurred. By late afternoon we were back at Chelston, grateful for the radio coverage that has enabled us to keep informed of quake news.
|The Shearers' Quarters|