Drystone walls of Glenbervie
In several areas surrounding Whangarei, the landscape is ordered by drystone walls that run for kilometre-long stretches. These beautiful stone walls are the legacy of skilled builders that utilised the volcanic stone of this district, primarily from the 1860s through to the 1940s, to create a profound landscape heritage – of which Whangarei is justifiably proud.
Some of the finest walls in the district are found at Glenbervie, on the main highway leading from Whangarei to the Tutukaka coastline. I have admired these walls for years (on whatever occasions I have had to pass through this area).
It is particularly gratifying to see that many of these walls have been well-maintained over the decades since their original construction – as this means not only that they endure, but the tradition from which they arose continues. That said, there are far fewer craftsmen remaining these days than in former decades, and it is to be hoped that the area retains enough contractors capable of partaking in this tradition in a sensitive manner.
Drystone walls are an important feature in many of our projects; not just on account of their aesthetic value, but for the value of continuing our landscape culture and traditions. It is worth noting that although these walls sit firmly within the European tradition, our stonework heritage is not just inherited from European settlers, as there is a wide range of forms that Maori employed in various areas of the country, for differing purposes.
For anyone wishing to learn more about Whangarei’s drystone walls, a fine publication called ‘Stone Wall Country : Drystone Walls of the Whangarei District’ (Ballard, C; 2010; published by the author) provides details and images of the district’s walling tradition.