Time to go awandering

The best thing about spring is being able to get outside and enjoy the fresh air without having to don hat, coat, gloves and three jerseys over head-to-toe polypropylene. Walking to work now seems more like a happy possibility than an inevitable grind. Gardens are flowering, birds are singing and fellow walkers pass with a cheery wave and ‘Morning!’ rather than a furrowed brow and a dripping nose.

Christchurch has some wonderful walkways which are well worth exploring. Many of these have been repaired since the earthquakes and they’re a great way of getting out and about in the city. There are walking groups catering for every level of fitness. Take for example the Sunday Walking Group which meets weekly or the thirty minute Walk and Talk programme for people wanting to combine exercise with some social interaction.

If you’re already fighting fit and in need of a challenge, there are tramping groups that head to the hills for day hikes or longer. Walking sports such as race or Nordic walking are guaranteed to give even the hardiest outdoor pursuiter a great workout. These groups are a great way of getting to know like-minded souls.

It seems the whole of Christchurch is getting into walking mode. The Breeze Walking Festival starts next weekend with a programme that celebrates everything the Eastern suburbs have to offer. There are 22 walks taking in the wildlife, local history, forest and coastline around Pegasus Bay and three ultimate walking prize packs to be won.

In the meantime, why not take a mellow stroll around the Christchurch Botanical Gardens? The blossoms are out and the magnolias are looking splendid. The Gardens would be my favourite walking spot. What’s yours?

A river runs through it

‘Eventide’:photo of an 1888 John Gibb painting of the river at Burwood. Original owned by the Parochial District of Burwood

Having spent most of my Christchurch life living east of the Square and close to the Avon River, I’m pretty passionate about the delights of those riverside suburbs like Richmond, Avonside, Dallington and out to New Brighton. The river has always been a source of beauty, fun, exercise and general place defining for my family. So I was pretty chuffed to see the folks at the Avon-Otakaro Network are organising a Spring River festival. I’d encourage people all over Christchurch to get in behind this. Take a trip across town and get involved in the programme.

Yes the roads are shocking (just go slowly) and you’ll see some pretty depressing sights, but the folks over the East side need your support. Check out local shops and spend some money there and visit three of our coolest  libraries – Parklands, Aranui and New Brighton. You can still walk and cycle along the river in many places, the beach is still the beach and the river, the Estuary and Travis Wetland still teem with birdlife. There is also The Breeze Walking Festival  from 29 September to 7 October which offers 22 walks for all fitness levels.

Eastern Christchurch and the river has always attracted interesting characters, like Professor Bickerton, and has been a happy hunting ground for local historians. Our own Richard Greenaway has explored the eastern suburbs in depth. A good example is his Requiem for a watering hole: The Bower Hotel. Another fascinating source of local history is Tim Baker from Aranui and you can’t go past Bruce Ansley’s Gods and little fishes for capturing the flavour of New Brighton.