When I first found out that punting on the Avon was one of the activities for Easter (I think it was in May last year?) I was totally ready right then and there to book my flights to Christchurch. I’d always wanted to go punting and to be able to do it while historically costumed was going to be the icing on the cake. Needless to say, I was not disappointed and those months of waiting and counting down certainly were rewarded.
On leaving the gardens our little procession headed to the Antigua Boatsheds where we assembled on the dock, waiting for the punts to come back, deposit their passengers, and for the punters to have a quick break before we had our turn. Our appearance raised some curiosity as we mingled mainly amongst ourselves, and a few onlookers took a photo or two.
Before long it was our turn and one by one we filled one of the two punts. Watching everyone try to keep balanced and board in the most dignified manner possible. When it was my turn I realised that it wasn’t as easy as it looked but I think that I managed to take my spot in the front with a reasonable amount of ladylikeness.
I sat in the front of the punt with Monique, which meant that we had a completely unobscured view of the river directly ahead of us. Maree and Scott were directly behind, making it possible to have some conversation with them during the ride.
Our punt set off first and we made our way slowly down the river at a speed that the second punt could easily catch up to us so that we were able to travel together. Our punter revealed that he could sing and had just finished touring with the Globe Pop Up Theatre in Australia. With only a little encouragement, once the other punt drew up next to us, he began to sing.
If we had drawn a little curiosity previously, as punts filled with historically dressed people, we certainly attracted more attention from the banks of the river once he began to sing. I do wonder what was going through the minds of the people who were just enjoying a stroll through the gardens and suddenly presented with a view of us enjoying our punt down the river with musical accompaniment.
The ducks were generally not so bothered as they were obviously quite used to punts, canoes, and other traffic on the river. One or two weren’t so thrilled and quite literally got themselves into a flap when we encroached on their personal space. Of course, when ducks do take off from the water they splash water so on two or three separate occasions we were showered in river water as the ducks flew away from us to safety.
Sadly, before too long it soon became time to turn about and start making our way back up the Avon towards the boatsheds. Facing the opposite direction, I was soon grateful for bringing my parasol along as the sun was now in my eyes. I popped it up and was able to enjoy the trip back without squinting half the time. And, for the return journey, our punter sang Some Enchanted Evening, which also happened to be one of the songs that Edan had played for us on the pianola the evening before.
Upon our return, our group slowly dispersed in various directions. Some had other plans for the rest of the day, others were skipping the afternoon but would reunite with us in the evening, and the rest of us were to make our way over to Riccarton House. I said goodbye to Maree and Scott (managing to lose my boater in the process!) and joined Monique and Edan in the car to head over to Riccarton House.
The Saturday Farmers Market at Riccarton House was still going when we arrived, though in the process of winding down. We had a quick scout of the stalls to see what was on offer but I didn’t find anything to take my fancy. As I was returning from my search I heard ‘good day madam’ and turned to see the greeting accompanied by a wink from one of the stall holders.
Cheryl, Jim, Jen, and the rest of their group had also made their way to Riccarton House so since I had somehow lost both Edan and Monique by then, I made my way towards them. It had taken a few minutes but they had secured a couple of tables and enough chairs had also been acquired. Being clearly a lot more prepared, they had brought lunch foods with them and laid them out on the tables to share.
Kindly, they invited me to join them and as we sat around the tables the mystery of the random lady in a photo from the Oamaru Heritage Celebrations was solved (it was me). The group of us grew over time as Karen arrived and Edan rematerialised. And, of course, you can’t really go anywhere while dressed historically without attracting some attention.
We were approached a couple of times for photos, and were asked why we were dressed up and what we were doing. A young woman from the university was very interested in us but didn’t have her camera with her and made inquiries as to where else we would be over the rest of the weekend. She was told about our day at the Ferrymead Heritage Park the following day and made a note of the details.
After the lunch things were packed up there was still a bit of time before the tour was to start so a handful of us decided on a walk through Riccarton Bush. It was so lovely and peaceful walking through there and we were often joined by fantails who flitted about. We also encountered a few unsuspecting people along the way who I’m sure didn’t quite know what to make of us!
By the time we re-emerged and joined everybody else it was time for the tour to begin and Edan led us back to the house and let us in. We had the whole place to ourselves, which was pretty cool and it also meant that we could really get the best experience too.
We assembled in the dining room where a number of chairs had been set out and once we were all seated, Edan began the tour by giving us the history of the Deans family, their humble beginnings in New Zealand, and the history of the land, buildings, and the house itself.
With that context, Edan led us through the house, pointing out various features of the different rooms and sharing anecdotes. In some places the original wallpaper could be seen, giving us a real sense of what each room would have truly looked like in the house’s early life. I really like that in each room the ‘modern’ wallpapers and such were really thought about and chosen to reflect or be as true to the original interiors as possible.
Later, Edan told me that the tour had taken an hour and forty minutes, which I could hardly believe because it certainly didn’t feel like that amount of time had passed at all. That’s definitely a sign of a great tour.
After Edan locked up we were kindly dropped back at his place by David and Sonya. We had enough time to have a bit of a break and a chance to freshen up before Monique arrived and the car got loaded with the food and drink needed for the evening’s entertainment, which was to be a magic lantern show.
Edan, Monique and I arrived back at Ferrymead and unloaded the car. It didn’t take too long to move some tables and set out the chairs to create a little theatre. Kathleen arrived shortly after with her son in tow and busied herself in setting up the magic lanterns and double checking that everything was ready for the evening to go off without a hitch.
We were suitably ready when the others started to arrive and before long everyone was seated, curious to see the lanterns in action. I have to admit, I had never even heard of magic lanterns before seeing the evening’s entertainment as part of the weekend’s programme. They are brilliant inventions, the precursor of our movie projectors, and I can definitely see how they would have held an appeal to those able to see them in action.
Kathleen did a fantastic job bringing the slides to life and was clearly in her element. She showed us several different stories ranging from the story of St Swithan to a Punch and Judy show. There was a fair amount of audience participation at times and I think by the end of it we were all in splendid moods. With the end of the shows, Kathleen answered some questions about the lanterns and slides before supper was announced.
Supper was a great opportunity for chatting and catching up, especially for those who had attended the events of the day and could tell others about what they had missed. As the evening began showing signs of winding down Monique started clearing away empty plates and glasses and I followed suit. As the others started to depart we said goodbye and ‘see you tomorrow’ and started to reload the car.
Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to restore the rooms to rights with the chairs and tables returned to their original places, or to fill the car with everything we had brought along. A trip back down to the cottages to unload what we had borrowed from there, some ferrying of glasses and crockery from the car back to where they belonged and it was time to head home and try and get enough sleep to be refreshed enough for all the fun of Sunday.
Missed Part 1? Find it here
Looking for Part 3? That would be here