Sea Sand and Sorrow

Waimangaroa - Denniston cemeteryBy early March we’d finished work at the Westport motels and had a couple of weeks before our next engagement. We were ready for some time-out. Starting at the North Beach of Westport. There had been big storms and big tides. The wild West Coast beaches looked even wilder. We were able to park up by the beach in a good area set aside by the Department of Conservation. Well done DoC.

North Beach Westport

Suzi motorhome amongst friends at North Beach Westport

North Beach Westport

North Beach Westport

North Beach Westport

North Beach Westport

North Beach Westport

Driftwood piles on North Beach Westport

We headed up the coast a little way towards Karamea. At Waimangaroa we turned off the main road down towards the sea. We were looking for – and found – the Waimangaroa Cemetery. This was also the cemetery for the Denniston Plateau. Denniston was an historic coal mining area above the narrow coastal strip. It was important in the late 1800s.

For the first couple of decades the only access was via a very steep incline railway where the coal trucks going down the hill hauled empty ones back up again. As well as  hauled up everything needed by the 1300 inhabitants living miserable lives up in the mist. As well as transported down the bodies of the people who died on the plateau. A cemetery wasn’t possible on the plateau because it was mostly just barren rocks.  As if coal mining wasn’t dangerous enough, the incline railway was extra hazardous. Plus living conditions were tough so there were a fair number of children to be buried down below as well.

From the edge of the plateau they’d have been able to see the cemetery beside the sea. And for some in those first few decades who refused to come back down the incline railway that’d have been as near as they’d have got. The Denniston story is an extraordinary one. New Zealand has lots of poignant cemeteries, but this one is right up there.

Waimangaroa - Denniston cemetery

Waimangaroa – Denniston cemetery. The scar/slash down the bush from the ridgeline is the top of what remains of the Denniston incline railway. That highest ridgeline is the edge of the Denniston Plateau.

Waimangaroa - Denniston cemetery

Headstone in Waimangaroa – Denniston cemetery. I wonder now how they made these headstones. Cast in concrete?

Waimangaroa - Denniston cemetery

Headstone – Waimangaroa – Denniston cemetery

Waimangaroa - Denniston cemetery

Headstone Waimangaroa – Denniston cemetery

Waimangaroa - Denniston cemetery

Part of an elaborate headstone – Waimangaroa – Denniston cemetery

Gallery of photos – Autumn Adventures –  2014

(Click on any of the photos below to enlarge)

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