Friday, 1 May 2015

Nature walk raises funds for local charities

A family relaxing at the lighthouse after walking 8 kms on Nelson’s Boulder Bank. Only one more km to go!
“Awesome!” and “Thanks for a great day out. It was fascinating to see the Boulder Bank up close for the first time.”

Those were some of the comments posted on the Facebook page of the Rotary Club of Nelson West, NZ after its sixth annual Boulder Bank Challenge. The event involves a 9 km walk along the iconic Boulder Bank, an unusual natural landform that defines Nelson’s harbour.

Nelson West Rotary organises buses to take ticket holders to the starting point. Three hours later, boats bring the walkers back to land from the southern end of the Boulder Bank, at “the Cut” that forms the entrance to Nelson’s port. A boat both ways option is available for those who choose not to walk the distance.
To see Nelson from a different perspective, participants can climb up the historic lighthouse on the Boulder Bank – the second one built in New Zealand. They were met there by Craig Terris, of Port Nelson, who told them about the reconditioned light that was recently returned to service. In previous years, speakers have included local Maori historians, a geologist, and a descendant of the longest serving lighthouse keeper.

There are also six historic “baches” (that’s Kiwi for holiday cottages) on the Boulder Bank, accessible only by sea, and some of the owners were on hand to welcome walkers and give them a look inside. One is owned by the son of a charter member of the Rotary Club of Nelson West, and has a club photo from 1966 on the wall of the bach.

Doing good is fun! The currents that formed the
Boulder Bank now bring a steady supply
of flotsam and jetsam. A trailer load
of rubbish was collected this year.
Walkers help protect nesting birds by picking up rubbish during the event, as the currents that brought the boulders from a nearby bluff over the millennia now bring a steady supply of flotsam and jetsam.

Knapps Lawyers, a local law firm with a Rotarian partner, is the gold sponsor for the event. With financial sponsorships and many local businesses that donate goods and services, all costs are covered, so ticket sales go entirely to charity. The primary beneficiary is Coastguard Nelson, a volunteer organisation that is well regarded in a community where boating and fishing is a way of life for many.

“Coastguard was fundraising for a new boat when we started the event in 2010, so we decided to help”, explains Dick Carter, a Nelson West Rotarian who has helped organise the event every year.

“We are really grateful for the financial contribution,” says Mark Rumsey, a Coastguard past president who joined Rotary two years ago, “but equally important to us is knowing that a group like Rotary appreciates and supports what we are doing for the community.”

The event has attracted over 200 participants in previous years, but numbers were down this year due to rain in the forecast. Originally scheduled for the previous weekend because of predicted heavy rain that never arrived, the event was rescheduled for Sunday, March 29.

Nelson West Rotarian Jim Sinner, who led the organising team, said they were a bit anxious when it started to rain at 7am, only an hour before the first participants were due to show up. But a quick check of the weather radar confirmed that it was only a passing shower. The sun was out by 8am and it turned into a beautiful morning.

However showers were still lingering around the Nelson ranges, and at 12:45 the team got a call from Coastguard to say that rain was likely within an hour. “We had planned to have everyone off by 2:15 anyway,” said Jim, “because a brisk afternoon sea breeze is pretty common in Nelson. So we just mobilised to get everything packed up and back to land a little more quickly.”

There was no shortage of volunteers from the
Rotary Club of Nelson West, who all chipped in
to keep things running smoothly.
Members of the public were all ashore by 2pm, and by 2:30 the Nelson West team was relaxing and conducting a de-brief, discussing how to make the event even better in 2016.