Saturday, 22 December 2012

A Walk Around Christchurch

So for the first time we decided to go and have a look at Christchurch. The Rough Guide we have is pre the earthquake, so describes the city as ‘exuding a palpable air of gentility and a strong connection with the mother country. Named after an Oxford college, it has some feel of a traditional English university town with its neo-Gothic architecture and a gently winding river Avon.’

It is certainly true, what remains is an absolute delight and it feels very English. From one of the river bridges we could see men with straw boaters plying for business on the punts on the river and even the river looks similar to the Avon at, say Stratford-On-Avon in the UK. Beautiful, solid looking neo-Gothic buildings are everywhere and the nearby Hagley Park with its Botanical Gardens was an absolute delight to walk round, finishing with tea and cakes at a cafe near the end.

bathing sparrow, and a silvereye
big eucalyptus tree in the Botanical Gardens

sadly the water is a horrible colour as all the water drained away in the earthquake and they've had to be re-lined

It is satisfying that at least some of the city remains, but the heart has been ripped out and is a scene of utter devastation. Even nearly two years after the event the centre is sealed off with demolition work still on going with huge amounts of work still to be done. The city is laid out in a grid pattern, so the streets are long and straight, so it’s possible to see at a distance the cathedral, which was at the centre of the quake and subject of so much controversy. I zoomed in as much as our basic camera would allow and, although the roof still seems mainly intact, the front wall has gone as has its steeple. Certain groups want to demolish it altogether, as it is the centre of the city, but others want to keep it, maybe repairing it, or even making what remains safe and leaving it as is, rather like the old Coventry Cathedral in the UK, bombed during the last way, left as it was and a new modern Catherdral built next door.
A view down the closed Worcester Street towards the cathedral

The cathedral
A condemned building - note the tilt

Other areas are like a ghost town, weeds growing through pavements, grand buildings damaged and condemned but not yet demolished. The Copthorn Hotel, a tall grand building stands stopped in time. Tables and chairs on a first floor balcony set for dinner, just as they were on the day of the earthquake, but now the building is fenced off, two years of weeds have grown and big demolition lorries stand by. Apparently the main library, close to the catherdral, collapsed in the quake, trapping all the books which are still inside the unsafe building.
A once busy street now a 'ghost town'
Slightly out from the centre other grand building stand showing their damage. Some are boarded up, scaffolding support parts and steeples have been carefully taken down to ground level for rebuild. Blocks and brickwork are stacked nearby, often labelled up showing their location in a jigsaw, ready to be rebuilt. 
The grand council buildings under reconstruction

New roof and the steeple on the ground being reconstructed (just above the man's head on the right of the crossing)

Other areas have just a gap where once a building stood, like gaps in a mouth that has had several teeth taken out. The scale of the work to be done is vast and the money required is huge. It will take Christchurch and New Zealand a long time to recover from this, but this is no reason not to visit, it still has parts that are a delight and they need visitors and their money more than ever!

We visited one area called Re:START, which has been reconstructed on some of the old ruins using modified shipping containers and shows how resilient people can be in the face of such devastation. It is a modern, vibrant area of shops and cafĂ©’s, all using shipping containers. The ground was levelled and tarmacked, the containers modified by adding windows, painting them in bright colours and stacking them in artistic ways. The result is an eye-catching modern area that is a delight to be in and shows what can be done with minimal cost to bring part of the ruins back to life. It was full of people, was very lively and we could have stayed there for hours!
The lively Re:START centre
We have not yet visited outlying areas, where we understand people’s houses have been either destroyed or are condemned through being in danger of collapse or damage from nearby rockfalls and we think this might be quite emotional. About 40,000 people have been displaced, out of a population in Christchurch of 350,000 and we understand some people are still without proper sanitation. 

Housing, both to buy and rent are in very short supply and expensive and a lot of people have moved to the West, less damaged part of the city where the infrastructure is unable to cope with the increase. Yesterday we went shopping in this area and got caught up in the traffic, so we know first-hand how difficult it has made life for people living there, but it doesn’t seem to have phased them, everyone is still laid back, bright and cheerful. What resilient people they are!

Really we’ve done very little, but that was the plan, I’ve cooked roast lamb and made beefburgers which are now in the freezer, shepherds pie tonight! B made the most ridiculous chocolate and walnut brownies – walnuts from the garden. We may not see Christmas as despite both having lost weight, the cholesterol and sugar intake from one brownie may just be too much!

The cats are getting used to us, though ‘Big Tig’ wandered around yesterday with a bit of a mournful call, he then came and lay on the bed. Last night was the first one that Tiffany came in before 0300, so that was a nice surprise. They go out at dusk (which is about 21.45) and come in when we call them, in theory, before bed, so we’ve had to start going to bed a little later than the 2200 we were doing, but that’s ok! Ustinov is the funniest though, he comes in really miaowing, so you try food, water, milk, but no, he wants to be picked up, layed on his back and cuddled like a baby, for hours (well it feels like it with his weight!) His paw comes up to your face, and the purring can be heard the other side of the room! We had Rosie and Tigger on the bed this morning, when I went to the loo, B was trying to curl up, but the weight of Rosie was preventing him moving the duvet around him! Fortunately it’s warm!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jackie & Brian and all the cats! Glad to hear you are settling in well. It's so weird to think of you picking a lemon for G&T and picking walnuts for baking. Wonderful! We hope you all have a fantastic Christmas (brownie dependant of course!) and look forward to speaking to you in the New Year. Lots of love, Helen, Ian and Rudi xxx