The Parks of Christchurch
On our first morning we walked across Hagley Park, the massive open space that dominates the centre of the city, passing the cricket ground and trees full of chattering cicadas, towards the River Avon (English place names proliferate here!). Beside a bend in the river was the Botanic Garden, where we wandered through the native plants section, past the rock garden and the formal rose arch. The garden was full of birds.
Another day we visited Riccarton Bush, a remnant of the primeval forest that once stretched right across the Canterbury Plain. It was as it must have been for thousands of years, the ground covered with tangled roots and parasitic plants climbing up the trees. We stopped by something that looked like a strangler fig and listened to the birds singing, hidden by the dense vegetation.
Then there was Mona Vale. The historic homestead was badly damaged by the earthquake, but the landscaped gardens are still kept in immaculate order, with rose gardens, fernery and lily pond. There are parks and open spaces wherever you turn in this city.
An Essential Amenity
But the parks are not just pleasant places to walk in. They are part of the city’s psyche, places to be used by the community. Not just for sport, but for all kinds of events.
It seemed as if the whole city turned out for the Lantern Festival, celebrating the Chinese New Year, when thousands of brightly decorated lanterns were draped in the trees and around the edges of Hagley Park. And one warm evening we enjoyed an open air production of The Tempest at Mona Vale.
Riccarton House, another historic homestead, has a bustling farmers’ market, where people flock to buy local produce and to buy their breakfast, sitting on the grass beside the river to eat. Then there is the Sunday Market at Riccarton Racecourse, where second hand stalls compete with food sellers, children’s rides and the occasional busker or fortune-teller.