The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 5 (August 1, 1935)
Perfect new Plymouth — Where Mount Egmont Reigns In Beauty. — The World's Garden Town
A Mountain has been following me about. I have no objection because it is a piece of mountain perfection; indeed, it has only one possible rival in the world. It represents one more proof that we have, in our Dominion, a complete microcosm, a pocket world, and that in it we enjoy a peerless sample of every scenic wonder that the whole world has to offer. This priceless possession is treated as an everyday matter and a commonplace of existence by New Zealanders, and the following article is by way of explanation. I have often felt, faced by the phlegmatic acceptance by our countrymen of their God-given privilege of living in this wonderland of ours, that I would like to move mountains. It was splendid, therefore, to find that Mount Egmont agreed with me.
I was returning from New Plymouth—that red-haired girl among the lovely places of our country. It was a bright clear morning, when the climate seemed to have been distilled from sunshine, the air was still, and every scene was lit with the glory of golden day. As the train rambled through Taranaki, the enormous white triangle of Mount Egmont dominated the scene. Occasionally, in the far distance, there would loom on the horizon, the snow-covered shapes of Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. But always eyes returned to the friendly nearness of the towering giant who watched our every mile. The glowing gardens of the railway stations were attractive enough, and here I must mention that miniature public garden that adorns the rail entrance and exit of Hawera. One traveller, seated by his carriage window, was an object of interest to me. He read a line on the prospects of the All Blacks, another on the trouble in Abyssinia, but regularly his gaze returned to that enormous, pure outline, standing in the sky in snowy perfection. His morning paper was not finished until we were well past Patea.
We wandered South, past the Fern Glen, through Waitotara, Westmere, and Wanganui. Then as we passed Fordell, the guard came to me and showed me the mountain again. It changed sides but was still the perfect cone, by now grown smaller but none the less lovely.
They have a joke in Taranaki that “when the mountain is clear, it is a sign of rain … when it cannot be seen, it is raining.” My experience is, however, that the whole district gets its full ration of fine days, blue skies, and heavenly calms.
Our visit to Taranaki began at Patea, a quaint, comfortable little port township, with the usual up-to-date set of amenities found in New Zealand towns (and nowhere else), good theatre, electric light, deep drainage system, water supply, two golf links, pretty parks, paved roads, and “so on and so forth.” All radio enthusiasts should live there as the reception is marvellous. Rome and Krasnoyarsk ring like 2YA.
Business Of Commercial New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand.
1. An evening load from Duncan & Davies. 2. A glimpse of the nurseries of Duncan & Davies. 3. A bedroom in a New Plymouth hotel. 4. The Opera House, showing Neon lighting. 5. Devon Street. 6. McLeod & Slade's Label-printing Machine. 7. The home of Green Band Beer.
Taranaki Province, when all is said and done, is an immense, straggling country town with New Plymouth as the apex. Miles of trim hedges of hawthorn and barberry, substantial houses every furlong or so, and knots of shops and an inn or two, furnish the scene. Its list of pretty, cosy, and comfort-filled towns is long. Hawera, Manaia, Kaponga, Eltham, Stratford and Inglewood vary in size, but vie with each other in their high standard of excellence in all the things that make life pleasurable. Perhaps, some day I shall be able to do them justice.
Stratford seems, somehow, to be most “under the mountain.” Its towering mass seems to stand over us as we walk the handsome main street. Sunset, from any of these parts, paints on that pyramid of alabaster, a changing panorama of magic. The most confirmed and cafe-weary city dweller would be changed into a nature lover if he lived within the aura of Mount Egmont.
And so we drift into New Plymouth. The train slips away from the mountain, darts through undulating greenness, vivid and shining, and we sight the sea. In a minute or two we are passing through the outskirts of this gracious little town, and, as Mr. Pepys used to say, “So to bed.” The great diarist would have been surprised at our hostelry, for it proved to be a modern city hotel which would not be out of place in Sydney, or Los Angeles.
New Plymouth is a city in miniature, with a soul of its own. It takes something from the men of Devon who made it. It is as sweet as the sea, undulating to hilly, and it has, naturally, a thousand vantage points, each of which has its own particular vista of striking beauty. Mount Egmont from here, is just near enough to be intimate, and just far enough to lend romance to the sight of it. Here it is not so much awe-inspiring as friendly and lovable. It casts a flawless reflection on various waters on fine days and one gets peeps of the shining silver-white cone at various street ends.
There are dozens of suburban streets that resemble paths in important Botanical Gardens. Of all the beautiful towns of New Zealand, I believe that, in this aspect of sheer beauty, New Plymouth easily leads. I make this statement with a sense of responsibility and with full knowledge of the bewildering loveliness of so many places that I have seen.
Going back to the tourist routine, I find that the main street of New Plymouth is Devon Street. It is a credit to a town of nearly twenty thousand souls, and somehow fits in with the personality of the place. It is an undulating thoroughfare, lined with splendid buildings, thronged with electric trams, countless motor cars, and busy shoppers. The lighting is excellent, but I miss the comfortable reds and blues of the Neon signs which are not so plentiful here as in many towns. There is the usual air of a New Zealand provincial capital, making it seem likely that one is in a progressive city of five times the accredited population. It has many industries, some of them of widespread import. For instance, you seldom buy a pot of pickles or jam unless it has a New Plymouth made label aboard. I was amused to see the white top of Mount Egmont on a bottle of beer and was informed that the green band round the mountain now adorned a better brew. On my return from one charming excursion I confirmed this local statement of fact.
But the parks of New Plymouth … they are “for to rave” as a French acquaintance of mine once propounded.
Pukekura Park is famous and is a fairyland of green foliage and silver lakes. It has at its front door a perfect natural amphitheatre of Grecian beauty. Huge tree ferns and other lacy natives give a subtropical effect and the fernery, with its botanical curiosities, is worth a long journey to see. Someone with perfect taste built small bridges over the lake intersections from where one gets a glimpse of the glistening summit of Mount Egmont. Through a choice of stately promenade paths we reached the race-course with handsome appointments, and a track of peerless turf, level and well shaped.
A smaller gem is Kawaroa Park. This is along the water front, about five minutes from the railway station, and, with characteristic care, it is planted with the New Zealand flowering shrubs that love the seashore. Then there are Marsland Hill Domain and Western Park, both with unique vistas of startling beauty and romantic distance.page 15
The beaches are marvellous, three good ones with level sand, well-built pavilions, and there are hot salt water baths for good measure. There are several handy golf links, and bowling, tennis, croquet greens are here in plenty. But, outside New Plymouth town boundaries and within easy reach, is a paradise teeming with good things. Beauty spots abound and are found every mile or two. They are jewels even in this land of wonders. The Rotokare Reserve, the Meeting of the Waters, Lake Mangamahoe, and the Huatoki Domain are only a few of them, and volumes would be needed to describe their individual loveliness. All of them only involve a question of minutes to reach.
Most important of all, however, is the fact that you can run out to the imposing hostel on the northern slopes of Mount Egmont after breakfast and be back for lunch. It is over three thousand feet up, and is a modern hotel. It was built by the citizens of New Plymouth, one of its cheerful promoters telling me, “We told them they probably wouldn't get any dividends and certainly might never get their capital back … and we've lived up to every promise the prospectus made.”
My English companion said to me: “What is the matter with you people? Any other country owning Mount Egmont would have paid off the National Debt with it by now.”
Here is, if the owners of its rival are to be believed, the most perfect mountain of the world. Its base is a luxury of superb forest, exquisite waterfalls, and a universe of natural wonders.
Access to it is by a journey of minutes from a comfortable little city, or from a half-dozen nice country towns. It is a realm of nature magic, and I do not care if I am becoming monotonous, we want to tell the world these things!
We show in our pictures the well known aerodrome. New Plymouth is the nearest land point to Australia, and Mount Egmont is visible before any part of the coastline is sighted. The townsfolk are alive to the importance of this development and the “Drome” is a hive of activity. There is another thing you must know. New Plymouth has “struck oil.” They make no fuss about it, but the local demand for oil, petrol and kerosene is largely met from their own never failing, steady flowing bores.
All this has come about through the work of men. New Plymouth is a human achievement, and a peep into its history will give an explanation. I have pointed out, over and over again, that New Zealand is unique in all colonisation experiments in that its pioneers were specially selected folk. People came here of their own free will and only after careful scrutiny as to their character, their suitability, and their physical, mental and spiritual equipment. This applies with peculiar force to New Plymouth. The first two thousand settlers were so rigorously hand-picked by the Plymouth Company, that crime was unknown for a generation or so in the province. Of course, this may also derive from the fact that no bad men ever grew in Devon, Hants, Cornwall and Dorset, from whence they came. I like to think that, somehow, these Western Counties men were in some miraculous way, just fitted with the part of New Zealand most suited to them, just as the Scotch were with Dunedin, and the Anglican community with the level sweetness of Canterbury.
New Plymouth, therefore, is just the dream of these early brave spirits, a dream realised. It is a place built by chosen men of British ancestry who benefited by a sunnier clime, richer soil and the larger opportunity of their new land.page 16