A window into the long lost, densely forested lowlands of Manawatū has been opened by an author using antique glass plate negatives and new geocaching applications.

Pohangina author Catherine Knight's main focus is environmental history which led to her fourth book Wildbore: A photographic legacy.

Her first book published in 2014 was Ravaged Beauty: An environmental history of the Manawatū.

Knight's latest book explores the world of the Pohangina Valley of farmer Charles Wildbore through his photographs.


"Wildbore's remarkable photos captured the unprecedented environmental change that by the beginning of the 20th century had transformed a densely forested valley into farms and orderly settlements."

Knight said Wildbore's photographic legacy gives the reader an insight into the forests which have been almost entirely extinguished from the lowlands of the Manawatū region and throughout New Zealand.

The Tōtara Reserve in the valley was the last remaining stand of lowland forest in the Manawatū.

"More than that, it allows us to imagine a future where forests and wetlands are restored, to blend with landscapes of human endeavour."

Wildbore was self-taught and carried glass plate negatives which was the only method to record photographs in the 1890s early 20th century.

Mail delivery in the Pohangina Valley. Photo / Edward Wildbore
Mail delivery in the Pohangina Valley. Photo / Edward Wildbore

Knight said the clearing of the land opened up a grass seed industry in the valley. The seeds were sold to a Palmerston North wholesaler in a thriving industry.

To add to the interest, Knight was now a member of geocaching GPS orienteering.

The geocaching would lead people to 25 sites where the caches were hidden and there are more in the pipeline.


Each geocache would be supported by a narrative explaining the historical significance and other interesting features of the site.

The Wildbore-connected geocaches are published on the www.geocaching.com website.

Wildbore: A photographic legacy will be launched August 29 at the City Library, 5.45-7pm.

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