Celebrating a decade of Bush Walk & Talk

29th June 2014 | Nicky Davis

Margi Keys’ speech to her fellow walkers on 28 June 2014 – Sylvan Park, Milford.

Photo: Philip Moll


Thank you for joining me today, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Bush Walk & Talk.

In February 2004, when I did my first walk with a group of migrant women through Kauri Glen Reserve, (using the name Off the Beaten Track) under the auspices of the now disestablished Northcote College Community Education department, I had no idea that my programme would capture the attention of so many North Shore residents like you (and even a few from the other side too).

My mother died in April that year; my grief was eased by making a plan to interest a wider market after wannabe BWTers asked for walks. OtBT segued into BWT, with six women and two men participating in our very first trip, on 31st July, again in Kauri Glen Reserve. They had a good time and some of them kept on coming back for more.

To date, 483 guided walks have taken place, including today’s walk, mostly in North Shore’s fabulous bush reserves, and a few further afield (eg on my annual summer programme).

At the peak in 2007 (the good old days) 89 walks went ahead, thanks to Glenfield, Long Bay, Rangitoto and Northcote community education providers. These days it’s about 20 a year.

A few walks have taken place outside of community education (which ran between 2004 and 2009) and Kaipatiki Project, the current provider. Groups like Forest & Bird, Kiwi Conservation Club (the children’s arm of F&B), Sweet Louise (for women with cancer), Thumbs Up Adventure Club, East Coast Bays Community Project and the Auckland Garden Design Association, as well as the Blind Foundation who found me a few months ago.

The tally of enrolments has reached 1422, as of today. Dozens of people have enrolled several times, thus improving their chances of learning to identify the plants and birds. Thank you for your perseverance and your enthusiasm for plant identification. Without you, the programme would not have been sustainable. It has been such a lot of fun

There are quite a few significant people to thank:

  • Philip Moll, who first came on BWT in 2008, and came back for more, taking photos every time and generously sharing them. He went on to join F&B and publish New Zealand North Shore Bush (in good book shops and Auckland Libraries); Philip is now on F&B’s North Shore branch committee like me.
  • Judie Sinclair who was on the first BWT in 2004 and continued her involvement the next year. She started up her own walking group which ran between terms. Judie put together a desk calendar each year, with photos she had taken on BWT.
  • Richard Hursthouse, Chair of F&B NS, for his endorsement of BWT. ‘A great and enduring thing… literally walking the talk.’
  • Alan Emmerson, past Chair of F&B NS, who has taught me about birds and everything I know about moths.
  • Mike Wilcox and Auckland Botanical Society for putting a reference to BWT in the amazing book Auckland’s Remarkable Urban Forest. I have learned so much about native plant identification since joining ABS in 2007.
  • Mary Hancock who joined BWT last year, and who has gone on to being an active member of F&B. She is part of the Tuff Crater Saturday weeding team.
  • Hamish Hopkinson, manager of Kaipatiki Project who agreed to take BWT under its wing after the disastrous cutting of comm ed funds from 2010.
  • My brothers, for their support and encouragement.
  • My daughter Dana, for her expertise in marketing and public relations.
  • Dana’s partner Piers who designed the Discovery Walks logo.
  • All BWT participants who have come back again and again to further your knowledge and deepen your appreciation of our fabulous bush reserves right on our doorstep. Thanks for spreading the word about the programme, and the fun you’ve had.
  • My close friends who have loved and supported me in so many ways over the last ten years. How I needed that support when the going got tough. Angels, really.

The team at KP have assisted me in improving BWT over the last four years. I am very grateful to Lisa and Lesley for the work they have done to date. Under the burgeoning success of this vital community organisation, BWT continues with a thematic approach and is now subsidised. We have also returned to the format of three walks per series, just like it was right at the outset, except then it was just four terms and now it’s seven months a year.

The other aspect of BWT, which I think is truly wonderful, is the friendships that have flourished as a result. Again, I had no idea that such BWT would become an avenue for so much social interaction. Friendships with common interests are enriching and sustaining.

Moreover, some participants have gone on to study ecology at uni, plant trees, undertake other courses at KP, buy or borrow relevant books in order to follow up at home, and attend local F&B branch meetings (another way of increasing your knowledge of our natural world and the environmental issues we face). Some of you have become Fb friends. If you are on Fb, do check the BWT page sometimes. Send me photos that can be uploaded, if you like.

People tell me BWT has made a difference to their wellbeing. This is a wonderful thing. To have a reason to get up in the morning is so important. Saturdays and Sundays when BWT is on: get up and get cracking, seize the day.

Do tell your friends, family and associates about BWT. If we are to really appreciate our natural heritage, spreading the word and protecting it, is essential to our wellbeing. I appreciate your enthusiasm for nature. Long may it continue!

Highlights of BWT:

  • Tiritiri Matangi with Nola Ovens in the pouring rain, with bellbirds going crazy
  • Kauri Glen Reserve in the pouring rain, and one participant declared “This is the most fun I’ve ever had in the rain.”
  • Being a volunteer guide on Tiri (2009-10).
  • Philip’s fabulous photos.
  • An 89-year-old woman joining us in Kauri Point Centennial Park. I thought she was only in her 60s.
  • Glenfield College taking BWT on in 2005. Agreeing to offer 4 walks per term in 2006.
  • Rangitoto College taking on BWT with 6 walks on Monday evenings in late 2005.
  • A Lifeline fundraiser in October 2006.
  • Smiths Bush in a strong westerly; the kahikatea crashing and banging. The eastern rosellas going crazy.
  • Suffrage Day BWT in Fernglen, 2007.
  • First time in Torbay Heights Reserve, with the glorious Metrosideros fulgens in full flower
  • Quizzes on BWT.
  • Strong men pulling out or sawing down privet on an F&B bush walk.
  • Taking the Blind Foundation for a touchy feely walk in Smiths Bush this year.
  • The sight and/or sound of kereru, silvereyes, fantails and tui in the bush.
  • A ruru in Awaruku Reserve.
  • The sound of the riroriro almost every time.
  • White-faced herons flying to their nests up in the gum trees, in Oakley Creek.
  • Fabulous flowers and colourful fruit
  • Amazingly colourful fungi
  • Bush bashing through Arundo donax in Pompallier Res on March 1 this year.
  • Walks with waterfalls after rain


Kaipatiki Project is able to operate due to the generosity of our funders and supporters

Foundation North Ministry for the Environment Kaipatiki Local Board Ubiquity Environment Hubs Aotearoa