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Abingdon School–20 August 2015

August 21, 2015

Abingdon School in Oxfordshire, England, is one of England’s oldest schools, dating back to 1256.  It has a strong commitment to academic achievement, extracurricular activities and community service.

Every two years, the senior rugby team makes an overseas trip to learn about other parts of the world and also to play rugby. This year the team is visiting Australia and New Zealand and in addition to their busy schedule of rugby, sightseeing and learning, they also wanted to spend a day doing some community service and they chose CUE Haven as the venue.

The group of 45 students arrived shortly after nine thirty and included team members Adam, Andrew, Charlie, Christian, Conor, David, Dom, Ed A., Ed H., Ed W., Elliot, Finn, George B., George R., George S., Hamish, Harry, Henry, Jack H., Jack L., James B., James K., James R., Jamie, Jasper, Joe B., Joe M., John, Lewis, Luke, Max, Oscar, Patrick, Rhys, Rory, Sam, Stuart, Toby, Tom B., Tom C., Tom F., Tom G., Tom H., Tom W., and Will , and Abingdon School staff Andrew Broadbent, Ed Swanwick, Neil Hunter, Peter Coke, Pippa Bassett and Raj Ghosh.

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Abingdon School has a long tradition of involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards programme. CUE Haven too has a special relationship with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Awards (DoEHA) program and hosts the gold award residentials.  Kathryn Wood of Auckland Challenge Inc., who runs the DoEHA Open Award Centre in Auckland and her grandson, Alex also spent the day with us.

We started off with morning tea, a welcome and an overview of the CUE Haven project.  Because we have finished our planting for the season, we asked the boys to do the all-important task of marking each newly planted tree with a bamboo stake.  We explained the planting process and why the stakes are necessary.

Because the CUE Haven restoration project involves converting an old dairy farm back into native New Zealand forest, we are planting pioneer trees into open paddocks.  The paddocks are covered by rank kikuyu grass as we stopped grazing in 2009.  To prepare the site for planting, we spray and slash the kikuyu and plant into the thick dead grass.  By spring, however, the site will be covered with fast growing annual weeds and the stakes are a way for summer volunteers to find the trees and do weed releasing.  Without the stakes there is a risk that the small trees could be overwhelmed by weeds.

We explained the process for staking the plants and gave a safety briefing and then went to work.

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We first did the area near the wetlands.  It was steep and slippery but the guys managed to get all the stakes in very quickly.

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This area overlooked some of the sections we have planted in previous years and the boys could get an idea of how the spot they were working in will look in about five years.

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Even Rhys who is recovering from a leg injury helped out on the level areas.

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The boys quickly found that the stakes make great weapons!

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Once we’d finished the first area, we took a long walk via the gully walking track to the next planting area.  The group had a chance to explore some of the more mature bush on the property and also to see some work that other groups had done.

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This second work area was near the top of the property.  It was more level but took more time because it was more spread out.

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From this site the boys got a good view of the area where they’d worked below by the wetlands.

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Once we finished putting in all the stakes we continued with a tour of the property.

Several of the Abingdon School students are also doing their Duke of Edinburgh Awards.  We wanted to show the students more of the creative art work that the NZ DoEHA gold award residential students have created at CUE Haven.

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This included the old water tank which is now the DoEHA hut and the chess board constructed on the old water trough–along with the handcrafted chessmen.

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The students took the opportunity to have an intense chess game

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To celebrate their visit to New Zealand and CUE Haven, we gifted the team five golden totara trees.  The totara (Podicarpus totara) is a native New Zealand tree.  It was highly valued by the Maori for building waka (canoes) and for carving.  Totara can grow to 30 metres and live for hundreds of years.  The boys planted their totara along the road near the DoEHA Grove.

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Delwyn Dickey, senior reporter with the Rodney Times, came out to CUE Haven and interviewed several of the students and staff about their trip to New Zealand and their visit to the Kaipara.

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Once the planting was finished the team enjoyed a well-deserved hot BBQ lunch and took some time to relax and unwind.

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A great end to a very successful day. The team managed to stake over 9,000 trees in just a couple of hours! Excellent effort!

We’d like to thank Nick Ball of Top Match Tours for organising the Abingdon School visit and selecting CUE Haven as the site where the students would do their community work.

A big thank you to Merv and Glenise for the delicious morning tea and lunch and for helping to make the group welcome Kiwi style.

And many thanks to Kathrine Wood of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Awards programme in New Zealand and her grandson Alex for spending the day with us and helping to host the team and also helping out on the field.

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We want to thank the Abingdon school staff who worked hard alongside the students. We enjoyed meeting you all and appreciate your support. Thanks.

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And most of all we want to thank the Abingdon School rugby team.  We really appreciate your hard work and it was fun getting to know you and working with you.  You have made a long lasting contribution to the CUE Haven restoration project and the community.

The stakes you put in will make weed releasing around the trees easier and will ensure that the pioneer trees will grow well. These trees will form the initial canopy for the more long lived trees like the totaras that you planted. When the planting is finished we will be covenanting the property with the QEII Open Spaces Trust which will ensure that the trees will be protected into perpetuity, and we will be gifting the restored property to the community to enjoy as a native New Zealand nature reserve.  Your efforts and contribution today have helped with the creation of a wonderful native forest which the community will enjoy for generations. Thank you!!

We hope you have had a great visit and wish you much happiness and success in the future.  We hope that you will come back to New Zealand with your families to see more of the country and to visit CUE Haven.

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THANK YOU!!

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