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Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Residential—16–20 January 2017

January 22, 2017

This week we celebrated a milestone at CUE Haven as we hosted the twentieth DoEHA Gold Award residential.  Since 2013, groups of gold award participants have spent a week working on walking tracks, planting, maintenance and art work.

The group arrived on Monday morning and included Amber, Anthony, Ari, Daniel, Holly, Janessa, Jeremy, Kevin, Lucy and Zoe.  Juancho, who had been a participant in the October, 2016 residential, was the team leader.  We were also happy to find out that older siblings of three of the participants had done their Gold Award residentials at CUE Haven.


Andy Woodhouse, DoEHA Director of Training and Development also joined us for several days during the week.

We got acquainted over morning tea.  Mahrukh then gave a welcome and history of the CUE Haven project and Thomas gave a safety briefing and an overview of activities planned for the week.


Summer is maintenance season at CUE Haven, so the work plan for the week focused on weeding and track maintenance. However the team also worked on other projects.

Track Clearing

The good news is that the trees we’ve planted are growing well.  But that means that they are also growing over the roads and walking tracks.


To improve the safety and ease of use of the roads and tracks, we asked the group to trim back the vegetation overhanging the tracks to give visitors easy access.  Over the course of the week all of the participants worked on different parts of the track.









Walking Track Improvements

The walking tracks need regular maintenance, especially after winter when we learn how water flows and ground movement may affect the track surface.  We identified a number of areas where steps on the track were subject to erosion or where ground movement had affected the alignment of the steps and asked the group to fix the issues.

This kind of track maintenance can be challenging because no two situations are the same and each step and section of track has to be studied and evaluated to determine the best solution.


Very often, part of the solution involves building a side wall on the step to box it in and prevent soil from falling onto the step or washing away in heavy weather.

This involves first digging out the side of the step.



Once the digging is finished, accurate measurements can be made and the timber is cut to size.



The side boards are then fitted into place and secured with nails and pegs.









Step Widening

Some of the steps on the older parts of the walking track were made 500mm wide instead of 1000mm which is our current standard.  In order to make all of the track sections uniform, we have been widening existing steps.  To conserve timber, rather than removing the existing step timber, we have chosen to add side pieces to each step.

The job is a little like putting together a puzzle, because each step extension is a little different.  The first job is cleaning up each step and digging out the area to be enlarged.





Although 500mm of new timber is being added to each step, in order to maintain proper alignment of the steps, it is necessary to measure each one and cut the new side pieces to shape.  The measurements of each new board were recorded and we then cut the timber.



We took the new boards back up to the track and installed each one.



Each new board was pegged and nailed in place and the result is almost a brand new set of steps which will make walking on them easier!



Weta Box Platform

Just down the track from the DoEHA hut, wishing well and chessboard, we installed a weta hotel on an old fencepost.  The hotel almost always has a group of wetas that visitors can take a look at.

The access to the fence post however can be difficult, especially in bad weather.  Visitors had to walk down a slippery slope and avoid some vegetation.


We asked a team to come up with a solution that would protect the wetas and provide a safe access for visitors. After some discussion they decided to move the weta hotel—post and all—to a more central place but still out of the way of the track and build a small platform where visitors could inspect the wetas.


This involved digging a new hole for the fence post.


We decided to build the platform out of an old shipping pallet which would be planked over.  Part of the team stayed on site to clear the area and dig out a step down from the track to the platform while others went down to prepare the pallet and cut the timber for the top boards.


They then carried the materials back to the site.


Throughout the process, we kept checking to make sure the resident wetas were happy


Once the post was moved to the new location, the step and platform were then installed.




And the top planks were nailed in place.



The result is a great improvement.  We hope to have some educational signs about wetas installed nearby in the future.


Mosaic Landscaping

During the earlier gold award residentials, participants had created a large mosaic of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary award logo at one entrance to the DoEHA Grove.  Subsequent teams have improved the area with benches and landscaping but a lot of weeds had grown up.  Lucy and Zoe took on the task of clearing the weeds.


It was an exhausting job!


But the results are well worth it.



Because the walk up to the top of the property can be quite steep in places, we have been installing benches along the way for visitors to rest and enjoy the scenery.  We told the group that if we had time we might build a bench this week.

They came up with a nice design for a bench with a back rest and measured out the timber they would need to build the bench.  Andy trained and supervised them as they cut out the wood.


They then assembled the bench.



While Holly and Janessa continued with the assembly, Amber tackled the project to carve the DoEHA logo onto the front of the back rest of the bench.



And they all carved their names on the back.


And then installed the back to complete the bench.


The next day was very wet and we couldn’t install the bench or work outside so the team decided to build another bench!   This one was simpler and didn’t involve any carving work.



On Friday, the entire group helped install the benches in the field.  First we used the girl power to load the benches into the ute.



We then carried the benches to the sites we’d chosen for them and installed them.




The benches are a great addition to the track and will be enjoyed (and appreciated) by visitors to CUE Haven.



Chessboard Painting

Earlier teams had built a large chessboard, complete with chess pieces and checkers up behind the DoEHA hut.  The chessboard was made of concrete and the black squares were made by embossing a design in the wet concrete.  Over the years because of the weather, the pattern was getting worn away and we decided to paint he squares so that they would show up better.

Amber took on the task, working on her own so she could concentrate on getting it just right.


And the result is amazing!



Rainy Day Tasks

Even in winter, it has been very rare for residentials to be interrupted by bad weather but on Thursday there was a huge storm that badly affected the southern part of the country and dropped a lot of rain on us.

It was too wet to spend much time in the field so we did a lot of small jobs in the house and nursery.

We park the ute next to the nursery and there is a shade cloth over the area.  Over the years because of wind, the shade cloth as rubbed on the supporting post.  The team fixed up the holes as best as they could using Ari’s very creative sewing and installed some shielding over the rough spots on the posts to prevent further wear.





When CUE Haven was a farm, the nursery was the milking shed and the area outside what is now the store room was a water trough.  The ceiling is very low in that area and people over six feet tall often bop their heads.  Because we can’t lift the roof any further, we decided to cushion the area.

The creative team spent some time deciding the best approach and then cut a notch out in a foam swimming pool noodle so that it could be hooked to the overhang.




Once it was attached, they tested to see how well it did the job!


Another task involved fixing two of the DOC 200 traps we use for pest control.  One had a broken base board and another lost a top.  We cut new boards out of plywood and installed them and the traps are now good as new.




We really appreciate the creativity and enthusiasm the participants brought to these miscellaneous and unplanned tasks and appreciate their patience in dealing with the weather.

It was an amazingly productive week and we really enjoyed working with this group.   In addition to their hard work they also spent a lot of time getting to know each other, exploring the property and relaxing.  Jeremy amazed everyone by quickly solving our locked cross puzzle which has been challenging numerous people for a long time.


And Ari spent some spare time designing a prototype for a sun dial that we might build in full size and install in the field someday.


We’d like to thank Andy Woodhouse for taking time out of his busy schedule to assist with the residential and make it a fun and productive week.  Andy, we really appreciate your hard work and help this week and your continued support of our efforts at CUE Haven.

And many thanks to Juancho for serving as team leader and making a major contribution to the success of the residential week.


And of course, a huge THANK YOU to all the hard-working participants.  We really enjoyed meeting you and working with you.  We were very impressed with your enthusiasm, motivation and hard work and we hope you enjoyed the week as much as we did.  You have all made a major contribution and your efforts will be appreciated by the many visitors and volunteers at CUE Haven over the years.


We wish you the best of luck with completing your gold awards and all the best in all your future endeavours and we hope you will come back to see us again with your family and friends and to serve as team leaders.

Many Thanks again!!


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Amber permalink
    January 22, 2017 6:43 pm

    This was honestly one of the best – if not THE best – camp I’ve ever been on; thank you so much!

    • January 22, 2017 7:29 pm

      Thanks Amber! We appreciate all your hard work and are glad you had a good time. We look forward to having you back as a team leader.

  2. January 22, 2017 10:30 am

    We are in a good space when we have youngsters of this calibre in our land

    • January 22, 2017 7:28 pm

      You’re right! It’s a real pleasure working with them.

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