Pottering around the Cheddar Valley Dairy Factory

By: Jill Malcolm


Pottering around the Cheddar Valley Dairy Factory Pottering around the Cheddar Valley Dairy Factory
Pottering around the Cheddar Valley Dairy Factory Pottering around the Cheddar Valley Dairy Factory
Pottering around the Cheddar Valley Dairy Factory Pottering around the Cheddar Valley Dairy Factory

About halfway between Ohope and Opotiki, following the inner lip of the Ohiwa Estuary, it’s easy to flash through Cheddar Valley without a second glance.

Lucky for me it was dusk and we tucked in for the night behind the 100-year-old Cheddar Valley Dairy Factory. Now the Cheddar Valley Pottery, the building’s owned by keen motorhomers, Margaret and Stuart Slade, who provide CSC parking spaces between the factory and their lovely orchard garden.

In the old factory, this talented couple have been making and selling ceramics and garden sculptures for the last 32 years. It has not only kept them in pocket but allowed them to travel, tramp and bike in the outdoors that they love. Stuart, a landscape painter, and Margaret, a potter, first met at Ardmore College. They married, had a family and worked as teachers until the family was grown. Then looked around for a place where they could make living from their own artwork.

They found it in Cheddar Valley, misnamed by nobody-knows-who because the factory only ever produced butter.

Through a narrow valley and slowly finding its way into the Ohiwa harbor, meanders the Nukuhou River, entangled along the way in and mangroves and saltmarshes. Dominated by raupo rushes and ribbonwood, these are some of the largest remnants of an ecosystem that was once extensive around New Zealand’s estuaries. Thanks to the efforts of the local Saltmarsh Care Group, predators have been made unwelcome. Now, some shy and rarely spotted New Zealanders (fernbird, banded rail, bittern, spotless crake) are beginning flourish.

The group has also built two kilometres of tracks and boardwalks along the swampland’s edges and planted native sedges to bolster habitat for spawning whitebait. Bill was keen to get underway and I only had time to canter along part of it, but I glimpsed a little fern bird flitting around in the reeds and overhead a harrier slid through the air on the lookout for an easy breakfast.

I’ll go back.

Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide. Read her 'Notes From The Road' in every issue!

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