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Things to do in Whanganui with kids: Cameron Blockhouse

I grew up in a house filled with history buffs.  If there was a museum to go to, we’d be there.  “Look kids, a historical marker!  Let’s check it out.”

All of this naturally rubbed off on me, and I am an unabashed history nerd.  So it was with some sense of shame that I confessed to a friend the other day that I had never visited a particular historical site that is just outside Whanganui: Cameron Blockhouse.

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I’d driven past that beguiling historical marker many, many times, but was always in too much of a rush to stop.

Today the weather was nice, and I was looking for somewhere reasonably contained to let Chip loose.  At almost 20 months, his favourite activity is to run like the wind whilst calling out ‘Running! Running!’, hence the need for containment.  I figured Cameron Blockhouse might be a goer, and I was right.

Cameron Blockhouse is situated just off the main highway south out of Whanganui (State Highway 3), just past Kaitoke.  It’s about a 5 minute drive out of town, and is well sign-posted.  (The entrance is just past a corner, so take care as you leave the place.)

Cameron Blockhouse is situated on working farm land (there are two farmhouses nearby), so a) big ups to the kind people for letting the public on their land, and b) please be respectful of this fact when you visit.

As it turned out, the farm equipment alone was enough to enthral my machinery-obsessed son.  Because there wasn’t just a tractor, there was a TRACTOR:

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ain’t she pretty?

Just for scale, here’s one with my tractor-loving toddler:

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It was an auspicious beginning to a good outing.

Cameron Blockhouse hails from a fascinating and often shameful era in New Zealand’s history, the New Zealand Wars, which happened over 1845-1872.  The timber blockhouse is one of the few surviving examples of a privately-built redoubt from this time.  Built in 1868, it was constructed to protect the Cameron family, from the growing threat of Maori Chief Riwha Titokowaru and his army.

The blockhouse was designed to withstand a 24-hour siege and was situated so that signals could be passed onto other blockhouses on the way to Whanganui, alerting the British troops that were garrisoned there.  The house is made of totara, and the walls were stuffed with clay to make them bullet-proof.

The house is still in remarkably good shape.

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One of the three rooms in the blockhouse

On the inside, the blockhouse has three rooms, and a loft, so you can imagine that it could have protected quite a number of people.  Musket holes are situated along every wall:

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Fortunately for the Cameron family, the threat of an angry army never eventuated so the blockhouse was never used for its original purpose.

If you like history, and have time to spare, Cameron Blockhouse is definitely worth a look.  Historical information is displayed throughout the blockhouse, and the design alone is enough to interest military buffs (like me!).  I think most children would find the blockhouse interesting – especially those musket holes.

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And if that’s not enough, is this view enticing enough for you?

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Farm valley view from the blockhouse

Free, informative fun.  What could be better?