Ruahine Forest Park - September 2021
Colenso Hut lies in the headwaters of the Mangatera River, in the northwestern part of Ruahine Forest Park. The 8-bunk hut takes its name from pioneering Ruahine tramper William Colenso – even though the adventurous missionary never visited this particular spot during his eight crossings of the Ruahine Range during the 1840s and 1850s. Lake Colenso, known to Māori as Kokopunui, lies nearby.
Originally built by the New Zealand Forest Service, Colenso Hut has been expanded over the decades into a non-standard shape and size. While DOC have maintained it periodically, by 2021 it needed a serious makeover. Enter the picture the BCT’s dynamic and energetic Megan Dimozantos, who tells the story: ‘A few days before we went into Colenso Hut, I put out a last minute call, and these two stunning humans – Steve Wilman and Fi Burleigh – stuck their hands up to do some mahi aroha. Realistically, we could have used an extra person or two, so it took us five full days of hard graft.
We flew in on 21 September and got through a solid amount of work, including getting the roof off, the old fire out, and prepping and painting all the fascia boards so that the new barge flashings could be fitted on top. We worked on the foundations for the new woodshed and cleaned the spouting for re-use. With the roof off, it was pretty cold that night, but we used the underlay to protect us from the dew.
On day two, Steve and I affixed the new roof, and luckily managed to tack on the new flashings before rain arrived (phew!). Meanwhile Fi prepped the inside ready for painting.
Rain on our third day saw three outdoorsy people holed up inside trying to work around each other. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but there were no grumbles. I patched the hole in the wall while Steve framed up the ceiling. Fi finished the prep and applied the first coat of paint. Some old hardboard under the bunks was nicely re-purposed for lining the ceiling. Inspired by Cherry's idea at Te Ao Tūpare, we used some of the old roofing iron as the new backing for the fireplace, giving it a nice rustic touch. Rain eased enough for fixing the spouting brackets.
Day four proved massive. While Steve and I finishing the roof and flashings, Fi got another coat of paint on the inside and prepped the floor for varnishing. I cleared out the old, rat-infested woodbox and put together the kitset woodshed that I'd pre-cut off the plan and flown in (would you believe it, I even got all the measurements right!). Steve re-fitted the cleaned-up spouting and we even managed a sunset visit to Lake Colenso.
Day five was only marginally less busy. We completed the woodshed, and filled it with stuff salvaged from the old wood box, finished off some painting, cleaned the bog, put flashings on the woodshed, and varnished the freshly sanded floor.
By re-suing old materials for new purposes, we had satisfyingly little waste. I greatly appreciated Steve's knowledge of tools and top sense of humour and Fi's attention to detail (textbook paint job!).
Cheers also to Owen at Midwest Helicopters for the skilled flying, Dulux New Zealand for the paint, Roofing Industries Palmerston North for running our order a day earlier than I had originally asked, and Demelza Low and the crew at DOC Palmerston North for their co-operation.
Joe Eagles will soon install a new Wagner Cooktop, and hopefully before Christmas a team will be able to finish off the exterior painting.’