Stage two of the Craigieburn heritage preservation project was started in earnest today as the preliminary clearance of the former cow byre was completed. The Society utilised the proven skills of Grant Webber from John Clearwater Contracting to use a rubber track digger and carefully remove the thick layer of soil and grass from the byre area. With a lot of patience and under the watchful eyes of Project Manager Paul Pope and archaeologist Dr Jill Hamel, Grant scraped off 100 years of dirt to reveal the stunning stone foundation. The complexity and scale of the site has finally been revealed and what an exciting find they are. The considerable and beautiful cobblestones that make up the site can now be fully seen, along with previously unseen drainage and a stabling area for working horses. It is thought that the building was demolished in the 1980’s and the remains of that demolition were burnt in three rubbish fires found on site today. Under a heavy cover of soil and grass, today’s excavation revealed the remnants of tools, saddlery, household effects and other objects that were an everyday part of colonial and early twentieth century subsistence farming. All of the objects were carefully listed and will now be examined and catalogued for future analysis in telling the story of early life at Craigieburn. The completed excavation will also allow stone mason Stuart Griffith to begin work repairing the stone walls that make up the foundation of the byre. This will allow the site to be safe for visitors and will allow people to enjoy the breathtaking views of Ross Creek and the wider city from the area.
The preservation work on the small ruin adjacent to the public track to Ross Creek is now finished with the completion of the stone work and stabilisation of the structure. There is a noticeable increase in the “robustness” of the ruin now and it should now remain as an important heritage feature for a further 150 years. When one looks at the stone and clay work undertaken in the repair, there is a glimpse into the way the building would have looked when it was built. There are some minor archaeological investigations still to be completed on the eastern side of the structure, and the laying of some gravel to dry out the walking surface for visitors, but the ruin itself is now in its preserved state. To give some idea of the detail of the restoration, the numbered stones shown in the picture have been placed back into their original context. Another feature of the stonework are the building stones that have clearly been used by the settlers for sharpening knives or other tools.
The preservation of Dunedin’s colonial heritage is extremely important for the future of our city and the Society should feel justifiably proud of this first step at Craigieburn. However, like all projects there is still much to do and project manager Paul Pope will now focus on the stone wall and cow byre in the central paddock with archaeologist Dr Jill Hamel and stonemason Stuart Griffiths. These two structures create quite different challenges in their preservation but will offer equally rewarding results and will provide even further insight into the colonial life of some of Dunedin’s early Scottish settlers.
The Dunedin Amenities Society have a long association with the City’s coastline and in particular Ocean Beach Domain. The long running issue at John Wilson Drive has been one that the Society have commented on regularly and will keep a watching brief as the City goes into Annual Plan mode. It has always been the Society’s position that the Drive should remain closed to vehicles and that the present placement of barriers on the Drive represents the best compromise between recreational and vehicular interests. Part of that reasoning has been around the need to protect the coastal defences found in sand dunes in order to ultimately protect the city from inundation and flooding by the sea. What is perturbing about the Drive issue is the willingness of the City Council to spend a significant sum of money ($400,000 at last count) in order to rectify the traffic and vehicle access issues. The Society believe that at a fraction of the cost there is a far better alternative that would create a more sustainable environmental and economic gain for the city. This could be achieved by the wider linkage of our coastal areas and the need to create coherent recreational assets that meet the demands of our community and visitors. With this in mind the Society sees a very real opportunity brought about by the changes in vehicular access at John Wilson Drive to link the coastal reserves with the Otago Peninsula and create a new recreational gateway to the area. Physically, the walkway option is almost entirely in place, but lacks any investment in promotion and interpretation for visitors and locals alike. Our coastal areas have a rich ecological, social, cultural and historic story that we should be sharing with a much broader audience. The Society’s walkway proposal needs some refinement and further thoughts on its implementation, but it offers much better sustainable value to our City than barrier arms and traffic calming measures.
The restoration of the old ruin at Craigieburn is moving into its third stage as the final pieces of the archaeological jigsaw are moved into place. The little ruin has always been puzzling, was it the settlers original dwelling or did the building have another purpose? With the removal of the large tree in the north-west corner excavation has been able to be undertaken to look for the foundations of the original front wall and doorway. However, those excavations have found that there was not likely to have been a front wall of the building. This makes it likely that the structure was an early agricultural building used for storing animals. Further excavation is required to look for the post holes that would have supported the roof, and this will give more information on the type of building and its use. Stone mason Stuart Griffiths has made good progress readying the ruin for restoration, and people walking past will be curious as to what the duckboards and excavated clay pit opposite the ruin are used for. The walls are photographed and the individual stones mapped and numbered.The walls are then carefully disassembled and rebuilt with the new clay mortar.The clay is used to bind the stone once it is repositioned like the original building method. Visitors might also wonder why stones have been given little painted dots. This is to allow the restoration team to recognise which part of the building any loose stones would have come from on the ruin so they can be replaced in their correct position. It’s rather painstaking work, but with a little patience and careful planning we should be able to preserve the ruin for the future. Once the planned interpretation information is created on-site visitors will have an insight into Dunedin’s early colonial agricultural development. Let’s just hope that the weather improves, wet clay needs some warmth and dry conditions in order for it to set the stone in place.