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1.St Thomas's Church, Woodbury.

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2. Eleanor Howard Tripp Memorial Library, Woodbury.

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3. Woodbury Graveyard.

54. Woodbury: As we drove towards Woodbury from Geraldine my attention was immediately drawn to a signpost pointing to the Woodbury Cemetery. It is a peaceful burying ground enclosed by giant fir trees, some of which resembled redwoods to my inexpert eye. It is a wonderful last resting place where local people can be remembered. One of the gravestones read 'Died doing what he loved best' and I could not guess what that might be, possibly skiiing or making love, but then in the top corner was the engraving of a car. It immediately made me think of an alternative inscription that may have been more apt since this was the last resting place of a young man but, on reflection, the thought was unkind since I did not know the circumstances that led to his death. It's just that too many Kiwis waste their young lives in that way, and sometimes take the lives of innocents along with them whether they be passengers, pedestrians or other road users. Another gravestone remembers their young son who 'Died in the mountains' but somehow a similar sentiment did not seem to apply and yet perhaps it should. But how could anyone living so close to the mountains resist their draw.

We drove a little further on and Woodbury turned out to be a much more substantial settlement than we had been used to lately. 'The great little rural school' was written on the Woodbury School sign and I'm sure that the words were true. At the main crossroads the Eleanor Howard Tripp Memorial Library stands, named after one of Woodbury's illustrious former residents. The library was open but there was no one present and, refreshingly, trust was clearly in play in Woodbury. One room consisted of a small library and the other had a wonderful collection of memorabilia relating to Woodbury. I learnt that the Woodbury township was first established in 1853 when two men named Muter and Francis took out a license to occupy parts of Raukapuka Station. The settlement was at that time known as Waihi Bush and it was not until 1879 that it was renamed Woodbury. Woodbury is certainly a well ordered and affluent community and a feeling was gained that the Tripp family held some sway over it, just like the country squire holds over certain English villages, even to this day.

We left the crossroads in search of the church and on turning a corner I was transported thousands of kilometres back to the heart of England, for there in front of me was a typical English country church, St Thomas's. We returned to the crossroads since the church was locked and true believers would therefore just have to be patient. Opposite the library was a building that clearly used to be a shop of some kind and for some reason it looked familiar. I looked again at the library and then at the shop and I knew for sure where I had seen them both before. It was when I was undertaking research in England using the internet and the photographic image that I had seen of Woodbury made me wonder what the impressive memorial was that stood in front of what I now knew to be the library. But somehow the internet images that I had seen seemed cold and sterile compared to the actuality of being in the place, hearing the sounds, feeling the breeze, and inhaling the soft scents on the wind.

 

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