In this morning’s winter sunshine we walked along the bottom of the cliffs between Takapuna and Milford, part of Auckland’s North Shore Coastal Path. This must be one of the best short walks in New Zealand but, as the warning sign says, it “requires a reasonable level of fitness and is not suitable for prams”. It is not really a path at all, but involves stepping over mounds of black boulders and lava flow, the residue of long ago volcanic activity from what is now Lake Pupuke. In the middle there is a narrow concrete section with a steep drop on both sides. At low tide, the rock pools and golden bathing beaches are exposed. At high tide there is a risk of getting soaked by the waves crashing against the rocks. There is a spectacular view across the sea to the island of Rangitoto, another extinct volcano.
This walk holds many memories for us. Towards the Milford end we pass the house where Brian and his brother grew up. When his parents came to live there in the 1930s it was a modest weatherboard dwelling. There was no heating and the roof leaked, but having a beach outside the garden gate provided a wonderful outdoor environment for children. In the early 1980s, after Brian and I had met in England, we came out to spend holidays there. His mother looked after us beautifully and I remember idyllic hot summers when we went swimming every day and drank gin in the evenings. Now the house, no longer in the Barraclough family, has undergone a multi-million dollar conversion. The only reminder of Brian’s parents and brother, all now dead, is a plaque on the bench outside the fence.