Orton Bradley was a man of humble beginnings, the son of a minister turned farmer, who married his first cousin in an era when it wasn't so frowned up.
His legacy, 160 years after his birth, sits in pride of place in Charteris Bay, sprawling over 1800 acres. The huge farm is now a park and this summer is the first time in 160 years it is open for camping.
Orton Bradley Park technically began in 1852 when a local doctor bought 50 acres on Banks Peninsula, but later sold it, having found little success in farming.
In 1859 Reverend Reginald Bradley shirked city life in Papanui, slipping his robes and vows for farm clothes.
He took his wife (also his first cousin) Frances with him to the peninsula.
During the next 30 years he gathered up a large parcel of land, developing his dairy herd, butchery and produce sales. He and Frances were blessed with nine children.
Orton, the eldest, was the only child who was not deaf.
A governess was hired to teach sign language, and later went on to found van Asch Deaf Education Centre.
Orton devoted his life to technology and science and never married.
He and his siblings lived out their days on the farm.
These days, the park is open to the public and boasts 20 kilometres of walking tracks, an outdoor education centre and high ropes course, adventure playground, rhododendron garden and fernery.
Park manager Ian Luxton cares for the park with his young family. This summer is the first time it has been open to campers, following the installation of a sewerage system.
‘‘We’ve wanted camping for many years,’’ Mr Luxton said. ‘‘We’ve just been feeling our way, really.’’
The park remains in trust and is managed by a board, which must scrape together donations and grants to keep it functioning.
‘‘We spend a lot of time trying to make it financially sustainable,’’ he said. ‘‘We rely on funding left, right and centre.’’
The farm’s location (only 20 minutes from Christchurch) makes it ideal for family camping, and costs only $10 an adult and $5 a child per night.
‘‘The people we’ve had here have been loving it. It’s very special.’’
The campground opened on Boxing Day and will close on Waitangi Day.
Unlike a regular campground, the park hosts its own amazing facilities – beaches, walks and native bush and exploring opportunities are right outside the tent flap . T
he park also welcomes day trippers. A $10 fee per carload gives you free range of the park’s attractions.
The tent sites have access to a shower block, toilets and a communal kitchen.
For more info on the park and camping, check out www.ortonbradley.co.nz
- Fairfax Media