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50 years of camping at Morison’s Bush

Graham Leslie

A lot of families have a special place they go to camp year after year, ours is Morison’s Bush.

I think it was 1973 when I first went camping at Morison’s Bush, but I believe people were camping and picnicking there for many years before that. In some ways it is nothing special — just a grassy area under rugged old manuka trees in a big sweeping bend of the Ruamahanga River. It is between Greytown and Martinborough, at the very end of Glenmorven Road in the southern Wairarapa. But in other ways it is my family’s special happy place where we have camped together over the last 50 years. Mostly we’ve camped there for the long weekends in summer.



View of Morisons Bush from the road in.


1973 My sisters Rhonda and Fiona cooking.

1998 Bringing inner tubes to camp after blowing them up at a local garage.

1970 & 80s

In the 1970s we camped there as young teenagers with our parents. One time our father rigged a flying fox between the trees and set up a block and tackle swing to lift ourselves up into the trees to the flying fox.

In 1986 when we were grown up, didn’t have much money, and almost no camping gear, we returned to Morison’s Bush for the New Year break.

We brought our friends who at that time were solo mums with babies on their hips and a motley collection of other young adults. We arrived on several motor bikes, an almost-tidy Morris Minor and a very beat-up old Morris J4 van. Mrs Morison, the owner at the time, thought we looked a bit rough and warned us to behave. She didn’t realise it would be a very quiet camp with the need to get the babies to sleep and our relative poverty limiting our alcohol budget. We took the seats out of the vehicles to provide deck chairs.

left 1988 Our old van with improvised awning and friend’s motorbike, next to the little caravan that was then Mum & Dads and has now been passed down, via us, to our son.

right 1988 The old formica bench under the trees and the often explosive Anchor Kerosene pressure lantern in the near tree.

Later we scored an old Formica bench top we set up on trestles for food preparation. We generally cooked on a campfire. Our tents were small. Later, one of the girls made us a toilet tent to go over a hole we dug for a toilet.

Our favourite pastime was floating down the river on vehicle inner tubes. The best tyre was from a forestry log loader on which we could sit half a dozen people at a time.

My parents and sisters also joined our weekends away, although they often liked to camp a bit separate from us.

1990s

In the 1990s our children and their cousins were born and came to camp at Morison’s Bush as babies (our son was 5 days old for his first camp). With annual trips for Christmas, New Year, Anniversary and Waitangi weekends, Morison’s Bush became the place where we could reflect on how the kids had grown from last year. Slowly the camping gear increased with bits that were homemade or bought secondhand, and eventually caravans and campers were added to the mix. Being relatively close to Wellington, friends and their families often joined us for a day or days.

As our children grew older, they invited their friends and eventually set up their own parallel camps. It was great when the young people did their own catering and we, the older generation, enjoyed nice food and drink amongst ourselves.

1993 Our baby daughter’s bath on her first trip to Morisons Bush.

left 1995 Whanau set-up at camp.

1995 Christmas Day. above

left 1995 Collecting driftwood for the fire was part of the routine then. No fires are allowed now.



2000s

Now we are the grandparents, and we watch our grandchildren finding their feet at Morison’s Bush. The repeated visits over the years have marked the different stages of our lives. We have had multiple Christmases and birthdays and a wedding there. For us Morison’s Bush remains a special place and we hope to enjoy relaxing there for many more years.

The land now belongs to Brian Tucker and he has been a good host and charges a small fee for camping.


There is now a permanent fire ban, and unfortunately the Ruamahanga river is not so clean. A couple of long drop toilets have been installed. In the old days, almost everyone camped in tents but now there are more caravans and campers. You need to bring your own water and take away all rubbish. Pets are allowed but need to be kept under control.

2016 Still collecting firewood but the kids do the work. Still some green paint on the trailer.

2001 Christmas Dinner. above

2001 A hasty pack up as the river floods.

2007 A large dinning fly provides a good communal space. above

2011 Cards in the afternoon.above

2016 Our niece’s wedding group shot.

2023 All Points Club camp, Waitangi weekend: returning for Waitangi 2024. right

2023 Grandad tries to have an afternoon nap

All Points Camping is planning its second camp there from 2 to 6 February 2024 (p35); maybe I will see you there. n

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