Obviously, the most important thing at Western Springs today is the parkrun, but the area has long been considered valuable for a variety of reasons. Te Wai Orea, as it was known to the Maori, valued it both for the clean, clear water and for the eels that call this home. Indeed, that original name translates to “The water of the Eels”. Even today eels can be seen easily from our 5km course and both the Long-finned and the more common Short-finned species can be found here, though it’s probably better to look for them before or after the run rather than risk being distracted and getting the underwater view during the event!
Other wildlife is more obvious from the sorts of glances possible while parkrunning. Today I noted lots of Mallard and a few Black Swans (both with small chicks), also Paradise Shelduck, Coot, New Zealand Dabchick and 5 Royal Spoonbills on the lake. Around the edge were Red-billed and Black-backed Gulls, Pigeons, Welcome Swallows, House Sparrows and Mynas, quite the variety.
The lake which forms the centrepiece of our 5km dates back to 1875. The Auckland Council bought the land from William Motion who had a farming and milling operation on the site, and built it to store water from the springs for the fast-growing city. The name Western Springs differentiated it from the springs in Auckland domain. Its useful life for that purpose was fairly short-lived, and by the end of the 19th century as Auckland developed water catchment schemes in the Waitakeres, Western Springs fell into disuse and disrepair.
The land was largely boggy and mostly unsuitable for building houses, and for a few decades it appears it was mainly used for the illegal dumping of rubbish. The rejuvenation began with the zoo starting up in the 1920’s, and in the 1960’s the formation of the park we know today really got underway. The restoration of the lake and the original pumphouse, plantings, the development of tracks and paths, and the creation of a Japanese Garden have been, and still are, on-going since that time.
So that is how the parkrun course came about and why 153 people, plus a few dogs, were able to enjoy the 254th edition of Western Springs parkrun here on a beautiful, sunny morning to herald the start of May.
Among the field, there are, as always, some who deserve special mention. Firstly a big, big welcome to Memphis Chalmers, Matt Stewart, Natalie Tuck, Liz Rowe, Katya Sukhova and Rachel Harriss who all completed their 1st ever parkrun anywhere today. Hope you all had a great experience and look forward to seeing you at parkrun again, either here or elsewhere. On top of those 6 were another 14 people who scanned their barcodes for the first time at Western Springs this morning. These included both Julian Ng and Ben Chidgey who, in 17.55 and 18.21 respectively, were the first two home today. Well done and welcome one and all. Welcome too to the visitors we had join us from other parts of NZ, and especially to those from Melbourne and Brisbane. The international element of parkrun has been sadly lacking for a while now, so with the tentative steps of quarantine free trans-Tasman travel beginning, it was great to see it starting again.
Of returning runners, an amazing 33 managed to set new PB’s, including Pip Meo who led the ladies home this morning in 18.57. Again, well done all. Luke Pollock and Karen Andrews reached their “50 parkruns” milestones this morning, so well done to you two also.
As always, the loudest and longest applause goes to RD of the day, Michael Jenkinson and his team of hi-vis heroes. Remember, without these fine folk our favourite, free, weekly, timed 5km can’t happen, but here’s the best thing about the volunteer team; it’s really easy to join and share in the appreciation and gratitude bestowed upon them by those who just run or walk! As Michael mentioned in his briefing there are plenty of gaps on the roster for May, full training (fully transferable to around 2,000 events worldwide post-Covid) will be provided and there really jobs for everyone. So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch with the team, select the role you want and sign up now!
Thanks to everyone at Western Springs who made parkrunday morning what is was and to the Weta café at the zoo for offering a discount to parkrunners to help replace those calories burned.
Nigel Milius, Cooks Beach