by Roger Childs
… he was more interested in not making money, and he’s certainly been very successful at that. –Jan Wright on husband Wilf
End of an era
The death of potter, thinker and extrovert Wilf Wright at the age of 89 years and 364 days, closes a chapter on the history of the beautiful valley tucked inland from Waikanae. For over 50 years the name Reikorangi was synonymous with the Wrights’ pottery, café and farm located off to the left as you entered the Mangaone Valley.
Reikorangi is one of the most delightful spots on the Kapiti Coast and, has its own unique character. Over the years our family has driven, walked, run, ridden and orienteered in the sheltered valley which has beautiful scenery, varied terrain and a mix of farms, native bush and lifestyle blocks.
At the eastern end of Ngatiawa Road beneath Kapakapanui there is a “settlement” of perhaps 30 properties, often with superb gardens and a few farm animals. In this idyllic setting the residents enjoy a relaxed lifestyle just 5 – 10 km from Waikanae. Being away from the sea which moderates the climate of most of the Kapiti Coast, it is naturally cooler in winter and warmer in summer.
Reikorangi is also on the way to somewhere else. It depends on how you are moving.
- In a car you can head over the Akatarawa Road to the Hutt Valley and beyond to the Wairarapa. It is a challenging, windy drive which because of its narrow road width in many places, and is not for the faint-hearted. However, the bush is beautiful and there are magnificent views on the Waikanae side of the range. Furthermore, about 30-35 minutes’ drive from Waikanae is the popular Staglands Wildlife Reserve and Café which is well worth a visit.
- On a bike there are great rides into the Mangaone Valley and other cul de sacs, however many serious cyclists love the climb of many corners up the “Akas”, and some do the big loop via the Hutt Valley and the Paekakariki Hill training for events like the Round Taupo Cycle Challenge.
- If you are a tramper you can access the trek up the Kapakapanui peak – you have a choice of two climbs – and can head deeper into the Tararuas from the top if you wish.
- There are also plenty of enjoyable walks along the two major roads beyond the pottery, the best known being the Mangaone Track which goes through to North Mangaone Road and out to Te Horo. There are convenient carparks at each end.
- For runners the 8 km track, with its challenging terrain and delightful mix of bush and farmland, is a great experience. For some over the years, like myself, it has been part of a varied marathon training run, starting in Elizabeth St Waikanae going north to Te Horo, along the inland farm roads to the Mangaone Walkway and back to Waikanae.
The legendary Wrights
In the 1950s Wilf bought a 4.5 ha block off the main Reikorangi road beyond the Waikanae River bridge, and with wife Jan they developed the pottery. Behind the shady car park overshadowed by large macrocarpa trees, they built a kiln, opened a shop to sell their pots, established a café, planted trees and brought in a distinctive range of animals and birds. It quickly became a popular place for visitors and tourists to drink coffee, eat Jan’s delicious scones, buy a pot or two and enjoy the relaxed environment of the sheltered valley. And if you could track Wilf down he was always keen to chat.
Our kids used to love going there especially to see the farm animals and I recall one occasion when we took my mother-in-law along. We have a wonderful photo of her behind a passing peacock flaunting its full array of feathers and “stealing” the shot!
One memorable highlight of our visits to the Wrights was a superb, multi-course mid-year Christmas dinner set in the relaxing ambience of their distinctive home surrounded by pottery.
The Wrights closed the pottery and farm to the public last year. And now with Wilf gone Reikorangi has lost one of its great identities. However the valley retains its natural appeal and rural atmosphere, and is always worth a visit. Turn into Elizabeth Street over the railway line in Waikanae and head east towards the hills.