By Tony Orman

… days unfold without structure, the choices to be made simply where to swim or walk, when to eat or drink, when to lie around or read … –Robbie Burton

The delights of the Nelson area

Tramper, mountaineer and conservationist Robbie Burton now loves nothing better than taking his family outdoors. Nelson is an ideal base to enjoy the outdoors with the regions climate and tramping opportunities in the nearby three national parks and other wilderness areas, the beaches and rivers.

With his youngsters accompanying him, Robbie is replicating his own childhood by taking the kids to the river to the same swimming holes his mother loved, or plodding up Mt Robert in the Nelson Lakes National Park, or holidaying at Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman National Park or just being on beaches in the low evening sun. 

“It has been a remarkable experience to watch my own children fall deeply into the thrall of this place,” he reflects on again being at Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman National Park where the “days unfold without structure, the choices to be made simply where to swim or walk, when to eat or drink, when to lie around or read—.”

In the publishing business

Robbie Burton is a partner in the Nelson publishing firm Potton and Burton. Growing up in Nelson from an early age, he became obsessed with the surrounding wilderness areas of Nelson Lakes, Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Parks. 

At one time he became an environmental advocate with the now defunct Native Forests Action Council before getting involved in publishing. And Potton and Burton publish very classy books, frequently on a conservation and outdoors themes.

Why do people enjoy the outdoors?

The book is an engaging account of Robbie Burton’s life and his deep attachment to the wilderness landscapes plus his entrance into the world of publishing.  In relating his memories, the author reflects on what motivates a person to engage with the outdoors.

Why do people love being outdoors subjecting themselves to the elements of rain, wind, snow and the often extreme exertion of slogging up a hill, perspiring and panting? 

“Why intentionally put yourself through so much suffering? Why do this for fun?” ponders Robbie Burton. “At the top of the list is simply the chance to get out in the wilderness — it is no small thing to live with awe and wonder for days at a time.”

He lists other satisfactions, too. “A sense of purpose and accomplishment when you complete a tramp; the chance to enjoy a more simple, pared-back life and often to build strong, sometimes intimate bonds with your companions.”

But it goes deeper. “The more fundamental answer that rings true to my experience comes out of a strand of contemporary psychological research which asserts that the most meaningful experiences in life are those that are emotionally extreme. These can be either positive or negative, but either way, it is the intensity, in combination with the contemplation and reflection they encourage, which builds meaning in life — this is near-perfect description of the impact tramping and mountaineering have had. Tramping with its extreme contrasts, its highs and lows, is nothing if not intense.”

“On any one day in the hills the experience can swing from exhausting, fearful, cold and wet suffer-fest, to the opposite, the simple pleasure of easy travel in a beautiful environment.”

A personal memoir

“Bushline” is very much a personal memoir, which any good outdoors-minded Kiwi person will find an affinity with. 

The book is a warm, absorbing read. It comprises 257 pages and is liberally illustrated with photographs – very good value and a typically impressive production by the publishers. Highly recommended.

Bushline – A Memoir by Robbie Burton is published by Potton and Burton, recommended retail price $39.99