Whenever I spend time cycling in the Moutere area, just half an hour out of Nelson city, I come home feeling I have been somewhere special. Not only is it my favourite sort of landscape (soft, green and gently rolling) it is also dotted with lots of reminders of its agricultural history. The old farm buildings seem to be hidden behind hedges and under trees everywhere you go. The oak tree sheltering this little shed must be even older than the shed.
These are two examples of the many old hop kilns in this area, with their classical square tower-like form and steep roof, topped with a flat-topped vent. Nelson is the only area in NZ where hops are still grown and the hop gardens are a unique feature here, as they have a very distinctive growing system. The system uses a pair of strings for each plant, looking like soft veils of green suspended in the fields, before the plants are harvested in the late summer.
Early in the summer the young hop plants are just starting to climb the strings up to the top of their elevated growing structure. As the season develops, the strings will be come smothered in green leaves and the pale green flowers which contain the essential oils used in brewing. After the flowers are harvested, they are taken to the kiln for drying.
But meanwhile, with the sheep grazing alongside the hop gardens and farmers going about their business, the place is relatively quiet.
After a day on a bike its nice to know there is a pub at the end and we can put our feet up and taste the local beers, made with the hops from this area.