Farewell to Pompallier Mission's ace volunteer gardeners

Volunteers Bridget and David Hallsworth are signing off after three years of dedicated service caring for the gardens of the historic Pompallier Mission and Printery in Kororāreka/Russell.

The Pompallier team sit and stand around a table on the verandah.
Bridget and David Hallsworth (seated) with some of the Pompallier Mission team. Photo: HNZPTexpand/collapse

The couple have worked tirelessly on the Mission’s Garden of National Significance; Bridget as a keen and dedicated gardener who has worked alongside the Pompallier Mission team on a weekly basis planting, weeding and trimming. David has served as a creative fixer of all things ranging from looking after the irrigation system – including the bore and pump – to general maintenance and everything else that needed care around the garden.

The grounds are a key part of Pompallier Mission and Printery, which is cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga and is also a Tohu Whenua site – something Bridget and David understand very well. They fell in love with the place after enjoying a guided tour of the property by Pompallier Mission and printery guide Tracy Rewiri a few years ago.

“It’s simply our favourite place in Russell, and we wanted to be part of it,” says Bridget.

“There are a lot of English and exotic plants I love – the Palestinian arum lilies, which are a chocolate brown colour and velvet, but also the Peruvian fushia (Fushia Corymbiflora), the blue sage, and the Three Kings Lillies.”

David’s favourite – apart from fine-tuning Pompallier Mission’s irrigation systems – was always the historic vegetable garden which, given its heritage significance, is subject to careful controls to preserve its heritage values.

“I’m a bit dangerous when I hear the word weeding,” he laughs.

Both have come to appreciate the importance of the garden over the years and what it represents. Reflecting on the exotic nature of the garden, the discussion flows to people, and how Russell was a melting pot when the gardens were created at the end of the 19th century.

“This was the cradle of our nation, with European, Māori, and people from all over the world living together here. The diversity of plants in the garden reflects this,” says Bridget, and the style indeed is classified as “promiscuous” – a bit of a paradox given that this was an ex-mission site.

I’m a bit dangerous when I hear the word 'weeding' — David Hallsworth

Bridget and David have made a huge contribution to the gardens and have been a wonderful addition to the team according to Pompallier Mission and Printery Property Lead, Delphine Moise-Elise, who is quick to acknowledge the importance of volunteers to the work of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

“People who volunteer are precious and absolutely critical to our work, not only because they bring their expertise, passion, selfless dedication, and knowledge, but because, through them, the spirit of a community exists and is alive in our heritage places,” she says. 

“Volunteers manifest a sense of ownership and responsibility from the local community which is essential to our vision to ‘honour the past and inspire the future; Tairangahia a tua whakarere; Tātakihia ngā reanga o amuri ake nei’.”

“It is also a way for keen gardeners, for example, to socialise, interact and enjoy our exceptional heritage gardens and grounds at Pompallier. Volunteering brings benefits all round.”

Bridget and David Hallsworth are heading off on their next adventure moving to their new-found paradise retreat near the Whangarei Heads with their two donkeys and hens in tow. Their four acres of native bush and gardens promise plenty of enjoyment ahead.

“We are going to miss Bridget and David, though lucky for us the Russell Gardening Club has offered to contribute, and we met our new garden volunteers last week,” she says.

“Bridget and David are proud of their legacy and are glad to hear that someone will be following in their footsteps.”