That Wonky Tree near Stratford

Words by  Richard Hobo
Matt J Saunders Matt J Saunders

Most of us have heard of The Wanaka Tree – the picturesque ‘Crack Willow’ grows almost on the edge of Lake Wanaka and is often photographed with the surrounding mountains in the background.

Live writer, Richard Hobo decided it was time Taranaki had its own celebrity tree, and found an aging pine poised in a precarious Pisa-like angle, perfect for the position. 

I’ve always been impressed by the stark, leaning trees found around the coast, forced into unlikely arboreal shapes against the strain of the harsh onshore winds, but I don’t live around the coast, I live in Stratford, so I worked with what I had. 

It was early one morning driving to work during 2018 when I pulled my car over to take a photo of a tree that appeared to be on the verge of falling over, but with a spectacular sunrise behind it. 

I decided to dub it That Wonky Tree Near Stratford and posted it online with the hashtag #thatwonkytreenearstratford. A few people liked it and so I took a few more pics. Friends would even occasionally ask how the tree was doing. Fine, as far as I know, as it resides on private land and I’ve been taking all my photos from the roadside. One person that noticed was local photographer Matt J Saunders who was also commuting past the tree. 

“The Wonky Tree posts really stood out to me, but I always wanted Mount Taranaki in the background,” says Matt. “Then I moved to Hawera and kept driving past and decided to make some enquiries. I eventually found Sam, the owner of the land and he said ‘yes’ before I’d even finished asking. The day of the photo, I was visiting a friend in Midhirst and noticed that the light was looking really good, so I shot down to Sam’s and grabbed this pic.” 

It’s a pine tree and clearly quite an old one given the size of it. From what I can see, it’s wonky because it’s growing out of the bank of a creek. Also, at the base, it appears that another growth or even second trunk has been removed or broken off at some point. Whenever there’s a storm, I’m always worried that it’ll fall over.

If you’re looking for That Wonky Tree Near Stratford, it resides at approximately 3346 State Highway 3, between Midhirst and Stratford, on the eastern side of the road (east is looking inland, where the sun rises). If you’re driving south (from New Plymouth) and get to Kahouri Road on the left or Monmouth Road on the right, you’ve gone too far.   


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