Pleasant Point’s a Canterbury town with a population of about 1300. While there’s no doubt about its pleasant aspect and its avenue of trees leading in from the south, no one seems quite sure of why ‘Point’ is part of its name. It’s referred to as simply ‘Point’ or ‘The Point’ by locals and has held this name since early pioneering days. South Canterbury’s worst flooding occurred at Pleasant Point in 1986, causing mass evacuations and costing millions of dollars, but more recently its claim to fame has been its unorthodox non-politically-correct, totally fun Christmas parades. Floats generally reference topical subjects of the time. In the past they’ve included a mock Tui ad featuring a well-known bishop on a float that proclaims that “gays and sinners cause earthquakes – yeah, right”, a Tiger ‘Cheetah’ Woods float, and a 2018 effort that made national news by renaming NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) to “No Idea What’s Ahead”.

Earthquake-damaged Catholic church – a home for swallows while awaiting demolition

“I can’t come all the way down here without having a cheese roll!” Determined to sample the South Island’s celebrated snack, Neill led the way into Pleasant Point’s Steamer Café. Well, the cheese rolls were on display but what also caught our eyes was a framed stained-glass depiction of a steam train.

What a find! Andrew and Mel with the stained-glass window they uncovered during renovations

“When we were renovating the building we found it tucked in behind what used to be the bar, so we had it framed and put some lighting behind it to show it off to best advantage,” explained café operator Andrew. Just the previous day Andrew and fiancée Mel had opened the café that had been closed for a period after having operated as a restaurant/bar, the Steam on Inn, for more than 25 years. “And they’re getting married next month!” added Andrew’s mum Nicky, who was helping the busy pair in the kitchen. The references to steam in the café and restaurant names allude to the railway station directly across the road and the trains that began operating on the line in 1875.

Memorial to aviator Richard Pearse

I’d been interested in seeing the old Pleasant Point post office, which had been built in the early 1900s at about the same time as the St Bathans and Kaeo post offices. It’s of comparable build and clearly of the same vintage but is a more substantial building. Having had other past lives, one being as a café, it’s now in private ownership and showing its age. Similarly, the nearby church, a victim of the Christchurch earthquake, is now fenced off awaiting probable demolition. Swallows had obviously made homes inside and were busily flying in and out of the holes in the tower from where the hands of the church clocks had been removed.

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