Roland Sansom was a man with a dream to create something beautiful and lasting. He was born in Malaya five years before the outbreak of the Second World War. His mother, Doreen, was a New Zealander and his father, Guy, was English, working in Malaya as a rubber planter. When the Japanese invaded, Guy Sansom was imprisoned for the duration of the conflict, and then re-joined his family in New Zealand in Titirangi, Auckland, at war’s end.
As a young man Roland studied sheep farming at the then Massey Agricultural College before taking up land at Whangapiro on the Kaipara harbour. He battled gorse and adversity there for most of his working life.
Grassland becoming a woodland, early 1990s
Looking across to what is now the Waitangi Forest on the far hills.
Roland with early beech tree planting, late 1980s.
First bluebell planting in 1991
Realising a dream
When he retired to Kerikeri he was able to purchase 30 acres of farm land which had previously been owned by his uncle and aunt, Sandy and Aileen Edgar. (Aileen Edgar was Doreen’s sister). It was on this land in about 1985 that Roland set about realizing his dream and began establishing a wood of ‘English’ trees under-planted with blue bells.
Roland had no horticultural training of any kind and did not seem interested in creating a park in the accepted sense but rather a ‘wood’. Accordingly, he spaced his trees with the thought of getting as many as he could into the area.
His initial plantings included many large, leafy, deciduous specimen trees – English beech, liriodendron, pin oak, plane, tupelo, gingko, and claret ash. He underplanted these with many bulbs, particularly bluebells which make such a wonderful show in spring.
His wasn’t a purist approach – later plantings included liquidambar, liriodendron, maples, and tupelo trees which all give splendid autumn colour. He was very fond of magnolias and camellia, rhododendrons, azaleas, and also planted pohutakawa, cedars and silkwoods, as well as subtropicals, dombeya, lassiandra, bottlebrush, acmena, and a wide variety of bulbs : bluebells, daffodils and narcissus, jonquils and belladonna lilies.
Legacy to the people of Kerikeri
Roland Sansom toiled away planting more trees every year but sadly his health deteriorated and he passed away in 2001 at a relatively young age, long before his beloved trees reached maturity. In his will he gifted 10 acres of his woodland to the people of Kerikeri under the care of the Far North District Council with the express wish that it be enjoyed by people walking their dogs.
“The provision and maintenance of a wooded public park for recreational use,
enjoyment and benefit of the public”.
Roland’s Wood Trust Deed