Where children used to run around playing and
laughing 100 years ago, there are once again children running
around playing and laughing. As for the parents, well,
they're just relaxing. Nigel Benson visits Camp
Remember the days of the old school yard? We used to laugh a
Well, school's back this summer and it is like the laughter
never went away.
An old schoolhouse at Sutton has become the perfect holiday
getaway for a group of Dunedin families.
"We'll get six or seven families here most years," John
Fitzwilliam, of Dunedin, says.
"It's got good showers and cooking facilities and it's
reasonably priced. But there's no clock, or tv or radio.
"Which reminds me: What's happening with the cricket?"
Sutton School opened in 1898 and for years had a consistent
roll of 40 local children. Numbers slowly dwindled and the
school was closed in 1958.
The original school gateway which the children used to walk
through is now covered in vegetation and only one gatepost
can still be seen.
In 1999, the school was redeveloped into an adventure camp by
the Otago Youth Adventure Trust.
"It's the peace and quiet. It's so relaxing here. And you
know the kids are safe, because it's all enclosed," Audrey
Clarke, of Macandrew Bay, says.
Sutton sits on the Taieri River, just below the Strath Taieri
Plain, and to the east of the mighty Rock and Pillar Range.
The Sutton Railway Station is 100m down the road and watches
the Taieri Gorge Train whizz by.
"We get most of our stuff, like the kids' bikes, delivered by
the train to Pukerangi," Mr Fitzwilliam says.
The M. Wilson Bike Track, named after local Merv Wilson, was
recently added behind the old school.
"There's lots and lots for the kids to do," Rosslyn Guthrie,
of Andersons Bay, says.
"They go to the Middlemarch School pool every day and on bike
rides and there's the adventure playground and walks ... they
just love it here."
A group of five children was busy organising an evening
talent show for the adults in the school hall when the
Otago Daily Times visited.
"Solo and group acts" a hand-made poster advertised.
Sutton was named after an early identity, Mr Sutton, so long
ago that nobody remembers his first name.
Its best known local landmark is New Zealand's only inland
salt lake, imaginatively named Salt Lake, which has water
about half as salty as seawater.
The 8ha lake is in a reserve administered by the Department
of Conservation and is a popular stroll for Sutton residents
Other tramps include "The Crater" and the top of the imposing
1450m Rock and Pillar Range.
Sutton receives about half the 1000mm annual rainfall of
coastal Otago, due to the rainshadow effect of the
The fertile surrounding farmland is still garnished with
defiant clumps of native bush, which used to cover the plain
and surrounding hills, dotted among the schist rock
- Sutton is a farming settlement on the Strath-Taieri Plain,
an hour northwest of Dunedin.
- Drive to Outram and take SH87, towards Middlemarch.
- The local salt lake tourist attraction is the only inland
saltwater lake in New Zealand.
- There is a 3.5km loop walk from Sutton to the lake and
back, which takes about an hour.
- The lake is home to many waterfowl, including the
white-faced heron, black swan, paradise duck, mallard, New
Zealand shoveller, pied oyster-catcher and southern
- The Taieri Gorge Train passes through Sutton and the Otago
Central Rail Trail is also nearby.