Spotlight on Stratford

Trish Dent from South Taranaki iSITE talks Must Dos, Stratford history and Shakespare with us.

What is your name and what do you do for a job?

Trish Dent, Manager of Stratford i-SITE (although I sent a few of these questions out to the staff of the Stratford District Council so many of the answers in this interview are a consensus of their thoughts).

Where do you live?

In rural Stratford, it takes me 5 minutes to get to work on a bad day.

What is the origin of the name ‘Stratford’?

Our town Stratford was established on the Patea River in 1877-78 and named after William Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-upon-Avon due to a few resembling features. It was originally called Stratford-upon-Patea but this was shortened to just Stratford a few years later.

How long have you lived in Stratford and why did you move there?            

I have lived in and around Stratford all my life. I love it here. When I left school, jobs were aplenty so there was no need to shift away.

What makes you love Stratford?

It’s a cliché but the people are what make Stratford such a great place to live and visit. I also like the small town community feel and the geographical location with spectacular views of the mountain. Oh and the climate isn’t too bad either.

Best thing about your town?

One of the best things about Stratford is our central location. We’re half an hour to New Plymouth and Hawera, we’re one of the main gateways for exploring Mt Taranaki and Egmont National Park and we’re the starting point for those driving or cycling the Forgotten World Highway heading out to Whangamomona and Taumarunui.

What is the town most well-known for?

The eastern side of the mountain including the many walks and the Ngati Ruanui Stratford Mountain House, the Speedway and the Glockenspiel clock tower. Many people also visit to see the beautiful Hollard Gardens.

What is the town’s best kept secret?

The Carrington Walkway is a fantastic looped urban bush walk in the middle of Stratford’s township where you see many fascinating pieces of local history including the famous Malone Gates, the McCullough Rhododendron Dell and the Thomson Arboretum. Some of the rhododendrons in the McCullough Dell were propagated from seed sent from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland!

Why do visitors need to come out and visit Stratford?

On top of being the gateway town to Egmont National Park and the Forgotten World Highway, Stratford is home to Taranaki Pioneer Village, a great outdoor museum where you can climb aboard a train and see a real blacksmith in action amongst other highlights. There’s also the Percy Thomson Gallery that features an ever-changing display of local, national and international art and of course you can see New Zealand’s only Glockenspiel perform on our main street. 

Tell us what makes your town ‘a little bit out there’?

What most people know is that we are fans of William Shakespeare. Our town is named after his birthplace, our streets are named after Shakespearian characters and our clock tower performs a scene from Romeo and Juliet.
What not many people know is that we are also big Star Wars fans. Recently, Stratford TET Kings Theatre had the highest per capita attendance to the latest Star Wars movie ‘The Force Awakens’. The TET Kings Theatre is a very interesting place in its own right. In 1925, it showed the first ‘talking movies’ in the Southern hemisphere.

Name some famous people from your town

A lot of remarkable people come from Stratford.
Just to name a few, Lieutenant Colonel William George Malone is remembered at the Malone Gates; Sylvia Ashton-Warner, a famous poet, writer and educator was from here and her grandfather was David Maxwell who built and founded Toko.
Dr Doris Gordon was a famous obstetrician in Startford in the early 1900s, renowned artist Sir Toss Woollaston was from Toko, Campbell McMeekan was the Senior Agriculturalist of the World Bank and ex-All Black, Mark “Bull” Allen was born here.
The famous architect James Walter Chapman-Taylor even built his first house in Stratford!

Where is the best place to take the kids?

Stratford is a nice place to bring the kids for a day trip. There’s a lot for them to enjoy, from the TSB indoor swimming pool and the playground at Victoria Park to the houses, school house and hospital at Pioneer Village. Many kids also enjoy spending time at the southern end of the Carrington Walkway where there’s a great little skate park.

Where can I get great coffee?

Our i-SITE is located next door to Sgt Peppers Café so I frequent there a lot. All the cafés serve great coffees so I wouldn’t want to recommend just one of them! 

Where is a good place to eat?

Stratford is blessed with a number of great cafes and restaurants to suit all tastes so it really depends on what you feel like eating. I’ve tried them all and would go back to them all. Dinner at the Ngati Ruanui Stratford Mountain house is memorable for that special occasion and the friendly staff at the Northern Diary roll a damn good ice cream.

What would the ideal visitor day in Stratford look like?

Coffee and breakfast at any of our cafes, visit Pioneer Village, pop up to Dawson Falls for a short or long walk, pack a picnic lunch to eat at Hollard Gardens (great kids playground there) and visit Environmental Products for unique possum pelt products on the way back. Then call in to the TSB swimming pool for a quick dip.
Stratford has one of the best Golf Courses in Taranaki but you would need to allow at least half a day to enjoy this properly. If time permits, watch a movie at the Historic TET Kings Theatre to top off your Stratford adventure.

Here at the Stratford i-SITE we love to tell people where to go and what to do. All you have to do is ask!