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Timaru sundial trail

The Timaru sundial trail was written by Rosaleen Robertson and Reid Cowan in 2007. This webpage is an edited version of the trail; for the full version, with more and larger pictures, manufacturing details, and footnote references to sources, and an additional map, please click here

Timaru ison the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand; it is ideal as a stopping point for travellers on State Highway 1, being roughly half way between the main centers of Christchurch and Dunedin on the scenic west coastal route; it could be a timely refreshment stop and is definitely a worthwhile sundial trail stop. Whilst Timaru is surely one of the smallest cities in New Zealand, it is endowed with more that its share of sundials with a ratio per head of population of 5000.

The entire trail is just under 11.5 kms from Sundial 1 to 6 inclusive - see map.

The first five sundials can be enjoyed in less than one hour if travelling by car, the distance one way is 5 kilometres (alternatively this would be a lovely urban walk). The sixth sundial is in the countryside, through the beautiful rural rolling landscape. The distance from sundial 5 to 6 one way is another 6.5 kms, so this adds another half to three quarters of an hour to get there and back to the city.

All up, the entire trail is approximately 90 minutes to two hours, but do allow much longer as you will find Timaru attractive and the local people friendly.

Reid has lived in Timaru for over 50 years and his mission now includes having all the dials in good working order. He has a team of local supporters and they are making excellent progress toward achieving the mission. Rosaleen visited to see the sundials and write up the trail based on Reid's notes, conversations and her impressions. Reid has prepared a booklet, A Guide to Understanding Sundials in the Timaru District (2004), which is an educational aid for children he has been teaching in some of the schools. Reid's contact details are either 00 64 3 6843787 or should you wish to make contact with him.

The Memorial Wall Sundial Caroline Bay
. Location and access: Caroline Bay, Memorial Wall walkway.
Driving or biking: Follow the signs off State Highway No 1 turn off at Virtue Avenue toward the sea and follow the roadway to the main parking area by the paddling pool and walk south alongside the First World War - Memorial Wall - note the Memorial Wall is not high It used to be high on the seaward side but a build-up of sand from the sea has created an expansive area which is now grassed that was previously beach.
Walking: The best route from Timaru would be to walk along the footpath beside 'The Bay Hill', go down the piazza steps past the rose garden to the Memorial Wall. The sundial is located at about the center point along the Memorial Wall The purpose of the sundial "was to bear the roll of honour listing the 11 Victoria Crosses won by New Zealand servicemen during the war". The sundial maker was Mr James Stewart of Invercargill New Zealand, a well-known sundial maker of the times being credited with approximately 200 dials. On this dial the detail includes signs of the zodiac and Roman numerals, and the mottos are: I count not the hours unless they be bright HORAS NON MUMERO NISI SERENAS. Care needs to be taken when reading this dial as here is no mention of the necessary 35 minute longitude correction. This is a significant monument, a fine construction and work of craft and art. It is classical, elegant, poignant, artisan and "probably Timaru's most prominent sundial."

The Robert Heaton Rhodes Sundial, Caroline Bay. Location and access: Caroline Bay, Memorial Wall walkway.
Stroll for 3 minutes back to the car park area and go to the lawn by the paddling pool, behind the roses, to find the sundial.

Description: Commissioned in 1919 by The Bay Association to commemorate Mr Rhodes, who had been Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the Waimate County Council, and who had made a generous bequest to the Association. Nearly 90 years later it is now settled in its third location. It is in good working order having been extensively restored and refurbished including an explanatory plaque which was added to assist with reading the time. The inscription honours Mr Rhodes and the motto - HORAS NON MUMERO NISI SERENAS - is featured again.

A grand sundial which has impressive presence. It is probably Timaru's first sundial and is now located in an excellent spot for the public to enjoy. A photograph from the 1940s 12. indicates that in its second location it was a popular attraction then also.

Waimataitai School Sundial.

Location and access: Return up Virtue Avenue, left into Te Weka Street and then left back onto (State Highway 1) Evans Street. Take the first right into Trafalgar Street; find a park on the street. The school is located by a pedestrian crossing beyond which is an entry way on the right leading up a sealed one lane access road to the office. Check in to the office at the end of the access road, it is well sign-posted. The sundial is located behind the office in the rose bed on the north side of the school where another memorial to the First World War is also sited.

Description: If sundials have a gender this one is surely feminine. She presents as elegant, nubile and poised. The team of sundial supporters has not given up on gleaning more information about this sundial. The history of who made it and who gave it to the school remains a relative mystery. The motto is - use thy time wisely.

Craighead Diocesan School Sundial.
Location and access:
Proceed along Trafalgar Street, turn left into Selwyn and then right into Wai-iti taking the fourth on the right to Sealy Street which leads into Wrights Avenue. Craighead is on the right. It is absolutely essential to make a prior arrangement to visit and on arrival to call at the office, just inside the front main door, to confirm permission and be shown to the lawn:
Telephone 00 64 3 688 6074
Facsimile 00 64 3 684 2250


There is a silence around this sundial; perhaps 'touching' describes the ambience, sentiment and sundial. Years of touching has created a smooth patina on the slopped surface at the top of the base.

Timaru Main School Jubilee Sundial at Bluestone School.
Location and access:
Leave Wrights Avenue and turn left into Craighead Street and right into Wai-iti Road again. Next take a very sharp left into Otipua Road and the fifth street on the left is Hurdley. Hurdley Street it is no exit and has ample street parking. At this point the distance is 5 kms from the Caroline Bay car park and sundials 1 and 2. The sundial is located in the playground. The whole area is open and easily accessible. Again, as courtesy callers, should go to the office.

Main School was destroyed by fire (1989) and a merger of Main and Bluestone arose out of district-wide amalgamations during a period of closures of schools. The sundial was erected in 1935 and commemorates a number of jubilees, a golden, diamond, platinum and the school centennial. It forms very much part of outdoor furniture and sculptured landscape.

) Claremont School sundial at Barton Rural School.
Location and access:
The distance from the fifth sundial to the sixth, is just under 6.5 kms.
Do a 'uey' (U turn) on Hurdley Street and then a left into Otipua Road, take the second turn on the right down Coonoor Road which continues to join Fairview Road. Proceed approximately 4 kms from the Rockdale and Fairview Road intersections keeping an 'eye out' at the intersection of Fairview and Barton Roads, the school is on the right with ample parking on a gravelled area.

The sundial was commissioned by the Claremont School Board and no sooner was it in place than it was uplifted due to the closure of the Claremont School. It was 'purpose designed' for the Claremont School's 125th Jubilee in 2003 by Reid Cowan and the plate was cut by Robert J Butler and Son. One of the teachers is quoted as praising the dial being "… reliable to the minute… is a useful science teaching tool. Plaques include the Claremont School Dates and the commemoration.

This is the newest sundial in the Timaru area. Its 'high-tec', and now commercially produced, dial and slim angular lined base is typical of the 'relative simplicity' design of this era. The sundial is locally made of brass under computer-driven milling machine technology and the face is accurately graduated at 15 minutes intervals.16. It is mounted on a block of volcanic basalt (bluestone) which has holes in its structure as a result of air being trapped in the hot molten lava that erupted out of Mt Horrible which occurred two and a half million years ago.

This ends the Timaru Sundial Trail.

Further maps may be accessed from this excellent site as follows: . Just type in Timaru and refine your search by address location e.g. Caroline Bay, or a school name.

Every effort has been made to make this accurate. The narrative will be reviewed and updated. Further sundials in neighboring townships may be added, as these are restored.

We sincerely hope you enjoy your time on the Timaru Sundial Trail.

If you have enjoyed this page, please also visit the the Christchurch to Picton sundial trail at the northern end of South Island
Rosaleen Robertson Reid Cowan