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Event founder ready to take a different path


Jean Goldschmidt(copy)Jean Goldschmidt, the doyen and driving force behind the Mangawhai Walking Weekend, is ready to hand over the reins of the organisation she founded after 15 years.

The job which she created single-handedly has been progressively growing, and while Jean admits she needs a break, has no regrets about stepping aside.

“Obviously there has been the odd hiccup and personality clashes from time to time but the community spirit, loyalty and enthusiasm has won out every time,” says Jean.

For 14 years avid walkers have returned to Mangawhai. While a few skiffy showers have had some reaching for a jacket, not one weekend of bad weather has beset the event, the model of which has now been picked up by other areas in the country.

All those years ago, on a weekend away, Jean saw an advert for a series of walks at Methven, Canterbury, run and funded by their tourism sector. Jean liked idea but to apply it to Mangawhai raised two problems: Mangawhai had only one recognised walking track, and no tourism group, therefore no funding.

The clifftop walk has long been recognised by walkers countrywide as one of the best walks around but that was in jeopardy due to the Bream Tail farm subdivision. Encouraged by neighbour Jan Jakobs, already a member of a fledging walking group, enthusiasm knew no bounds!

Without realising it she virtually had a tiger by tail.

Coincidentally around this time Dave Orford of Maungaturoto, a tramper of old, announced he was about to walk across the Brynderwyn ridge from west to east and coming out around Langs Beach. Thus another track was added to the mix.

“It was always a two-day fixture as walkers mixed and matched from one day to the next,” says Jean. “We had some wonderful get-togethers on Saturday nights in the old hall until numbers became too great and the whole community needed to be involved. Always communication was the biggest thing and incredibly there was never any shortage of volunteers.”

By this time walking had become not just a sightseeing ramble but a significant means for promoting healthy living and a better lifestyle.

The track list then accommodated birdwatchers, an easy-stroll Mums with pushchairs, the dunes, a cycle route, Waipu caves then on year 12 the Troubadour Trail was introduced. This late afternoon jaunt about the streets to be entertained by a series of eclectic musical performers was an immediate hit with young and old alike.

“The Art Trail was another boon,” added Jean. “Mangawhai had always had a strong art sector and this was an ideal time to promote it and bring even more people into the fold and further highlight Mangawhai.”

As track numbers grew, locals began to ‘find’ places suited to walking or light tramps as Mangawhai had no Department of Conservation walks. A group of ‘track men’ formed, whose voluntary labour carved paths, set steps and stairs, built bridges and laid metal to make walks safer. With the variation came the grading of walks according to the fitness of walkers.

In time a promotions group was formed to deal with brochures, advertising and ticketing, and volunteer workshops were well attended – all to help deal with a regular entry of 600-700 walkers.

Jean will step aside after the next Walking Weekend in March, saying she is receptive to change and readily accepts that someone new at the helm could very well steer the ship in a different direction. She hopes a successor will step up to carry on her legacy and move the event into the future.

TIME OUT: Jean Goldschmidt, pictured giving out morning orders to walkers, is set to hang up her Walking Weekend shoes.

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