It was back to Endless:, the Full private region held by Sombre Nyx for me recently to witness her latest design inspired by a physical world location. For this build she has turned to the southern hemisphere, and a country for which I have a certain fondness; for reasons I’ll not bore you with here.
Birdlings Flat takes its name from a settlement in Canterbury, New Zealand, at the eastern end of Kaitorete Spit and the southern end of Lake Forsyth, where the lake discharges to the sea. It’s a place of rugged natural beauty named for the Birdling family, the first European settlers to farm the area.
In her About Land notes, Sombre describes the setting thus:
Inspired by a small and isolated coastal settlement in the South Island of New Zealand, Birdlings Flat offers wide vistas, unkempt fields, a pebbled coastline strewn with driftwood, a sprinkling of science, and a chance to find stillness.
However, prior to the arrival of William Birdling and his family, the area was called Te Mata Hapuku, with Birdlings Flat nowadays used to specifically in reference to the pebble beach on the ocean side of Kaitorete Spit, a location well known as a place to find small agates and a variety of other attractive rounded pebbles.
Designated as a rural settlement, the area actually thrived for a time as a centre of farming, even gaining its own branch of the local railway, connecting the area to the nearby town of Lincoln to allow for easier shipment of goods and produce. This line became known as the Little River Line when it was extended to another settlement (called by that name in the 1880s), and while the line was closed in 1962 and the tracks torn up, the route today is known as a public walking and cycling track called the Little River Rail Trail.
Over the years, the area has seen various uses – it is popular for those carrying out coastal studies, and the the waters are known for the presence of significant number so Hector’s dolphins and can be used by southern right whales, while during certain times of the year, fur seals and (occasionally) elephant seals can be found along the pebbled coast.
As well as coastal studies, the area was once used by the University of Canterbury for meteorological studies, the university establishing a weather station there for several years. Birdlings Flat has also been used for launching sub-orbital sounding rockets, using the US-built Arcas (All-Purpose Rocket for Collecting Atmospheric Soundings) system. These launches also fall under the prevue of the University of Canterbury, which also established a radar station in the area to monitor rocket flights and the airspace around the launch area.
The latter forms a part of Sombre’s build, which encapsulates the small, rural nature of the location and its tiny community (in 2018, the local population was just 195) whilst also capturing the rugged nature of the landscape and life along this coastal area simply but perfectly. It’s not a setting one needs to wax lyrical about, because it speaks very eloquently for itself, and exploration and photography within it are both a delight.
However, in order to reach Birdlings Flat, visitors must go via the region’s Landing Point, and this once again presents visitors with the opportunity to visit not one, but two settings within the region. This is because Sombre is once again joined by Jackson Cruyff, who offers people the chance to visit his Forest.
Occupying a sky platform some 2,000m above the ground-level setting of Birdlings Flat, Forest presents a wooded environment somewhat mindful of the North American continent rather than anywhere antipodean; a place left to the wilds and where assorted animals and wildfowl might be found wandering and / or circling over head. It’s a place where people can simply roam and find refuge, and also – for those who look – places to sit and contemplate.
Two easy-on-the eye settings; one offering a rich depth of background on one of the more remote parts of the physical world few of us are likely to have the opportunity to visit.
- Endless: Birdlings Flat (Heraiki Bay, rated Adult)