Waygood Foundation - A Tradition of Care
Two stone lizards at North Piha mark the entrance to the Waygood family land where a sixth-generation continues a strong connection to Piha which began in the early 1900s.
James and Sarah Louise Waygood emigrated from England in 1878, raising their five children in Pokeno, where they were both school teachers. Each summer they would travel by train to Swanson, followed by a horse and buggy journey over the Waitakeres to Piha. The top of the ‘Milk Track’ was their campsite, near a little spring. This was the beginning of a lifelong love of Piha for Les Waygood.
Called for service in World War I, Les [born 1896] met his wife, Blanche, in England. Returning to New Zealand to begin their married life they were driven by the Great Depression to seek work in Australia. Their children, Zena, Shirley, Enid, and Bruce were born there, Pam and Malcolm after their return to New Zealand. During this time Sarah Louise rang to say ‘They’re cutting up Piha’ and mentioned a block from Wekatahi Stream to North Piha.
Les and his family returned, buying the North Piha block which would become a treasured legacy for future generations. Working as head engineer for Winstones Les and family would leave their Herne Bay home for summers at Piha. A modest homestead was built. Given no road access to North Piha, the kids and adults would pack supplies into homemade kayaks and paddle everything up the stream - including all the bricks for the chimney. There were challenges for Blanche, a fair-skinned English woman... mosquitoes, sunburn, black sand in everything!
As time went by Les subdivided, making a development agreement with Council that he would gift the sections on the seaward side of the road North of Monkey Rock as public land. The birth of the North Piha Surf Club was the result of Les getting into trouble in the surf. Seeing the necessity for a lifesaving club at the North end of the beach, Les gifted the land and became its patron. He also developed the North Piha Campground so that Surf Club families would have a place to stay, realising that buying a section was out of reach for many. His grandson, Dennis Atkinson, spent his early years at the North Piha Club and continues as an active member of Piha Surf Club.
Endless summers were passed camping, playing, and exploring the beach and bush surrounded by extended family. Water was hauled from the stream with kerosene tins, so Les decided they needed a water supply for themselves and the community. The North Piha Water Society was formed and an offer was made to set one up for South Piha also. The pump house was built by Les, Norm Atkinson, the uncles, and locals using World War II surplus materials.
In the early 60’s Les invited Jack Kingston, the only permanent resident at North Piha, to be the custodian of the water supply. His role included fixing problems and overseeing the Atkinson, Harvey, Moore, and Seabrook kids as labour! Dennis recalls Jack’s fitness ‘He always beat you running up the hill to the top water tank.’
Generosity, care for the land, and community continued with Les’s gift of land for the hall and the small reserve beside Wekatahi Stream. All of the concrete blocks for the hall were made using Les’s block-making kit with iron sand included in the mix. Please see Sandra Coney’s extensive and excellent publications about Piha History for further details.
Family tradition was that each child inherited a section when they turned twenty-one. Bruce joined the Merchant Navy and made his home in the United States where he ran a chemical cleaning company, returning to Piha for summers. Over the years a number of locals rented the homestead and many romances began there!
Zena added a prefab cottage to the land, which was lowered by crane into its position amongst the pohutukawa. Shirley and Norm Atkinson built their North Piha home in the ’70s. Known as a keen bowler, extraordinary baker, and craftswoman Shirley has many friends in the community. Dennis, his partner Pauline and his daughters are carefully rebuilding the homestead, reusing many of the original materials.
A deep respect and love of nature was instilled by Les and reflected in his wishes that the pohutukawa and nikau glade never be touched.... family members go there for a quiet moment and return hours later.
Gardens have always been part of this property. A Chinese man grew vegetables and peanuts on the stream banks. Nancy’s father, Les Harvey, would collect fungus and carefully wrap them to share with his Chinese friends. Zena tended a garden by the stream which was prone to flooding, locals recall cabbages on the beach after one storm.
The Waygood Foundation was founded by Nancy King. When Zena passed away, Nancy wanted to develop and continue her mother’s love of art, the land, and community. During her childhood, Les had wanted to build a North Piha Store, with the Aunties serving tea and scones. Bricks were made on-site and the foundations were laid before Council declined the proposal. This area became Zena’s potato patch and later her’s and her partner John’s potting studio. The building and the surrounding gardens became the Waygood Foundation to grow Zena’s dream... making it into a place of beauty, community, and learning for the future.
Over the last decade, Nancy has been nurturing this dream. With the assistance of Stephanie Tong and Neil Hilton [stone artist], permaculture gardens were established practicing guiding principles of ‘Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share.’ Following Steph we had Jeff Pendleton, then two Earthskin Scholarship students - the beautiful Ella Campbell-Hall and her partner Brendon, aided by Claire Inwood until they left for the south island.
Claire stepped into their role and the ongoing weaving continued. Healthy soils are being developed, compost tended, food forests planted, medicinal and culinary herbs collected, edible wild plants encouraged and invasive weeds and pests managed.
The Waygood food cart shares fresh produce, seeds herbs, seedlings, teas, and flowers with the community. Creative resident artists from The Earthskin Charitable Trust are hosted throughout the year. Recently painter Sally Coles [UK], writer Laura Pritchett [US], and painter Brendan Stuart-Burns [Wales] have completed residencies, finishing with free community art workshops and artist talks. Small groups use the Foundation for creative, culinary, holistic arts, and sustainability workshops. Further opportunities for learning will be offered as the year progresses and advertised locally. Nancy’s vision is that it is a place to regenerate our connection to the earth, modeling positive change for the future.
Claire is now our gentle Kaitiaki of the Waygood Foundation, and with her care and skill community involvement is evolving richly, Lucy McMillan, then Laura Weiland too, are supporting the growth of the gardens and Foundation with their fine qualities and youthful energies to walk alongside Claire. We are most blessed!
The vision for the land has become a reality - by holding this precious vessel of intent and letting it develop naturally with so much beauty, to share, learn and restore ourselves and our wider community.
Lastly deep thanks to Vanessa King, the daughter of Nancy, for stepping forward as Trustee for The N L King Trust and The Earthskin Trust as we draw the two entities together to creatively support local community connection, and offer educational training that will lead to a deep value of, and care for the environment.
Nancy, Dennis, and their families continue the community spirit and careful stewardship of the land begun by their grandfather.