• Facebook
  • Twitter

Wilf and Ella Hilford, lovers of Piha’s pohutukawa

Posted by SCe Comments Off on Wilf and Ella Hilford, lovers of Piha’s pohutukawa

Wilf and Ella Hilford at The Spec, North Piha

Wilf and Ella Hilford were two of the original community that settled at the end of North Piha Beach, Ella, or Marcella Wardrop Luke Hilford, having purchased Lots 46 and 47 in 1947 from Les Waygood. Wilf was originally a schoolteacher, but at the end of the Second World War, he and Ella decided they wanted to lead a more simple, back-to-the-land life and Wilf gave up teaching in favour of developing a block of about 12 acres in Parker Road, Oratia.

Wilf built a house there himself, slowly constructing the building from hand-made concrete blocks. He also built a swimming pool and tennis court by hand. A meagre income was gained growing tree tomatoes.

At Piha, Wilf also hand-built his house, experimenting with building techniques. The paving and rock fireplace were made from rocks at the back of the section; those in the fireplace had to be replaced when they exploded when the fireplace was first put to use.

The Hilfords were a little bohemian and gathered in their houses craft such as hand-hooked floor rugs, and  embroidered wall-hangings.

Wilf and Ella were good friends with the early bach owners at the north end of the beach ” the Astleys, Watsons, Wickhams, Stewarts, Lennards and Les Barker. With the Wickhams they re-built a house at North Piha they called The Spec as it was built with the intention of selling it for profit. It started as a bare looking shed but developed  some presence with the addition of pillars and a pergola.

Hilford pohutukawa from North Piha Road

When Ella died in 1998, she bequeathed her property at Piha to the Royal New Zealand Forest and Bird Protection Society, stating that I express the wish that (the) Society will preserve the property and the ancient trees upon it.

Ella loved the enormous pohutukawa amongst which she and Wilf had built their bach and wanted to ensure they were protected. Instead, the F&B decided to sell the front section which they duly did for about $670,000. The back section was gifted to the Auckland Regional Council along with a strip along the south boundary of the front section to enable access to the back. This land adjoins the Waitakere Ranges Regional Parkland.

Originally  it was planned to covenant the trees on the front section to protect them after the sale, but this was not done. Consequently it is sad to note that since the sale, the pohutukawa have been cut back as can be seen in the photo below.

For a news article about the gift and F&B go here


Hilford House, partly built from rocks found on the site. Note pohutukawa pruning at left.

Comments are closed.