Mr and Mrs Bramald – New Plymouth residents in their early 70s – are the driving force of the Trail Angels, a small but enthusiastic group supporting the Department of Conservation’s work along the Timber Trail, a popular cycling route winding through the central North Island forest park.
The Trail Angels membership currently comprises Mr and Mrs Bramald, their friend Brian Nicol, and occasional members Keith and Judy Larsen. They have been voluntarily working in the park for more than three years, ensuring the track is clear and safe for the hundreds of visitors who enjoy the area annually.
The couple, who are keen quadbike riders, “started off clearing old bits of timber and trees that had fallen across the trail,” Mr Bramald says.
Their other work has included removing trees to improve views from the trail lodge, adding gravel to the popular track, eradicating weeds and most recently, playing a key role repairing a DOC-owned hut damaged in a suspicious fire.
Staff from DOC’s Te Kuiti office provided training and guidance, and from there the relationship has flourished.
“We’ve committed a considerable amount of time to it, with all our training and our commuting, and the changes to our quad bike to meet the health and safety requirements,” Mr Bramald says.
“We stay in the area for up there eight or nine nights at a time. We’re happy to do anything that needs to be done.”
By collaborating with DOC staff on their projects, they’ve been able to reduce heavy manual labour and work more efficiently.
“The DOC people really took us under their wing and taught us about all the health and safety side of things for the Department,” Mr Bramald says.
“The lovely friendships we’ve made with staff from the Department have been outstanding: they’ve treated us with a huge amount of respect, and we like to think we’re friends with them all – and that motivates us.
“We’re really happy with what we do.”
While in the forest, the Bramalds stay connected to DOC staff through a myriad of communication devices – cellphones, satellite phones, GPS, and even a radio telephone.
Kina Campbell, DOC’s Te Kuiti Senior Community Ranger, says the Trail Angels’ contribution allows DOC staff to focus on high-priority work while also providing the Angels with the materials and guidance to carry out their projects.
“The Trail Angels are a great example of a small but committed conservation group making a difference,” she says.
“Because of the commitment, energy and planning they’ve shown, DOC has been able to keep the Timber Trail well maintained and open for the many visitors who enjoy it.
“Collaborating with the community is fundamental to DOC’s work inspiring conservation, and to form friendships like we have with Mr and Mrs Bramald is an added bonus.”