Peel Forest is a small community in the Canterbury Region of New Zealand. It is located near the Peel Forest Park and about 23 kilometres (14 mi) north of Geraldine. The town features a general store, a camping ground and an outdoor recreation facility. Popular activities include camping and tramping in the area, rafting and kayaking on the nearby Rangitata and Orari rivers and four-wheel-drive tours to nearby Lord of the Rings film locations.
According to Māori culture the large Tōtara trees located in the forest are the tamariki (children) of Tarahaoa and Huatekerekere whom themselves turned into Mt Peel and Little Mt Peel upon their deaths. They were both part of Ārai Te Uru's ill-fated trading trip along the Canterbury coast.
The first European to visit the region was Charles Torlesse in 1849 in the search for coal. Torlesse named the area "Gurdon Forrest" this was later renamed in the memory of Sir Robert Peel by Francis Jollie. The community took off in the 1850s with the rise of the timber industry. Kahikatea, Mataī and Tōtara were all milled in the region and the remains of the sawpits can still be found at Clarke Flat today. Saw milling continued in the region till after the 1900s. A horrified Arthur Mills who was visiting in 1881, was so taken back by the devastation that he personally purchased 16 hectares of untouched forest. This would go on to form the beginnings of the Peel Forest Park.
The other source of commerce in the early days was farming. Early runs were set up John B A Acland, Charles G Tripp and Francis Jollie. Acland and Tripp who in the late 1850s with all of the land on the plains taken, decided to chance their luck further up the foothills. At its largest the partnership held nearly 300,00 acres of land including Mt Peel, Mt Somers, Mt Possession, Orari Gorge and parts of Mesopotamia and Hakatere.
Early schools in the region were set up in nearby Scotsburn with the school being moved to Peel Forest in 1923. The school was closed in 1998 and students transferred to Carew Peel Forest School. The school buildings are currently used as a Montessori pre-school.
St Stephen's Church
Located on the main street the first church was built in 1868. A whirlwind destroyed the original in 1884 with the current church being built in 1885. The church is well known for its wooden interior and unique New Zealand twist to its tradition stain glass windows.
- John B A Acland (25 November 1823 - 18 May 1904), politician and early run holder.
- Austen Deans (2 December 1915 – 18 October 2011), noted New Zealand based artist who, with his wife and seven sons, lived and worked in Peel Forest. Deans is known for his traditional landscape paintings depicting the Canterbury high country
- Captain George Hamilton Dennistoun (23 September 1884 - 1977), DSO, OBE. Born in Peel Forest. Held various command positions throughout World War I and II.
- James (Jim) Robert Dennistoun (7 March 1883 - 9 August 1916), Born in Peel Forest. First successful ascent of Mt D’Archiac. Was part of the ill-fated Terra Nova Expitation with Robert Scott. Awarded the King's Antarctic Medal and the medal of the Royal Geographical Society. Died in World War I in Austria as a POW, Dennistoun Glacier in Antarctica was named after him.
- Francis Jollie (1815 – 30 November 1870), Member of Parliament (1861–1870)
- Dame Ngaio Marsh (23 April 1895 - 18 February 1982), famous crime writer. Buried at the Church of the Holy Innocents.
- Charles G Tripp (1 July 1826 - 6 July 1897), early run holder.
- South Island - Rafting & Kayaking South Canterbury Rivers
- Peel Forest activities
- "Peel Forest Park Scenic Reserve". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 16 Oct 2016.
- "Peel Forest | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". www.nzhistory.net.nz. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
- Peden, Robert (2013-10-01). Making Sheep Country: Mt Peel Station and the Transformation of the Tussock Lands. Auckland University Press. ISBN 9781869407469.
- Geraldine: The First 150 Years. Geraldine 150 Committee. 2006-01-01. ISBN 9780473110925.
- "- 1998-go3159 - New Zealand Gazette". gazette.govt.nz. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
- Planet, Lonely. "St Stephen's Church - Lonely Planet". Lonely Planet. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
- Crean, Mike (30 October 2011). "Austen Deans: Just 'loved the mountains'". The Press. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Captain George Hamilton Dennistoun DSO, OBE | World War One - The War At Sea". navymuseum.co.nz. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
- "The Encyclopedia of New Zealand". Story: Mountaineering Page 5 – Beyond the central Southern Alps. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
- Kain, Conrad (2014-09-16). Conrad Kain: Letters from a Wandering Mountain Guide, 1906-1933. University of Alberta. ISBN 9781772120042.
- "Great heights in life of adventure". Stuff.co.nz. 2012-03-19. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
- Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand parliamentary record, 1840–1984 (4 ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 208. OCLC 154283103.
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