Signposted on Ruru Road, off Dunns Road at Otatara, 7km west of Invercargill.
In 1956 Robin and Ian Bowman bought this property from Robin’s father – Doctor John George. MacDonald. In the centre of the bush was a grassy clearing where families picnicked and children played. Very early on Dr MacDonald acted to exclude cattle and rabbits – this allowed the forest to thrive and not just survive.
Richard Bowman is the grandson of Dr MacDonald – Richard regularly attends weeding bees at Bowman’s Bush to control a weedy vine called Chilean flame creeper. “Some of my earliest memories are of being taken around the bush by my grandfather who did his best to teach me the Latin names of many of the native plants. As children the bush made a wonderful playground and provided many adventures for us and our neighbourhood friends.”
When her husband passed away in 1984 Robin Bowman was faced with the dilemma of having to sell the property while also wanting to protect the native bush.
In 1986 the QEII National Trust purchased the bush, with the help of Forest & Bird, and it was made available to the public in 1992. Today Bowman’s Bush is managed by the QEII National Trust, Invercargill City Council and some dedicated volunteers from the Otatara Landcare Group.
Bowman’s Bush is a small remnant of what was once a larger ‘coastal dune forest’. The trees you see now are growing in old sand dunes which once covered much of Otatara.
Look for the old sand dunes as you walk through the forest. You’ll find totatara growing on the tops of dunes where it’s drier, while kahikatea like the lower wetter areas. Matai and rimu are found scattered throughout the reserve. Many of the trees at Bowman’s Bush are hundreds of years old.