Town Belt Ė eastern byways EM
Sunday 21 February 2016
We are so lucky to have the Town Belt hemming in the central part of the city. Last year, a TTC group found that the Town Beltís west side, traversed by part of the Northern Walkway, also includes numerous minor tracks, and even opportunities for travel off-track Ė see Tramper May 2015. The Town Beltís east side, traversed by part of the Southern Walkway, also has many minor tracks, and chances for off-track travel.
We alighted from a no. 22 Southgate bus at the south end of Hornsea Rd, Melrose, where Donna arrived in an Uber taxi. After climbing the steps opposite the bus stop, we walked north on a path on Road Reserve above Hornsea Rd, enjoying uninterrupted views across Kilbirnie isthmus to Miramar Peninsula, and Rimutaka Range. Beside a bus shelter, we climbed a zigzag on an area of Town Belt being worked on by Kawakawa Commons Community Group, with WCC support. Soon we had a little off-track travel in regenerating forest up to a possum-control line, and scrambled up through gorse and old manís beard to a broad track. This took us east of, and parallel to, the Southern Walkway, giving us views to the east.
To descend to Melrose Park, there is no alternative to the Southern Walkway, on which we skirted the zoo fence, seeing baboons, and a forlorn-looking leopard. WCCís Parks staff had kindly opened the toilet block for us, a welcome relief because we were all well hydrated in preparation for a hot day. We descended along the zoo fence, then crossed Manchester St to enjoy scroggin on a grassy slope looking out towards Hawkins Hill. A NZ falcon/kārearea flew silently beneath the pine tree canopy, as we clambered c. 80 m up among the pines where mountain bikers had dug out plunges and jumps. From just north of Truby King Park, we descended eastwards to the south end of a driveway on Town Belt which starts at a gate off Owen St, Newtown. The gravelled driveway serves a house above Kotinga St, and several houses at the south end of Coromandel St. We used minor tracks to avoid as much of this intrusive road as possible, but in return saw infestations of English ivy, Cape ivy and climbing asparagus.
Once across busy Crawford Rd and Alexandra Rd, we climbed a grassy slope to an octagonal brick tower, built in the 1890s, as a vent for a tunnel with water and sewage pipelines under Town Belt land. At the Wellington Table Tennis Club, Gavin, also a WTTC member, arranged for some of us to use the toilets there. Soon we settled on a sloping lawn beside a planted native forest, to have lunch, yarn, and look westwards over Newtown to Brooklyn. Everywhere we went, hundreds of male cicadas/kihikihi were using this hot, sunny day, to call for females to mate with Ė the racket was impressive!
Continuing north, we walked through the grounds of the Category 2 heritage-listed former Fever Hospital, now the SPCA headquarters, then up to Alexandra Park to pick a few blackberries. From here we descended through bush and pines to the fence above Wellington East Girlsí College, then to the former Ellice St quarry and the Pirie St Play Area. Nearby we happily harvested excellent feral apples before visiting Innermost Gardens. Here, on the former Mt Victoria Womenís Bowling Club greens, local residents now grow a wide range of vegetables, using compost supplied from bins they have built. The bowling club building serves as a base for their work, which includes, as we saw, teaching immigrants how to sow seed.
The Town Belt is indeed a fine backdrop to the city, and a wonderful place for walking, but the variety of invasive weed species and the proportion of the Town Beltís area they infest is alarming. In Charles Plimmer Park, Ellen pointed out the area that she and other residents of Mt Victoria have been weeding over several years. The resulting regeneration of self-sown native species is impressive.
Across Moller St, we entered Bayview Tce, and the track leading through Town Belt and along a drainage reserve to Hay St. We had views of peopleís backyards, the harbour, city, and Te Ahumairangi on the west side of the Town Belt. Above the Hay St Reserve gully, we followed the Southern Walkway to Grass St, then took the former route of the walkway down towards the bus stop on Oriental Pde, near the bottom of Carlton Gore Road. The no. 14 Wilton bus took us homewards. Our jaunt took four hours, so the grade was really E rather than EM.
- Party members
- Ellen Blake, Barbara Camfield, Bob Cijffers, Michele Dickson, Julia Fraser, Bill Gebbie, Brian Hasell, Sally Hasell, David Holland, Chris Horne (leader and scribe), Gavin Mickell, Donna Richardson, Peter Shanahan, Ian Stewart, Marris Weight.