Days Bay - Gollans Stream - West Branch - Lowry.
Wednesday 24th January, 2007
The hills behind Eastbourne have long been known as a semi-wilderness, once beyond the promenades behind Days Bay. Although people have been wandering about these hills for many years, they were until recently free from marked tracks, although the routes themselves were readily visible to the skilled eye. All that has changed in recent years with the formation of the East Harbour Regional Park and an intensive campaign to rid the area of possums and rats. Many of the old routes have been marked with the ubiquitous pink squares defining routes for trappers to follow, while possum traps and bait stations have been put in at regular intervals along the tracks. In particular, around Mt Hawtrey, a close-spaced grid of bait stations has resulted in a marker on almost every tree in this zone. Ultimately, when rat numbers are low enough, it is proposed to reintroduce robins to this area. Only in the more remote parts of the park can the feeling of wilderness still be found.
Fourteen of us met by the duck pond in Williams Park on Wednesday morning and after the usual introductions set off up the broad walkway, climbing over the debris of a recent slip that blocked the track to the top of Korimako Road, and from there up the long-established track to the main ridge, a steady climb which took about an hour. Rested and refreshed, we followed the ridge track south to the start of Hunters Track, now well trodden by trappers and marked by possum traps and bait stations, despite the notice warning people this is not a track. Hunters Track is a short and not very steep descent into Gollans Stream, where a number of good campsites can be found just downstream of the junction, marked in many cases by the remains of old fireplaces. This is a crossroads, as from here there is a marked track leading up a steep spur to the eastern ridge of Gollans Valley, as well as routes up Gollans Valley to Lowry and downstream to the Butterfly Creek picnic area.
We followed the track up Gollans Stream, crossing frequently, and very soon most of us had wet feet. The going is through thin open bush with the occasional large beech and rare rimu, although many young miro and rimu can be seen. Much of this area was burnt in a very large fire in 1908 and most of the original rata forest has gone, although the charred remains of the root systems of many large rata trees can be seen on the valley sides. The track is becoming quite well defined here, as a line of bait stations extends from Mt Lowry all the way down valley to Butterfly Creek and these are cleared regularly. After half an hour we found ourselves at the main forks, where the track heads up a spur onto Lowry. We left the track here and followed up the west branch. At the junction there are extensive bush-covered flats which make for easy going. We found the remains of a fireplace here, showing that others had visited and camped at this pleasant spot before us. From here we picked our way up the stream, crossing from time to time to avoid steep sidles. The route is marked by occasional bits of pink tape, but there is no obvious track, indicating that the area is little visited. The valley closes in a little, forcing us into the stream, where at times we had to clamber through fallen branches. Half an hour after leaving the main forks, we reached another crossroads, where a sign indicated we were at Top Forks. Here there is a route up a steep spur to the main ridge, coming out about halfway between the top of the Korimako Road and Ferry Road tracks, another heading east to join the track up the central spur onto Lowry, and another up between the two branches of the west branch of Gollans Stream to join the main ridge close to Mt Lowry. After a leisurely lunch at the forks we set off again up a very steep spur, which after about 100 metres or so became less steep, and the ridge was a little more defined. The going was relatively open on the crest of the spur, (possibly kept open by animals) through even-aged kamahi, with rare beech and the occasional charred stump, relics of the 1908 fire. Very soon the ridge leveled off and we had an easy walk along the ridge until, after about half an hour from the forks, we joined the main track just south of the Mt Lowry lookout. From here it was an easy walk along the broad track and down the Ferry Road track, a steep descent through beech forest, gorse and the devastation wrought by the recent felling of pines, and so back to the duckpond in Days Bay. All agreed that the trip was worthwhile, even though only about an hour of the four was through semi-wilderness or at least off-track.
- Party members
- David Campbell, Graeme Claridge (leader and scribe), Judith Claridge, John
Hart, Ali Hill, John Hill, Jenny Lewis, Maria Mears, David Ogilvie, Barbara Ogilvie, Michelle Paterson and Bill Wheeler