East Harbour Regional Park traverse
10 July 2010
As we left the No. 83 bus at Days Bay, the last of the day’s drizzle squalls overtook us, so we donned parkas and walked to Kotari Road, where three plump kererū watched as we began climbing the spur north of the road. Above the houses, the spur is pleasant travel in beech forest, with occasional rimu and miro, and higher up, northern rātā. Alan used his folding “Sven” saw to clear a windfall off the route. The Mainland Island Restoration Organisation’s (MIRO) volunteers trap possums, and track and trap rodents and mustelids here. We saw numerous decapitated young kāmahi and hīnau, indicating that deer infest this forest, distorting natural forest processes by their selective browsing of species they find particularly palatable.
After scroggin on the Main Ridge Track, we descended a spur to ‘Top Forks’, True Right branch, Gollans Stream. Much of the bush on these hills was destroyed by fire in 1908. Kāmahi is now the dominant tree in this young forest, among which remain the roots and stumps of northern rātā burnt in the fire. The spur is well-defined at first, then part-way down it changes direction by 10°, becoming indistinct for a while - good compass practice for our new navigator! From the forks, guided by the navigator, we tramped through more young forest, up the spur north to Main Ridge Track, then lunched in the sun at the track junction at Lowry Lookout.
The sign at the lookout doesn’t mention Mt Lowry trig, so our navigator took a bearing for the 150-metre walk and had the satisfaction of choosing the correct track, and minutes later, finding the pipe on Lowry 373 m.
From here, we followed the final bearing all the way down a pleasant, and mostly well-defined, spur to Kōwhai St, Wainuiomata. The upper part of the spur is shown, incorrectly, on the park map, and on topographical maps NZMS 260 R27, R28, Pt. Q27, Wellington, and its 2009 replacement, NZTopo50-BQ32 Lower Hutt, as the route of Lees Grove Track.
Fortunately, the signboard at Lowry Lookout directs southbound walkers to the Lees Grove Track and Rātā Ridge Track which begin beyond Lowry trig. Regional Council staff will correct the pamphlet and advise Land Information NZ of the error on their new map. The spur down to Kōwhai St veers briefly right, then left, off the bearing, again good practice for off-track travellers, because the slight zigzag is too small-scale to be depicted on the map. Then, on a flat area, the spur divides, and our bearing took us down the well-defined spur through mostly open beech forest until we entered a scrubby area dominated by the weed tree heath, branches of which were broken by the leader during his recce the previous week. Emerging from the scrub into beech forest just above the houses, we found a bench seat, prayer flags, two small statues, and a cross decorated with fleur-de-lys – someone’s place for contemplation. Soon we were on the right-of-way at the end of Kōwhai Street and ten minutes later caught a No. 170 bus on Wainuiomata Road.
Once again, the northern forest block of this park, readily accessible on east and west sides by public transport, provided a club group with a crossing involving little-used routes requiring some map and compass work combined with careful observation of trends in the direction of spurs. It is an ideal place for an M-grade day trip, in this case a five-hour winter tramp.
We thank Graeme and Judith Claridge and Greater Wellington Regional Council for information about the area.
- Party members
- Colleen Davey, Chris Horne (leader/scribe), John Montgomerie (Heretaunga TC), Alan Wright.