Town Belt - western by-ways – easy/medium
Sunday 15 March 2015
From a bus stop on Thorndon Quay, we arrived on the Town Belt’s Queen’s Park section, named in 1897 to honour Queen Victoria’s jubilee. It is next to the quaintly named street, Goldies Brae. Here we were met by club member, Peter Nixon, resident in nearby Frandi St. He confirmed Dave Gobey’s advice that this was the site of a former WCC depot. In 1899, a cottage for the custodian was built here. Peter said the nearby “Banana House”, built in 1875-76 for Dr Alexander Johnson, was one of Wellington’s first concrete buildings. We then went up onto Grosvenor Tce to look down on the remarkable house, and its fine view over the harbour.
Across Grant Rd, near Newman Tce, we continued up this section of the Town Belt, which includes the impressive gully of Wai-paekaka Stream, where the track skirts a bluff and twice crosses the creek. Above Wadestown Rd, we tramped along tracks which sidle southwards along the east face of Te Ahumairangi / Tinakori Hill, mostly below the Northern Walkway. In one gully, WCC had recently done a fine job cutting passages through three fallen pines. In 1906, Council gave approval for Mr G Thomas to cut a tunnel in the hill above Grant Rd and quarry greywacke. We spent a happy half hour here, walking somewhat bent over to avoid bumping our heads, torches in hand, inspecting the 40-m tunnel. Instead of finding cave wētā and tutuwai / glowworms, we were fascinated by the beauty of the bright reflection of our torches provided by each of the myriad droplets of water on the tunnel walls. Why the pearl-like shine, we asked ourselves and each other? Years ago, former member, Alf Gollan, then in his 90s, recalled that, as a child, he lived in Grant Rd, and could remember the cable-car arrangement of twin tracks, built so that rail wagons laden with greywacke rock could descend from the quarry to Grant Rd, while pulling a line of empty wagons up to the quarry site.
After a photo stop on ‘Thorndon Green’, and descending Patanga Cres, past its row of three houses with top-storey balconies, and a large, protected, pōhutukawa, we entered the Botanic Garden Founders’ Entrance. Ruru Path, in native forest above Stable Gully, was a popular choice for lunch, shady, sheltered and relaxing. We left the Botanic Garden section of the Town Belt via Pukatea Bush Walk and bush leading to the North Tce cul-de-sac. Then we followed Upland Rd, the steps leading up and over to Central Tce and along it to its south end, partly via a path above it for the view. From a path down to Kelburn Pde, we descended to just beyond the garage on Town Belt land by no. 117.
Our final foray on Town Belt crossed a section of lawn, mown by neighbours, and passed a vegetable garden, a trampoline, swing, and a tree fort in a big macrocarpa. During recces with Barbara Mitcalfe, and Aro Valley resident, Julia Stace, a route had been prepared, descending the true left of ‘Adams Tce gully’, climbing its true right, then due south along the spur crest. We arrived at the top of the zigzags of the road built up the side of the pre-1905 quarry at the top of Aro St. In May 1943, the Public Works Dept sought 500 cubic yards of road metal for ‘urgent defence works’. About thirty minutes after leaving Kelburn Pde via forest comprising native species, large conifers and a host of weedy understorey species, we arrived on the sloping lawn at the top of Aro St, opposite the bus terminus. Soon we were enjoying hot drinks and cakes at outdoor tables at Aro Café. About 4.75 hours from go to whoa.
- Party members
- Diana Barnes, Elizabeth Bridge, Hera Cook, Michele Dickson, Chris Horne (leader and scribe), Stuart Hudson, Christine Leighs, Ray Markham, Gavin Mickell, Syd Moore, Peter Shanahan, Marris Weight. Dogs: Twyla, Winston