Tuesday, November 25, 2008
2008. Dead Sheep Signs, Farm Track, Port Hills
2008. Start of Gorge Track, with Bike Track above left, Mount Vernon Park, Port Hills, Christchurch
I wanted to snap the dead sheep I recently saw near Farm Track in Mount Vernon Park, so I drove to the end of Albert Terrace and parked my car near an empty bus with a blue logo "Adventure Specialist Trust." On the farm gate four signs shrieked:
1. Christchurch City Council. Your People Your City
AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT (Brown lettering on a creamy metal sign).
2. NO VEHICLES (Red lettering on a wooden sign).
3. PLEASE SHUT THE GATE (Black lettering on a white metal sign).
4. ALL DOGS ON LEASH AT ALL TIMES (Black lettering on a wooden sign).
Near a wooden stile next to the gate two more signs on the farm fence screamed:
5. DANGER FALLING ROCKS (Christchurch City Council picture of a black hill with black rocks falling, above black lettering on a yellow metal sign).
6. RESTRICTED AREA KEEP OUT (Red and white plastic sign).
Sign six was confusing, as my Christchurch City Council free map showed that the Gorge Track, following Albert Stream in Mount Vernon Park, began at the end of Albert Terrace.
By the gate I climbed over a wooden stile, and walked past a paddock full of sheep on my left, and a BMX track on my right to the Gorge Track, where I walked through native shrub plantings. I left the Gorge Track and climbed the left side of the gorge to caves, then climbed a steep path above the caves to reach the Bike Track.
2008. Rock Climbers in the Gorge, Mount Vernon Park, Port Hills, Christchurch
While climbing over another wooden stile, I looked down into the gorge and saw two girls rock-climbing a cliff on the opposite side: one climbed, while the other belayed from the bottom of the cliff. At intervals, four fixed climbing ropes hung near the top of the cliff.
While I puffed upwards along the wide Bike Track, at a wide open gate, three smiley girls passed me on their way down. On the ridge I joined Farm Track, and on my left I saw Rapaki Track below on Montgomery Spur. As the warm nor'wester blew, my view of Christchurch and Canterbury Plain was clear.
Snow had already melted on the Alps, indicating a long, hot summer. Beside Farm Track, by a small dam I met a hairy ewe with a shorn ram, which had big, pink testicles. The ewe had two lambs with curly fleeces. One lamb was on its knees and butted the ewe's udder for milk.
2008. Walkers on Bike Track, beside hidden Gorge on left, overlooking Christchurch. Mount Thomas beyond Canterbury Plains
I followed a contour path along the rim of the gorge until I found the dead sheep amongst Californian thistles, Cirsium arvense, and tussock grass. The carcass was still intact, and the sheep had died with a view down the gorge towards Christchurch. It took me 35 minutes walking from my car to the dead sheep.
2008. Dead Sheep overlooking Gorge, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch CBD & Mount Thomas beyond Canterbury Plains
After snapping the dead sheep, when I returned along the contour path I found another dead sheep. All that was left was a bit of fleece, four lower legs and a dead grass-print of the dead sheep. The skull, spine, ribs, girdles and upper limb bones were all missing. A heap of dung showed where guts had been. As I'd seen dead gorse nearby, and as the two dead sheep were about 100 metres apart near shrivelled Californian thistles, I wondered how the sheep had died - Californian thistle herbicide?
Back on Farm Track, I walked barefoot on cool, green grass, where a man and a woman passed me down the ridge. An old man on his bike smiled at me while peddling upwards. Down Bike Track, overlooking the gorge cliff again, I saw the rock-climbing party had swelled to seventeen climbers wearing red, white, blue and pink helmets. I watched a girl get stuck halfway up the cliff, then abseil down. Each climber, with a belay climber at the cliff base, climbed to the top of a fixed rope before abseiling down.
I watched rock-climbers for a while, then continued down Bike Track to a gate where a sign warned cyclists about children on the road. The gate ended Bike Track at a Mount Vernon Park exit some distance from my car, so I walked down the road a bit and left-turned into a gravel driveway, where on a tree trunk a sign in black lettering on a wooden board screamed PRIVATE PROPERTY KEEP OUT.
Instead of prohibition signs, it would've been better to give direction signs at the start and end of tracks. Opposite the KEEP OUT sign, I passed through a farm gate, went across the paddock full of sheep, and passed through another gate back to my car.
Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.