Friday, November 28, 2008

2008. Mount Vernon Park and Huntsbury Hill

2008. Mount Vernon Park Sign, Christchurch

I drove to Mount Vernon Park, parked my car at the end of Albert Terrace, and walked along Gorge Track, wanting to reach Dry Bush Track.

2008. Mount Vernon Park Rock Climbing Sign, Christchurch

Bluffs either side of the gorge cast cool shadows. I passed caves on my left, and on my right at the base of a cliff a board stated: "Mount Vernon Park Rock Climbing Area." On a previous walk above the gorge, I'd watched seventeen rock-climbers climbing the cliff. Close up, I saw pitons hammered into the cliff.

The board told me about endemic plants like Banks Peninsula hebe, Banks Peninsula blue tussock and Hebe strictissima, as well as skinks and geckos, none of which I saw. I did see orange-berried Coprosma robusta, lots of whiteywoods, Melicytis ramiflorus, creepers, climber blackberries and bindweeds, Calystegia sylvatica with white flowers smothering native plants in the gorge.

2008. Whiteywood, Melicytis ramiflorus, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

While I walked through pine forest, I saw pigeon nests on the left bluff. In sunny glades, I enjoyed the strong smell of resin. I had the gorge to myself, while I criss-crossed stony Albert Stream, dry except for stagnant puddles. Gorge Track went left, but on my right I climbed a steep pine gully, over pine needles and pine tree roots, as I thought I could reach Dry Bush Track that way. Big mistake, as I should've stayed on Gorge Track at the bottom.

2008. Pines, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

As there was no path at the top of the gorge, I followed a fence on my right until I came across another fence at right angles to the first fence. I crossed the first fence by a corrugated iron shelter and followed the second fence through pines along the gorge rim.

2008. Gorge in Mount Vernon Reserve hidden below pines to the left of the paddock I crossed to the next shelter belt. Montgomery Spur & Rapaki Track, Port Hills behind

At the end of the pines I crossed another fence into a steep gorse paddock, crossed the windy paddock, and crossed another fence into a pine shelter-belt, where some young pines had been pruned out, allowing others to mature.

2008. I tramped to the left of these houses & paddocks to the top house & shelter belt. Mount Vernon on Port Hills behind

At the end of the shelter-belt a gum tree was blown over, and its roots lifted the fence, enabling me to cross under. While I kept a big house on Huntsbury Hill on my right and the gorge on my left, I waded through waist-high grass and a flax gully in the next steep and windy paddock. Across the gorge I saw Farm Track on Mount Vernon ridge.

2008. I walked from the Gorge in Mount Vernon Reserve below this house till I reached its shelter belt. Rapaki Track in distance

I crossed another fence into another pine and macrocarpa shelter-belt, which was thicker than the previous shelter-belt, as the trees were unpruned. I came across a grassy track and turned upwards towards the big house on Huntsbury Hill, well sheltered by trees.

I passed house perimeter trees, went through a gate at the back pine belt, and along the grassy track until I reached a gravel road by another house. I passed a dam, after which I reached Huntsbury Avenue just above Tirora Lane and West View Place. A jogger passed me going down Huntsbury Hill.

The blustery nor'wester had knotted my hair, and caused my views of Christchurch to be dusty and murky. Along the way, I'd snapped houses backdropped by Rapaki Track, Farm Track, Bike Track and Mount Vernon. New houses were built near the top of Huntsbury Avenue. As we'd seen many new houses built during our years in Christchurch, in future I thought the steep paddocks and shelter-belts I'd bush-bashed would be covered in houses.

2008. Westview Place & new houses near top of Huntsbury Avenue, Christchurch. Sugarloaf with TV transmitter behind

A blonde passed me walking up Huntsbury Avenue. An elderly couple too. For about four kilometres, I zig-zagged down Huntsbury Avenue, which became Ramahana Road at a lower corner, crossed Centaurus Park to Saint Martins School and walked up Albert Terrace back to my car.

Along the way, I passed Huntsbury Hill Community Notice Board by the roadside, and Huntsbury Reserve. I liked north-facing gardens filled with geraniums, Namaqualand daisies and xerophytes. Near the bottom of Huntsbury Hill a blonde school girl slogged upwards wearing white socks and carrying her shoes. The circular walk took me 2h15mins.

Eleven months later I returned to Mount Vernon Park, as I wanted to walk Dry Bush Track which I'd missed in the gorge pine forest.

2009. Fallen Pines, Gorge Track by Albert Stream, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

In drizzle I passed native plantings and went up through pines again, while criss-crossing Albert Stream, trickling turbid, clayey water after spring rains. Several pines had been blown down, two across Gorge Track. On my left, one half-alive pine leaned against the cliff, another half-fallen pine was supported by a sturdier pine. Two pines had fallen over Albert Stream, their roots sticking up in the air.

2009. Paradise Shelducks, Gorge Bluff Top, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

2009. Caves & Camper's Tent, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

On top of a gorge cliff I saw two paradise shelducks sunning themselves, well camouflaged. Pigeons still roosted in rock nests above a cave. Further up the gorge on the same cliff top, I saw a camper's green bell tent and sleeping bag, also well camouflaged.

2009. Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

2009. Sign by Fallen Pine Roots, Albert Stream, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

2009. Dead Sheep, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

I passed several caves on both sides of the gorge. I passed the pine gully which I'd previously climbed, a freshly fallen pine blocking the gully. I crossed a fence where a sheep carcass lay. Near the end of the pines, I found the DRY BUSH TRACK and GORGE TRACK fork. On Gorge Track side I scrambled up to a "Maori" cave, and found another dead sheep which had fallen off the cave cliff onto a rock at the cave mouth.

2009. Gorge Track / Dry Bush Track Fork by Albert Stream, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

2009. Bracken, Gorse & Fallen Pines, Dry Bush Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

2009. Dead Sheep & Dead Gorse, Dry Bush Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

Beyond Pines on Dry Bush Track, drizzle stopped, and I found another dead sheep. I passed through dead gorse before entering tussock grassland stretching up both sides of the gorge. Again I wondered if dead sheep resulted from toxic gorse spray? Sheep stared at me from the heights.

2009. Dry Bush Track northern view down Gorge. Christchurch backdrop

2009. Dry Bush Track / Albert Stream southern view to Shelter & Mount Vernon, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Under-runner, Dry Bush Track by Albert Stream. Northern view down Gorge to Christchurch

On the skyline near the gorge head I saw the kitsch shelter, which I'd passed on previous walks. I hopped over an under-runner hole in the path, and after half an hour's walk up the gorge I turned back, as I had no intention of visiting the shelter again.

Dry Bush Track was a misnomer, as I'd passed cliff side shrubs, creepers and exotic gorse, into tussock grassland with poplars and more pines on gorge bluffs which I'd bush-bashed eleven months before.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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