Thursday, February 26, 2009

2009. Poisoned Orongomai Trail, Kennedys Bush

I parked my Toyota at Sign of the Bellbird carpark beside two other cars, as I wanted to walk the Orongomai Trail, a circuit track through Kennedys Bush, which included three smaller circuit tracks returning to Sign of the Bellbird below Summit Road. I snapped Lyttelton Harbour, as grey clouds were flying in from the Pacific, and I wondered whether I'd stay dry on my walk?

2009. Brodifacoum Poison Sign found at the beginning & end of Orongomai Trail in Kennedys Bush, Port Hills, Christchurch

Going left below Sign of the Bellbird on Orongomai Trail, I crossed a wooden stile into native bush. A black-and-white POISON LAID skull-and-crossbones sign was stapled to a fence pole. Down the trail, another skull-and-crossbones sign on a wooden pole stated in red, black and white:


DO NOT TOUCH BAIT [Blue-green pellets.]
DEADLY TO DOGS [Caused dehydration and internal bleeding.]


Christchurch City Council poisoned rodents and exotic Aussie possums with poison toxic enough to kill kids, adults, dogs, possums and other animals, for the fantasy of conserving a native bush remnant, which possums gobbled in a valley.

In the next "private" Hoon Hay Valley exotic, monoculture pines replaced native bush, with the promise that matai and totara would be restored to native glory within a century. What a farce.

Down wet Orongomai Trail I walked down many mossy, stone steps, covered in slippery leaf- litter. I passed gorse and blackberries, and passed a TOTARA TRAIL sign, showing a short walk back to Sign of the Bellbird.

2009. Kennedys Bush gap, Orongomai Trail overlooking Canterbury Plains

Down wet Orongomai Trail, I came upon a big rock with a view through the bush over Canterbury Plains. A man passed me on the one-man-wide trail, wearing boots, shorts, red tartan shirt and hat. My jandals were unsuitable for walking wet tracks. I needed walking boots.

I zig-zagged down the cool, dark trail past a FANTAIL TRAIL sign which showed another short walk back to Sign of the Bellbird. I zig-zagged down more leaf-litter trail, down more slippery steps, through more native bush to a QUARRY TRAIL sign showing another circuit walk back to Sign of the Bellbird.

I continued down less travelled Orongomai Trail down more slippery stone steps and leaf-litter, through ferny understory, and five-finger shrubs, and taller sophoras, and leggy trunks of dark native bush. I recognized flaky, black bark and knobbly roots of a kahikatea white pine. Other trees were difficult to identify, as trunks were covered in moss, vines or black fungus. Although it was early afternoon, canopy darkness made it hard to identify leaves. So dark, my Nikon went into automatic flash mode whenever I coolpixed.

Orongomai Trail zig-zagged near a dry stream, down the valley over more slippery stone steps. I found a white plastic poison dispenser with an orange lid, on its side in leaf-litter - no poison pellets inside. I crossed the dry stream and heard bird calls. I wondered if that was what early Maori and early white settlers heard in native bush, as Brodifacoum poison could kill birds? The valley was so damp, water droplets guttated from five-finger leaf edges.

I crossed the dry stream bed again. At the bottom of Orongomai Trail I found a confluence of two streams going further down the valley. I saw no totora nor matai trees, due to mossy trunks, high canopy and low light. It took 45 slippery minutes to reach the bottom of Orongomai Trail.

2009. Poison Dispenser by Orongomai Trail in Kennedys Bush, Christchurch

Following Orongomai Trail upwards, beside the trickling second stream through native bush, I saw totara leaf-litter and found my first totara. I saw another plastic poison dispenser attached to a tree - also empty. I wondered how much Brodifacoum poison filtered into the stream? I passed many ferns and some tree ferns in the gully. Tree-nettles lurked by the trail too.

2009. Going up Orongomai Trail in Kennedys Bush, Christchurch

2009. Fantail, Orongomai Trail, Kennedys Bush, Christchurch

Varied native plant species in Kennedys Bush were more genetically diverse than pine monoculture in "private" Hoon Hay Valley and "private" Cashmere Valley nearby. A fantail flittered from branch to branch near me, twittering.

2009. Kennedys Bush gap, Orongomai Trail overlooking Canterbury Plains

Near the top of Orongomai Trail, someone had hacked away thistles, broom, bracken, gorse and blackberries. Weeds won, still growing trackside. I passed russet paperbark trunks of tree fuchsias, Fuchsia excorticata. While cloudy sky shone through the trees, I passed kanuka, sophoras, cabbage trees, dodonea, flax, olearia, pittosporums, hebes, lancewoods, two young totaras.

2009. Kennedys Bush plantings near the top of Orongomai Trail, Christchurch

Back at Sign of the Bellbird I crossed another wooden stile, with a POISON LAID sign and a WARNING POISON sign nearby. I took 1 hour 10 minutes to reach the top. A motorbike man sat on a Sign of the Bellbird wall, drinking from his thermos.

I sat on the stile and watched clouds race past Cass Peak (546m) and Mount Ada, sucking moisture over the Crater Rim from Lyttelton Harbour and the Pacific. Harry Ell had chosen his Sign of the Bellbird site well, as no low clouds covered Sign of the Bellbird.

When we'd lived in Halswell for eight years below, I'd asked a neighbour about Christchurch weather. "Look at the Port Hills," she said. "When clouds fly from the Pacific over Kennedys Bush, wet weather's coming."

2009. Stile below Sign of the Bellbird at the beginning / end of Orongomai Trail, Port Hills, Christchurch

At the carpark another car was parked alongside, and a Christchurch Park Ranger's white utility vehicle was parked too. I sat in my car watching clouds flying, before driving home.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2009. Ellas Track, Port Hills

2009. Southwards view of Mount Ada & Ellas Track off Summit Road, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Northwards view of Ohinetahi Bush, Marleys Hill & Hoon Hay Hill seen from Ellas Track

2009. Blackberry Picking on Ellas Track with Mount Bradley backdrop

I parked my car off Summit Road by a silver, 4WD Subaru Legacy, near the top of Kennedys Bush Track, overlooking Mount Ada. I wanted to walk the figure 8 Ellas Track to Sign of the Bellbird and back. A lone women clad in black shorts and T shirt walked off Ellas Track towards Kennedys Bush Track, while swigging h2go from a sippertop plastic bottle.

2009. Ellas Track view over Governors Bay & Quail Island in Lyttelton Harbour. Algal bloom in the sea

2009. Ellas Track Boozers on skyline overlooking Lyttelton Harbour

I passed thistles, blackberries and bracken, and would find those weeds alongside the whole of Ellas Track, as well as gorse and broom patches. On a rocky spur on the skyline below Mount Ada three blokes were boozing beer from brown bottles, while admiring Lyttelton Harbour views. Bet they didn't return their empties to their Subaru.

As it had heavily rained the day before, Ellas Track was muddy and slippery. Storm clouds created a dappled effect on Lyttelton Harbour waters.

2009. Ellas Track / Totara Log Track junction with cloudy Mount Bradley backdrop

2009. Northwards view of Mount Ada from Ellas Track

Through native bush, I carefully walked down old stone steps. After native bush, Totara Log Track forked off Ellas Track. I hadn't seen any totara trees along the track - must've been completely logged out by old foresters. On the TOTARA LOG TRACK wooden sign a black and white skull and crossbones sign was stapled:


A useless sign, as it didn't state what poison was used. Was it poison to kill Aussie possums? Kill ferrets? Kill rabbits? Or what? At the Ellas Track figure 8 junction an orange painted wooden board stated:


2009. Southwards view of Cass Peak & Coopers Knobs from Ellas Track

Two more wooden signs pointing in opposite directions stated ELLAS TRACK. I continued through native bush along Ellas Track below Crater Rim till I came across Sign of the Bellbird carpark by Summit Road.

A bridal party of five cars was busy taking photos with spectacular views of Mount Ada, Cass Peak, Lyttelton Harbour and Banks Peninsula. Across Summit Road a wooden sign stated:


2009. Kennedys Bush & Sign of the Bellbird Signs by Summit Road

Another skull and crossbones POISON LAID sign was stapled to the bottom of the wooden signboard. I explored Sign of the Bellbird area where Harry Ell had built his first resthouse for Edwardian walkers in 1906. On the ruined Sign of the Bellbird building a bottom stone had 1914 carved on it, like the 1914 carving on a Sign of the Kiwi stone further along Summit Road.

2009. Black Cloud over Kennedys Bush & Canterbury Plains seen from Sign of the Bellbird

Inside the Sign of the Bellbird building illicit fires had blackened the concrete floor, stone walls and ceiling. A "No Fires" sign was attached to one wall. A piss smell too. While a low, black cloud hung over Kennedys Bush and Canterbury Plains, I snapped Canterbury Plains, then read an information board beside a black, leather-clad motorbiker.

2009. Sign of the Bellbird Information Board

2009. Bride & Groom in the Mist below Cass Peak by Sign of the Bellbird

2009. Misty Mount Ada near Sign of the Bellbird

2009. Totara Tree on Ellas Track above Sign of the Bellbird below misty Cass Peak

Back on Summit Road, I snapped the bride in the mist below Cass Peak, and watched mist rise from Governors Bay up Mount Ada and Cass Peak. Ellas Track on Mount Ada eastern side was covered in mist, so I returned to my car via Crater Rim Walkway (Ellas Track) north-western route around Mount Ada, above Summit Road.

Along the way, I passed two lone totara trees, hebes and five-fingers, amongst gorse, broom and foxgloves in native bush and grassland. In parts I walked over red tuff. While I scoffed blackberries a male jogger passed me. Below me, I saw two men at the end of Kennedys Bush Track walking towards the head of Hoon Hay Valley and Marleys Hill.

2009. Marleys Hill, Sugarloaf & Hoon Hay Hill seen from Ellas Track

Back at my car the Subaru was still parked alongside, and the three boozing blokes were still on the skyline below Mount Ada, two hours after I'd begun dawdling Ellas Track.

2009. Late afternoon view of Lyttelton Harbour seen from Ellas Track, Port Hills

Three weeks later Leah and I walked Ellas Track. Someone had widened the track by hacking out gorse, bracken and blackberries. Leah enjoyed blackberry-picking remaining bushes.

2009. Ellas Track junction, middle of figure 8, Port Hills, Christchurch

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2009. Green Garbage, Kennedys Bush Track

Whenever I'd left my youngest son at his music lessons, Kennedys Bush Road, I drove to the end of Kennedys Bush Road to enjoy Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps views. Over the years, at the end of Kennedys Bush Road I watched Quarry Hill development, with several new roads and big houses obliterating views.

Again I drove up Kennedys Bush Road and parked at the end of Watlings Place, smothered by big houses. I walked across the only vacant plot below Watlings Place, walked below a new house, past more houses being built, and came to locked gate 1 and stile at the start of Kennedys Bush Track. By gate 1, the Crocodile Mountain Bike Track went left to Halswell Quarry. By a sheep grid, a sign with 15 lines of warnings to MTBs ended in red:


2009. Kennedys Bush Road housing development. Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps behind

On gate 1 a green and white sign stated:





2009. Reservoir near start of Kennedys Bush Track. Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps behind

I crossed the stile and walked up the steep track past a concrete reservoir, disguised by native plantings. Early days when I'd walked that way, the reservoir was two black, plastic water tanks. I passed a hill plateau which Leah and I'd climbed before.

By gate 2 (open) I passed cow pats, 3 black cows and on my right a pine windbreak and a valley full of gorse. On gate 2 was an identical green warning sign as on gate 1. On the ridge, tussock grass was interspersed with wire netting bush Corokia cotoneaster, and wide Kennedys Bush Track forked left, while an MTB track forked right.

2009. Looking southeast towards Lake Ellesmere from Kennedys Bush Track

2009. Kennedys Bush Track: Looking northwest over housing & road development on the far side of Hoon Hay Valley. See broom infestation down-valley to the left of pine trees

I looked over Hoon Hay Valley at the road and building development where I'd walked before by Worsleys Road. The development wasn't there when I'd walked some of Kennedys Bush Track years before. A male jogger wearing glasses passed me going towards Quarry Hill.

While I looked at distant "Body Bag" on Worsleys Track going up Marleys Hill, two MTBs passed me going to locked gate 3 and stile by a pine forest on our left. MTBs had to lug their bikes over all stiles. On gate 3 an identical green warning sign hung, as on gates 1 and 2. A red and white sign on a fence before the pine forest stated:


Years ago on another walk, I'd slipped through the pine forest down Hoon Hay Valley, and came out by a farmhouse at the end of Hoon Hay Valley Road. Below pines, by the gate, a wooden sign stated:


2009. Kennedys Bush Track: Hoon Hay Valley Arboretum Project

Further along the fence a green board stated:


This privately owned land is now in the process of a long-term project which will return the land to native bush.

The project will be achieved in Stages, taking over 100 years to reach the final restoration of a mature totara and matai forest to the Hoon Hay Valley.

To help this special project:
* Please keep off the land. Ecological restoration is a sensitive project easily disturbed by human intrusion.
* Please keep to ONLY these public areas:
(a) the Summit Road
(b) the Kennedys Bush Walking Track
(c) Worsleys Road
* No smoking - Fires will destroy the bush and forest."

The green sign contradicted the red and white "for personal safety" sign further along the fence. People were forbidden to be in, or smoke in, Hoon Hay Valley for 100 years. What tosh, especially the ecology dissembling! While foresters planted green garbage like Pinus radiata and wrecked Hoon Hay Valley, conservationists were appeased with totara and matai plantings. I'm sure totara and matai trees grew well without Pinus radiata for millions of years before forestry was invented.

In 100 years time I expect Hoon Hay Valley would be smothered by roads and housing, like the end of Kennedys Bush Road development. The only evidence I saw of gorse and broom eradication was earthmover scraping of "weeds" from Hoon Hay Valley rim by housing developers.

I wondered why the Arboretum Project hadn't invited people like conservationists, the public and students to admire their native plantings? I thought Kennedys Bush Track should be renamed Green Garbage Track.

Three men passed me walking towards Quarry Hill. A red 4x4 motorbike rode up to the fence with an unsmiling man shattering the peace with his forestry noise. He glared at me while I snapped his green garbage sign, turned and sped off down Hoon Hay Valley.

Along the ridge I came across two more concrete reservoirs, and by pylons and black and brown cows I encountered a Manning Intermediate school group.

2009. School on Kennedys Bush Track overlooking Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps. Gorse & Pines alongside

Manning Intermediate school kids were walking down Kennedys Bush Track from Summit Road, and I didn't find one discarded sweet wrapper or plastic junk on their trail. A boy gave me a low five as I puffed past, while his mates waited for stragglers, including two women, a Maori man and a fat girl.

I walked through pine forest on either side of Kennedys Bush Track with gorse alongside the track. A Danger sign hung on locked gate 4, the same as locked gate 3. Another green board stood by gate 4 stating the 6 Stages over 100 years of the Arboretum Project. I thought the Arboretum Project needed to clean up its act, as gorse and broom should've been cleaned out 10 years ago. Never mind pine tree green pollution.

2009. Kennedys Bush Track: Six Stages in the Hoon Hay Valley Arboretum Project

2009. Kennedys Bush Track Gorse & Pine Pollution

2009. Kennedys Bush Track Gorse & Pine Pollution overlooking Canterbury Plains

I passed two little dirty dams on my left, and in a pine clearing all I saw was masses of poroporo weed Solanum aviculare, no sign of totara nor matai trees.

2009. Kennedys Bush Track Gate & Stile & Gorse Pollution

2009. Kennedys Bush Track Gorse & Pine Pollution & Reservoir

2009. Kennedys Bush Track Gorse & Pine Pollution, Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps

After locked gate 5 and stile, I passed another concrete reservoir and left the pine forest behind. Ahead on three hillsides was more gorse. By that stage I was walking parallel to, but slightly lower than Worsleys Track by the top of Hoon Hay Valley on my left.

I walked over lilac rocks on Kennedys Bush Track, which was better maintained than deeply rutted Worsleys Track. Behind me Canterbury Plains had a thin haze below snowless Alps, with cloudless sky above Mount Hutt, Porters Pass, Torlesse Range, forever...

2009. Hoon Hay Valley Arboretum Project Board near top of Kennedys Bush Track

2009. Kennedys Bush Track Gate & Stile overlooking Hoon Hay Valley head, Marleys Hill & Sugarloaf. Gorse in foreground

Near the top of Kennedys Bush Track another green board boasted about 6 Stages of the Arboretum Project, but I'd passed masses of gorse, broom and thistles between locked gates 5 and 6. I wondered why fencers placed electrical fencing wire, to shock stock, ON TOP of each stile?

At Hoon Hay Valley head, above the pine forest, native bush had gorze on either side of the track. I saw some flax on top of a hill on my right. By Summit Road, I crossed mown grass and crossed another stile. My walk up Kennedys Bush Track had taken 2 hours with several puff and pic stops along the way.

2009. Fledgling Sparrow, Ellas Track below Mount Ada, Port Hills

Below Mount Ada (467m) I walked for five minutes along Ellas Track, and almost stomped on a fledgling sparrow, as it was well camouflaged. Must've been blown out of its nest. I thought it would die. Besides thick Ohinetahi Bush down Crater Rim, I walked past thistles, bracken and blackberries.

On a rock I late-lunched on a Big Ben Classic Steak pie, apple and CocaCola. Views over Quail Island towards Diamond Harbour and Banks Peninsula made my walk worthwhile. Returning to Summit Road, I saw several male MTBs pass, while I picked and scoffed blackberries by Ellas Track.

2009. Ellas Track view of Ohinetahi Bush, Governors Bay, Head of the Bay, Charteris Bay & Banks Peninsula

On my way down Kennedys Bush Track, two male MTBs passed. Above the pine forest, I kicked my shoes off and walked barefoot for a while. I took 1 hour 15 minutes to return to my car. As I'd forgotten my hat, the afternoon sun and reflection off white clay on Kennedys Bush Track had burnt my face.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

2009. Nameless Track, Hoon Hay Valley

2009. End of Hoon Hay Valley & Cashmere Road, Christchurch, with Canterbury Plains behind

One overcast Saturday afternoon, I drove to Westmorland and parked my car near the end of Penruddock Road. After several weeks of Christchurch summer heat, three days of rain had been a relief.

Over the last week, on TV we'd watched the horrors of Victoria burning near Melbourne. When I'd driven around Christchurch the previous Saturday, a beigy-orange glow had suffused the air, roads, cars, windows, walls, causing a spooky light. Dust from Aussie bush fires had blown 2000 kms across the Tasman Sea to NZ.

2009. City Care sign, Westmorland, Christchurch

Beyond a gate a sign stated:


Warning lists stated:




2009. Drain Covers, City Care Site Office, above Hoon Hay Valley, Christchurch

2009. Excavators overlooking Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps, Westmorland, Christchurch

Beyond the sign, I walked up the steep slope hazard on a gravel track and examined two white CITY CARE earthmoving diggers: one parked near a pile of rolling rocks hazard, another parked by a site office near several cylindrical concrete drain covers. A big pile of sand covered in weeds stood behind the site office. Near a house, further up the steep slope hazard, to the left a rattling digger dumped dirt into a truck.

I returned to the gate and followed concrete drain covers along a clay track hazard at the edge of Hoon Hay Valley. I was the only walker hazard and had the site to myself. Near the CITY CARE diggers again, the track had been graded leaving mud drying and ribbed by earthmoving track machines.

2009. Drain Trench, Hoon Hay Valley top. Marleys Hill, Worsleys Track & Hoon Hay Hill backdrop

I passed a deep trench hazard where diggers had extracted rock hazards. The trench hazard was deeper and longer than several graves above Hoon Hay Valley.

2009. Drain Cover overlooking broom, Hoon Hay Valley & Canterbury Plains

2009. Excavator cat truck overlooking Hoon Hay Valley & Hoon Hay Hill, Port Hills

Near pylons, I came across another tracked earthmover parked in the mud, and looked down Hoon Hay Valley Road at cattle and sheep in separate paddocks. Beside Cashmere Road I saw red deer in more Hoon Hay Valley paddocks. To make way for drain pipes, a grader had scraped away broom down the valley slope.

Over the years, whenever I'd driven along Hoon Hay Valley Road, broom infestation had increased. I watched someone riding a horse in the valley, and two joggers went up the road too.

2009. Hoon Hay Valley & Hoon Hay Hill, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Drain Cover & Digger Buckets, northern hillside above Hoon Hay Valley

2009. Digger by Nameless Track, Hoon Hay Valley side. Marleys Hill backdrop

On my Nameless Track, below a grassy hill hazard, I walked along a muddy dip, and on a grassy rise I found several earthmoving buckets of different sizes. On Hoon Hay Valley rim, burnt grass, revealed rocks to be moved. Below the grassy hill, I passed another parked digger, and after passing 26 concrete drain covers, each about 100m apart, surrounded by mud, I came to the end of my Nameless Track, near new housing and a fence by Worsleys Road. I snapped Canterbury Plains one side and Sugarloaf and Marleys Hill the other side.

2009. Nameless Track, Hoon Hay Valley side. Sugarloaf & Marleys Hill backdrop

2009. By Worsleys Road. Sugarloaf & Marleys Hill, Port Hills backdrop

2009. End of Nameless Track excavation near Worsleys Road. Sugarloaf & Dyers Pass backdrop

From a house, two teenager boys flew a balsawood model plane, which circled past me and dropped into the mud. I retrieved it and placed it on a rock for the boys to find. Its engine had fallen off.

The previous Saturday, Leah and I'd watched Wigram Air Show from Riccarton Mall carpark - parachutists falling from the blue; two helicopters trailing smoke; two big planes, a 4 prop engine and a 2 prop engine, circling over Christchurch; and at the end, 5 planes formation-flying - looping and diving, making smoke trails in the sultry afternoon.

Ngai Tahu Maori tribe had bought Wigram Airport with Waitangi Treaty settlement money, and planned to close Wigram Airport, replacing it with housing development. We'd seen many housing developments in Christchurch.

2009. Nameless Track above Hoon Hay Valley with Canterbury Plains behind

Along my Nameless Track I dawdled back to my car. Like any road construction, the disturbed ground was full of weeds: yarrow; docks; thistles; cotula; fat hen; poroporo Solanum aviculare, and bumble bees pollinating. On reaching my car, I'd dawdled for two hours and clouds had blown away. In future I expect new houses would've been built, despite the credit crunch.

When I drove back to Burnside, cops were directing traffic at the Blenheim Road / Curletts Road intersection, enabling hazardous bikers to complete their two day Coast to Coast Marathon from Kumara Beach on the West Coast to Christchurch.

Content & pics Mark JS Esslemont