After a hot, dry February and following rains, Port Hills were greening again. Around midday, I parked my car at Sign of the Bellbird, as I wanted to explore O'Farrells Track southwards below Cass Peak and Coopers Knobs. I walked down Ellas Track then Cass Ridge Track, past a small flock of sheep, some with black faces, some peering from five-finger foliage.
After twenty minutes descent, at the Cass Ridge Track and O'Farrells Track south fork, I walked right down O'Farrells Track with Pacific winds on my back. I passed through a big patch of gorse sprinkled with Coprosma robusta, poroporo, thistles, bracken, broom and blackberry.
2009. O'Farrells Track view of Bush Gully below Cass Peak & Cass Ridge
Further down Cass Ridge, I hopped over a rickety gate entering native bush, and zigzagged down the bushy gully below Cass Peak. Pink plastic tape on a tree branch indicated a white, plastic poison dispenser on my left. On the corner of a zigzag, a black and white sign on a locked farm gate stated:
TO GOVERNORS BAY
<- OR SUMMIT ROAD
Fake orange, stock-shock tape tied to the gate-top was further discouragement to walkers.
2009. Stoat Trap, O'Farrells Track,
By a stream in the gully below Cass Peak, another white, plastic poison dispenser was attached to a tree trunk to kill Aussie possums, which chomped native bush like tree fuchsia, Fuchsia excorticata, and carried bovine TB. In grass below the tree, a black plastic stoat trap was weighed down with sticks and stones to catch stoats which chomped native birds. Native bush was being poisoned to please conservationists and farmers.
2009. Purple to black berries, Whiteywood, Melicytus ramiflorus, O'Farrells Track
Round a corner, I passed five-finger shrubs, Coprosma robusta with its fiery orange berries, whiteywood with its purple to black berries, and a Schefflera digitata seven-finger.
2009. Seven-finger Schefflera digitata, O'Farrells Track
A long section beside O'Farrells Track bush was overgrown with blackberries, so I had to step over prickly blackberry branches growing across the track. I feasted on blackberries while bumble bees pollinated pink flowers.
2009. O'Farrells Track gate-&-stile view of Cass Peak & Cass Ridge
I crossed a muddy stream where the bush formed a dark canopy over O'Farrells Track with ferns, trunks and tangled creepers. On a whiteywood trunk a number 23 poison dispenser was attached, with pink plastic tape on a branch above.
2009. O'Farrells Track view of lower Cass Ridge & north-eastern Crater Rim
2009. O'Farrells Track view of Governors Bay, Lyttelton Harbour & Diamond Harbour
Masses of blackberry bushes ended after I crossed a fence stile, below looming Cass Peak. A black and white skull and crossbones POISON LAID sign was attached to the fence, warning about killing possums. Below Coopers Knobs, I walked through a kanuka grove and crossed another gate stile into grassland. On the gate another POISON LAID sign was attached. Someone had written in black and white on the sign: Cholecalciferol and Brodifacoum.
2009. O' Farrells Track view of lower Cass Ridge, Governors Bay & Banks Peninsula
2009. O'Farrells Track view of a kanuka grove & Cass Peak, Port Hills
I looked back at Cass Ridge and the steep bush gully I'd crossed. There were also views over cleared farmland and Lyttelton Harbour, including extinct, volcanic Governors Bay, Head of the Bay and Charteris Bay. I imagined those vistas covered in native bush before the arrival of white settlers, loggers and farmers.
On O'Farrells Track, I dodged sheep dung and cow pats. On my right naturally brown, grassy slopes rose steeply to Coopers Knobs. On my left unnaturally green sheep and cattle paddocks sloped down to Governors Bay. Some sheep paddocks looked overgrazed.
2009. O'Farrells Track, kanuka grove below Coopers Knobs
2009. O' Farrells Track, kanuka below Coopers Knobs
Beyond another gate, five shorn lambs ran away into another kanuka grove in a gully below Coopers Knobs. At the next gate on Living Springs property, two small, wooden signs pointed in different directions:
<- MAIN CAMP
2009. Living Springs Summit sign below Coopers Knobs
2009. Bay Views & Lyttelton Harbour near Living Springs
I took the well-maintained, grassy SUMMIT track climbing towards Coopers Knobs. Along the way, I would pass more MAIN CAMP signs pointing into the valley. On my fourth ridge for the day, I slogged up to four cabbage trees on the skyline. A man far below mowed grass in a sloping paddock.
2009. Living Springs with Mount Bradley backdrop
The ridge I climbed had grand views of Gebbies Pass and Banks Peninsula, which were denuded of native bush. In the valley below, Living Springs buildings nestled in a pine forest. Above the pine forest was native bush, which I trekked through to Summit Road. It was my third valley of the day, while I zigzagged up the cool slope towards the warm north-facing slope across the valley head.
2009. Dappled Things, south-facing bush above Living Springs
On the cool slope I came across a dry waterfall and trickling stream, with duckboard bridges over muddy sections. Sunlight filtered through canopy onto tree ferns, tree trunks, vines and ferns, forming dappled things. Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, Pied Beauty:
"Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow..."
2009. South-facing & North-facing Bush above Living Springs, Governors Bay, Lyttelton Harbour & Diamond Harbour
It was a 23C afternoon, and the nor'wester blew over Summit Road from Canterbury Plains, warming the upper bush through which I sweated. I paused for pics and saw a cruise ship in Lyttelton Port far away. Coopers Knobs dyke (573 m) above me was the highest point in the Port Hills.
2009. Coopers Knob seen from north-facing slope above Living Springs
On a concrete and wooden bench near a stile by Summit Road, I had a late lunch of CocaCola and Irvines Pie Time, Chicken and Vegetable Pie, while enjoying views over Lyttelton Harbour and Banks Peninsula. A metal plaque on the bench stated:
In Memory of
Peter McCallum Morrow
Co-founder of Living Springs
A man who loved God and people
As it was a school day, I'd had tracks below Cass Peak and Coopers Knobs to myself. My descent into the crater and my ascension had taken me 2.5 hours, so far.
2009. Governors Bay, Head of the Bay, Charteris Bay, Lyttelton & Diamond Harbour seen from north-facing slope above Living Springs
Looking at Mount Herbert with pine forests on lower slopes, I thought of destruction of Banks Peninsula and Port Hills native forests since 1850s by settlers, loggers, foresters and farmers, leaving poisoned forest remnants on Banks Peninsula and Port Hills.
2009. Near Coopers Knobs, Crater Rim Track view of Summit Road, Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps
2009. Crater Rim Track south-eastwards view of Gibraltar Rock, Lake Ellesmere & Canterbury Plains
2009. Crater Rim view of Coopers Knob, Port Hills, overlooking Lyttelton Harbour & Diamond Harbour
2009. Crater Rim Track southern view of Summit Road, Coopers Knobs & Gibraltar Rock, Port Hills
My return walk along Crater Rim Walkway took one hour, ten minutes. After emerging from bush, I looked back at views of Gibraltar Rock, Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps.
Most of my return walk went through tussock grassland and bracken above Summit Road, with views over Canterbury Plains and the Alps to my left and views of Coopers Knob, Lyttelton Harbour and Banks Peninsula from Crater Rim saddles on my right.
Blots on the landscape below Summit Road, were pine forests and forestry mess - excavated earth, weeds, old log piles, gorse-filled valleys after loggers had left.
2009. Crater Rim & Summit Road view of messy pine-forestry & weedy valley in Port Hills, overlooking Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps
2009. Crater Rim Track view of Cass Peak & north-eastern Crater Rim Peaks
2009. Crater Rim Track view of Cass Peak south-face, Port Hills
Along the way I polished off my 1.5 litre CocaCola, as warm nor'wester breezes dehydrated me. Before native bush below Cass Peak, by a stile an orange and white sign stated:
KEEP TO TRACKS
Attached to the sign were pics forbidding dogs, fires, shooting and camping.
2009. Crater Rim Stile before Cass Peak bush, overlooking Lyttelton Harbour
Below Cass Peak, on the cool, stony bush track, I got away from incessant Crater Rim winds. In the still, dark bush, I time-slipped back to the 1800s, didn't hear voices of murdered Maori, but felt tapu - forbidding signs I'd passed the last six months in the Port Hills - till I reached sunlight by Sign of the Bellbird again.
2009. View from bush below Cass Peak overlooking Cass Ridge, Governors Bay, Quail Island & Lyttelton Harbour
Content & pics Mark JS Esslemont.