I parked my car at Vega Place before ZEALANDIA HORTICULTURE at the bottom of Avoca Valley, Christchurch, as I wanted to walk around DUNCAN PARK and climb to the top rock on the ridge between north-facing Avoca Valley and Horotane Valley. (Old name for Zealandia Horticulture was Valley Nursery).
2009. Zealandia Horticulture, Vega Place, Christchurch. Castle Rock & Avoca Valley ridge backdrop, Port Hills
I walked along truck-noisy Port Hills Road a bit, and opposite Chapmans Road I passed the entrance to FERRYMEAD PONY CLUB, which leased most of Duncan Park at the bottom of the ridge and Avoca Valley. From the north the ridge was pyramid-shaped, but from the side it looked dragon-back shaped.
2009. Ferrymead Pony Club entrance, Port Hills Road, Christchurch. Castle Rock & lower Avoca Valley ridge backdrop, Port Hills
The track began at Duncan Park carpark on Horotane Valley side of the ridge, and I walked through a gate with big macrocarpas on my right and steep horse paddocks going over the ridge to Avoca Valley. Due to heavy rains the last few days the track was muddy. Newly eroded white clay from the ridge covered the grass.
I walked beside the ridge between farm fences going up to a pine forest ascending the ridge slope. Tomato greenhouses stretched across the bottom of Horotane Valley towards Tunnel Road, which went up Heathcote Valley through Lyttelton Tunnel to Lyttelton Port.
The track had hoofprints in the mud, and I passed a concrete horse-trough half-filled with stagnant water and lemna weed. I passed horse paddocks in Horotane Valley, with horses wearing canvas horse-coats, and further up Horotane Valley were more greenhouses and orchards where we sometimes bought apricots, plums and vegetables. In the distance, at Horotane Valley head I saw Castle Rock and The Tors.
2009. Duncan Park circuit track, Horotane Valley lower ridge side. Castle Rock, Port Hills backdrop
A bloke wearing a brown tartan shirt passed me. Further on he stopped and did stretching exercises at a small gatepost. He left me when he realized I wasn't going to compete with his fast pace on wooden steps, zigzagging up the slope beside the pine forest.
2009. Horotane Valley lower ridge slope, Duncan Park, overlooking tomato greenhouses & Avon-Heathcote Estuary, Christchurch
On top I crossed a stile below two rows of electric pylons, and enjoyed views of northern Christchurch and Avon-Heathcote Estuary. I disliked gorse infestation I'd passed on the Horotane Valley track and up the slope.
2009. Horotane Valley lower ridge view of northern Christchurch towards Mount Thomas
2009. Duncan Park circuit track ridge view of lower Avoca Valley left & lower Horotane Valley right, overlooking northern Christchurch
2009. LPG Pipeline warning on ridge between Horotane Valley & Avoca Valley, Port Hills
Following farm fencing, I walked up the knobbly ridge crest with Horotane Valley on my left and Avoca Valley on my right. Initially the ridge track was grassy and muddy, so I kicked off my jandals and walked barefoot while dodging cow pats. By electric pylons I passed two gates, both with signs stating:
2009. Ridge view over lower Horotane Valley, Tunnel Road, lower Heathcote Valley, Avon-Heathcote Estuary & Saint Andrews Hill, Christchurch
2009. Avoca Valley ridge view of northern Christchurch towards Mount Thomas. Chapmans Road right
2009. Ridge view of lower Avoca Valley & northern Christchurch. Pegasus Bay top right
2009. Ridge view of lower Avoca Valley & northern Christchurch
2009. Ridge view of upper Horotane Valley, Castle Rock & The Tors. Mount Cavendish Gondola Station behind
By a metal pole with an orange plastic cap I crossed the fence to Horotane Valley side of the ridge crest, where the path became stony with paddock grass changing to native scrub clinging to rocks on the narrowing ridge crest.
On the way up I had great views of Mount Cavendish, Castle Rock and The Tors on my left, and Avoca Valley, Rapaki Track, Witch Hill, Mount Vernon, Canterbury Plains and snowy Southern Alps on my right.
The higher I climbed the better the view.
2009. Ridge top rock view southwards towards Witch Hill & Mount Vernon, Port Hills
2009. Ridge top rock view south-westwards across upper Avoca Valley, Mount Vernon Reserve, Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps
2009. Avoca Valley ridge, top rock view down lower Avoca Valley, over northern Christchurch, towards Mt Thomas
2009. Avoca Valley ridge, top rock view over Tunnel Road, Avon-Heathcote Estuary, Pegasus Bay & Southern Alps
2009. Avoca Valley ridge view over Avon-Heathcote Estuary, Southshore Spit & Pegasus Bay towards Kaikouras
2009. Avoca Valley ridge view over swampy lower Heathcote Valley, St Andrews Hill, low tide Avon-Heathcote Estuary, Southshore Spit & hazy Pegasus Bay
I scrambled up to the top rock and had 360 degree views including a glimpse of snowy Mount Herbert beyond Great Tor. I sat on the top rock and drank CocaCola and ate my "Pams Fresh Pie Chunky Steak," while enjoying views of northern Christchurch, Avon-Heathcote Estuary, St Andrews Hill, Pegasus Bay and beyond to the Kaikouras.
I was about as high as Port Hills Summit Road, some distance behind me, and over my right shoulder Castle Rock loomed on Horotane Valley head.
2009. Ridge top rock view of Horotane Valley head & Castle Rock, with Summit Road, Mount Cavendish & Gondola Station behind
2009. Ridge top rock view of Castle Rock, Horotane Valley head, Port Hills
2009. Ridge top rock view of Summit Road & The Tors, Port Hills, Christchurch
I climbed down the same way I'd gone up, but at the pylons on the ridge crest above Ferrymead Pony Club, I crossed another stile on the left and went down Avoca Valley slope, continuing my circuit around Duncan Park. I walked down wooden steps, like on Horotane Valley slope, through native plantings and gorse.
A fantail checked me out, and at the bottom of Avoca Valley I circled round horse paddocks, where a brown horse ambled over expecting a titbit by the stock-shock fence.
On my left I passed pines and willows beside Avoca Valley Stream, and horse jumps on my right. I went through a gate by the stream, hopped over the stream, and took a short-cut through Zealandia Horticulture back to my car. Nursery sheds and plastic greenhouses were still the same as 14 years before when I worked there.
The ridge climb and return took me 2.5 hours.
Coda: 2010-2011 earthquakes damaged Christchurch, Heathcote Valley & other valleys. Summit Rd & The Gondola station were closed due to rockfall dangers. During the 04.09.10 earthquake, Castle Rock rockfalls slid into Heathcote Valley near the Bridal Path.
Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.