East Harbour Regional Park traverse
19 February 2006 (R27, park brochure, street map)
The northern block of the park offers several opportunities for traverses on tracks and off-track, with access provided by bus services on the Wainuiomata and Eastbourne sides of the park, and the ferry on the latter.
We travelled by train to Waterloo Station, then a No.170 Wainuiomata South bus to just past Davis Street, then walked to Gardiner Grove, the start of Fern Gully Track, next to an ostrich farm! On this track, we were impressed by the number of tree ferns, and how many of them supported epiphytic fi ve-fi nger and kamahi saplings. We also saw ruts caused by unauthorised mountain bike use, and later, on Rata Ridge Track, met a mountain biker, who we told not to bike in the northern block. This track features some big rimu, northern rata, many probably killed by possums, and black and hard beech.
We left the track to tramp along the ridge between the Wainuiomata and Gollans valleys, through forest communities ranging from mature hard beech to vigorously regenerating manuka shrublands. At frequent intervals we saw rodent bait stations and possum traps, some of the 400-plus such combinations in the northern block. Areas of dense fern and shrub communities under tall forest showed us the effectiveness of this pest control work, which we ratepayers fund.
Throughout the day the cicadas, onomatopoeically named kihikihi, “sang” to their hearts’ content, and at times almost deafened us. At other times we smelt the distinctive perfume of raupeka/Easter orchid, and sought to spot the plant, often high on a host tree.
From the ridge we descended through manuka, with views across the valley to Hawtrey, 334 m, then beautiful, mature forest, and found an attractive lunch spot by Gollans Stream. Soon after the initial steep climb towards the peak, we came to a 20 m x 20 m exclosure plot, built in 2001, designed to exclude deer, goats and pigs, but not possums, rodents or mustelids, so that the response of the vegetation within it can be compared with the vegetation in similar-sized, unfenced plots nearby.
Once on the Hawtrey ridge, we walked along the ridge at the north end of the Butterfl y Creek catchment, and saw substantial ti kouka/cabbage trees in the forest, a reminder that they are a forest tree, nowadays more often seen as lonely sentinels on farmland. Then we heard a loud boom! It was the starting cannon for the yachts in the Volvo ocean race. Soon, on the MacKenzie Track, we enjoyed the spectacle of the large yachts sailing towards the harbour entrance, accompanied by a galaxy of small craft bidding them farewell on their voyage to Rio de Janiero.
The views across the harbour were a marvellous fi nale for the trip, which we celebrated with ice creams in Eastbourne, before catching the bus to Wellington. This M-grade trip took us 5.5 hours.
We thank Greater Wellington Regional Council for supplies of the park brochure, and congratulate council staff, and Mainland Island Restoration Organisation (M.I.R.O.) volunteers, members of East Harbour Environmental Association, for the intensive pest animal control work they do in the park.
- Mark Casey, Fi Coster, Bob Cyffers, Michele Dickson, Chris Horne (leader/scribe), Peter Jagger, Maiken Jensen, Ray Markham, Liz Schermer, Michael Taylor, Marris Weight.