How did that walking track get there?

When we are in our home town, I work with a dedicated team of volunteers (not many of us) who have been creating a community access-way alongside a stream that runs through the town.

The area includes; a forgotten but historic pathway used during the early 19th century, swimming holes and a waterfall. The latter were known to, and used by, residents during the early part of the 20th century. Apart from containing some of the the town’s transportation and recreational history, it was no doubt a beautiful area that has been claimed by the plants introduced by those earlier settlers.

Creating a 3km path through this wilderness  has required a huge effort, especially for some of us who spent our working lives doing things far removed from swinging picks and shovels.  While I was away on our recent South Island, no not lazing around on a beach (no weather for that), we often walked paths, some very long (according to Ruth) that would have been created by teams of volunteers similar to ours. During that absence, the first stage of our own path was opened and it seemed appropriate to reflect on the effort that takes.

When we walk a path we don’t tend to think about how the path got there. Well here are a few snaps to help you appreciate that effort next time you find yourself wandering a trail.

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Several parts of the project are underway simultaneously, weed control on previous habitat restoration work, track forming, clearing the invasive weeds and trees for future native plantings, planning future routes, organising funding and working bees, etc. The area being ‘scouted’ in this photo (winter 2016) is one of the last sections to be tackled. It has now been cleared during late summer, early autumn, 2017 and will be planted in native trees during winter. Those trees will need care for at least another four years by which time a canopy will have formed and nature will take it’s course.
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Land cleared during autumn 2016 is planted in young native tree in the winter of 2016. The young trees had been carried to the location a few days earlier and a flood overnight carried one palett of plants away, probably out into the Bay. We did not mind as we also plant on the Islands and just maybe they found a suitable home.
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The old but giant Eucalyptus trees needed to be removed and were put through a chipper. The resultant mulch was spread around the new plantings during spring 2016. This helps to retain moisture in the ground during the drier summer months and helps initially with reducing weed growth.

 

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Jasmine is one of many garden plants that if left untended will choke all other plants over a wide area, in fact it is now listed as a noxious weed in Northland. This part of the track around the waterfall was a ‘Jasmine jungle’ that prevented us from even trying to determine the terrain that was underneath. It had to be sprayed during late winter in 2016 and in early spring we were finally able to get an idea of the challenges to creating a track across the edge of a 20m waterfall.
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Late spring 2016 and the team were busy digging a track through the volcanic rubble up the steep incline from the base of the waterfall. The abundant but very heavy rocks made good material for steps once the back breaking effort of shifting them into position was completed.
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A smaller rock is readied for shifting
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Meanwhile, a kilometre downstream Rotary Kerikeri was building the largest of four bridges on the lower section of track. This bridge was required to enable access to the waterfall (stage1). While only a short distance from the CBD, in ‘crow flying’ terms, it was remote from road access. Bridge materials (steel beams, large poles and lost of concrete) tend to be heavy.  Furthermore, bridges are expensive to build, even using volunteer labour. Designs and consents are needed and funds are required for those and the purchase of materials. Fortunately, our resourceful team leader, Rod Brown, had an interview on National radio about his dream for the access way. When asked how he was going to fund it he replied rather tongue in cheek, ‘hopefully the money will fall out of the sky’. That night a call from a descendent of early Kerikeri settlers rang to offer financial support. He lived far away in the South Island but offered the money on the basis that the bridge became a memorial to his late grandparents who lived close to the start point for the track. His grand daughters cut the ribbon to open the Jim and May Brodie Bridge.
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Ruth surveys the completed bridge.
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The ‘track forming and habitat restoration team’ had their focus shifted by an extremely dry start to summer. With little rain over a three month period some of the plantings were not going to survive. The working bee attention went on creating bucket chains from the stream (now a trickle) to transport water to the now very stressed plantings. But in the increasingly fickle climate we live with, within a week or so they were clearing flood debris from the bottom of the waterfall and checking that the track had not been washed away. After a mere 13ml of rain in December, March unleashed 359ml, mainly falling on several days.
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The climb up from the base of the falls has been conquered (above & below)

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and even the walkers safety has been assured (well for those who are not stupid) with the erection of a substantial safety fence across the top of the 20m drop into the falls pool below (just a little cosmetic work left). I would have been happy to have had that behind me when we were clearing the dead jasmine from this section.
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The Te Wairere Waterfall has now been revealed to locals and visitors. We are busy getting signage up and, unfortunately, also seeing what happens when you give public access to an area. While most people simply enjoy access to a beautiful area, others cannot help themselves. Plantings are already being deliberately damaged, rubbish dropped and signage ignored and no doubt some plonker will climb over the safety fence and fall to their death from the top of the waterfall. At that stage, the track will no doubt be closed to ‘save’ the rest of us. As we saw on our travels over summer,  a few so often spoil it for the majority. But that seems to be human nature.

There is still plenty of work to be done and there will be forever. Once a track is built it needs to be maintained otherwise it will be lost again until some future enthusiasts decide to discover the lost waterfall in town.

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