My home is in Normandale on the Western Hills of the Hutt Valley. We live about 130 metres above the valley floor and enjoy great views of the region. However, Normandale Road continues past our house, climbing steadily all the while, winding its way to the North through a suburb that gets more spaced out as it climbs. It meanders for another 3.5 km before it peters out at the locked entry gate to the Belmont Regional Park. On paper at least, there is still a road after that, though it is, in practice, just a walking and cycling track crossing farmland, all the way to SH58 at Judgeford. According to the conservative estimates of the Greater Wellington Council, that is a three-hour walk.
In keeping with the “use it or lose it” philosophy, Mary and I drove to the entrance gate with the intention of walking out and back for an hour’s worth of exercise. For the most part, this track is in the region of 300 to 400 metres above sea level. Altitude brings good views. Good views come at a cost. If you can see a long distance, you are exposed to the wind and weather. A steady Northerly was a feature of yesterday’s trip, so whenever the track took us into the lee of a hill, or the shelter of some trees, I was grateful.
Plenty to see on the track, but if you are bare sleeved or wearing shorts, it is necessary to avoid contact with the nasty bristles of the native tree nettle (Urtica ferox) which is abundant at the edges of the dry tracks up here. As this plant dries out, its toxins become more potent, and there are recorded cases of death from anaphylactic shock when people have foolishly waded into thickets of the nasty stuff. Also plentiful is foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) which is also poisonous, if ingested.
After crossing a stile, we came to into the shade and shelter of a forested area, and noticed a newly formed track leading off through the scrub to our right (Eastwards). This was labelled “bull-a-varde” with further signs pointing to “bull run”. I think it was joke rather than a spelling mistake.
Our zig-zag trail emerged into some comparatively open (and very exposed) land with spectacular views to North and South, as well as across the valley. I love these high places. The idea that there are whole cities full of unseen people living, working and playing down there, intrigues me.
Nearby, long golden grass whipped and waved in conformity with the gusting wind.To the South, across the grass and trees of various small farmlets, were views of Pencarrow and Eastbourne, and of the Hutt River estuary at Petone. In the middle of the harbour, just beyond Matiu/Somes Island, the Strait Shipping company’s ferry “Santa Regina” was coming in from Picton. Down below, the multi-coloured roofs of houses in the Southern parts of the Hutt Valley mingled with the green trees common in most streets of the city.
From a little further over the ridge, across the treetops to the North, we looked down on the nearby suburb of Kelson, and further across, the houses at the entrance to Stokes Valley and beyond that, through the Taita Gorge to the flat areas of Trentham and Upper Hutt.In the background, to the right, the solid bulk of Mt Climie, and to the left the steadily rising great south wall of the Tararuas. Nearby, large bumble bees worked industriously on the colourful (but pestilential) flowers of the Scots Thistle.
It’s a very nice area to walk in, and I shall revisit this spot at another time to try to get a more “photographic” and less documentary take on this landscape.