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Posts tagged ‘hill’

Arthur’s Seat – a worthwhile slog

One goal for my stay in Edinburgh was to make it up to the highly recommended lookout point, a hill called Arthur’s Seat. Located in Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat is accompanied by another striking natural feature which I was not familiar with before arriving, Salisbury Crags. They are easily seen in some parts of the city.

Arthur’s Seat in the centre, Salisbury Crags at far right

After the Forth bridges tour ended I had a couple of hours before a Skype appointment with home. This didn’t give me much time but it was my opportunity to do the walk so I strode off into and through the old town, slicing through the meandering herds of tourists.

I reached the bottom of the park and took the left trail, whereupon the uphill ascent began, gradually at first but steepening. It was a puffy old climb but the inevitable photo stops provided some relief.

After a final upward push I was there, a bit surprised that it had only taken half an hour. But once there it wasn’t somewhere to linger on account of the strong cold wind.

Made it

My scary windblown look

View across the Salisbury Crags ridge

Since I was OK for time I decided to take a different path back down to also give me a better look at the Salisbury Crags. This was steep so I was glad I went up the other side.

You can either walk the ridge above the cliffs or the trail below the cliffs and I chose the latter. The rockface (caused by a glacier) is striking and the views are excellent.

Path along the base of the Salisbury Crags

Back at my starting point I didn’t want to muck around getting back to my accommodation so I consulted the map and with my recently acquired local knowledge I took a ‘short cut’.

All was well, for a while. After a bit I began to suspect that I was in fact walking in the opposite direction, and then this was confirmed. Blonde! Eventually I got my bearings and saw with dismay where I was. There was nothing else for it but to continue on foot.

But when I remembered that I had the Skype app on my phone, and since I had a prepay data plan on my UK number, I was able to keep my Skype appointment. Technology is great.

By the time I had returned to base (and up all those stairs) I was truly knackered. It was a great walk and a great way to round out the day. My legs would remind me of my efforts for the next couple of days so I can only conclude I’m getting soft in my old age.

Wellington hill walks: Mt Crawford (Pt 2) Fort Ballance via bush scramble

In the absence of an obvious path down the steep and scrubby hillside, Mike was appointed chief trail blazer. I tagged along behind in slightly more hesitant fashion, clambering with one hand where required due to the other gripping the DSLR. This made the fence crossings especially awkward.

Luckily the team leader wasn't wearing green

While he pondered which line to take I looked for distractions close by

We must have encountered about five fences, some could be climbed through, others over. Lots of potential to do mischief to oneself, but we coped. I like to think my farm upbringing makes me extra qualified to deal with fences.

One advantage in Mike going first is that he discovered the swampy bits

Though I found that I couldn't avoid the swampy bits either

Eventually, after scrambling uphill and downhill and trudging through bog (tried to use my lightest footsteps to minimise the mud effect, but who am I kidding), we emerged back in civilisation. Though we were initially perturbed by the 10 foot high fenced off complex.

Not sure what the thingies were behind the fence - a comms tower of some kind and a building - but luckily there was a track around the fenceline

On the other side we joined a paved road for the short walk to Fort Ballance. I’d been there once before and for me it is the most interesting place on Miramar peninsula. The fort was the first in Wellington, constructed in the late 1800s as a result of the Russian war scares. It remained operational during the two world wars before closing in 1959. The second photo on this page shows the fort during its construction years.

I spent a blissful half hour or so tearing around taking photos.

A snippet of barb wire fence remains at the old entry gate

At the entry to the barracks building

This diagram shows the general layout of Fort Ballance.

Inside the observation post, a good place to spot land invaders as well as water.

Last year it was announced that this area is to become a public reserve which will see the fort restored. It is fantastic that a concerted effort will be made to preserve this local history and make it more accessible. Though I have to say, it does have a certain charm in its current state and isolation.

I’m not actually sure that were allowed to be there – public access may not be openly permitted given some of the potential hazards around the ruins – but any signs instructing otherwise have long since been defaced or removed.

Looking across to the eastern hills

I blend in quite well I think

On the same website which I use as a bit of a resource, I was really interested to see some photos from around 1999/2000 of the fort without any graffiti whatsoever. Perhaps access was more robustly controlled then.

Scorching Bay

Fun though this was, we were still a wee ways from home so it was time to get going. We followed an overgrown track down to Scorching Bay, which was thronging with people (a tad cleaner than us) enjoying the summery day. As has been customary with walks recently, cold treats were procured and we walked and slurped our way home. One more hill was in our way and my legs definitely felt a bit poked after the afternoon’s exertions.

The Interislander heads into Wellington as seen from Scorching Bay

Wellington hill walks: Mt Crawford (Pt 1) via Maupuia

Miramar peninsula is a great place to live and I’ve raved about it plenty before. One part that I rarely venture into is Maupuia, the suburb on the hill as you fly in from the north.

It’s a bit of a funny place. On one hand Maupuia has the hallmarks of exclusivity – fantastic harbour views, loads of sun and upmarket houses. One of our most famous All Blacks used to live in one of the cliff-top mansions. On the other hand, it has a good measure of downmarket houses like any other suburb and the commercial buildings are perched in rather ugly and ungainly fashion on top of the hill, with rears facing out over the edge. Maupuia is also home to Wellington Prison.

A walkway along part of the hilltop has always looked appealing but as is often the case, you never get round to doing the stuff on your doorstep. Until this sunny Sunday rolled around!

One of my ravings about the peninsula has been its military history. In the course of some pre-walk research I came across a site which indicated that the various old inland military roads (many of which are hidden from view) can in fact be walked on. So we had a loose plan to go find some of that too.

Anyway, time to get going…

Normally we go right; today we're going left up the hill

A view across Miramar, one of our local watering holes below, and further away the large facilities of Stone Street studios where they are currently busy Hobbitting

Starting point of the small but very pleasant walkway

Looking back toward the start of the trail. The flat ground between the hills is home to the airport, Lyall Bay and Kilbirnie

We're lucky to have a road that goes right around the peninsula - about 15km long

Cabbage trees are a common sight around the peninsula

The walkway is very short, less than a kilometre. It would have been an anticlimax to end our walk there so we carried on to the top of the hill where some of the military roads could be accessed.

One slight complication was whether or not we could actually use the road on account of the prison further up. If the sign is to be believed – and it looked rather official – our entry wasn’t exactly authorised. But our wavering was decided when a couple of cyclists pedalled on through.

Duly noted

The prison is at the top of the hill. It is one of the country’s smallest, housing 120 men, and its future has been called into question. A much bigger prison is based in Upper Hutt. It certainly seemed open for business with flag flying and carpark full. We didn’t loiter, not knowing if we were legitimately OK to be there.

Wellington Prison takes up some very prime real estate

The paths we were after led off from the carpark. We set off down the forested hillside, excited to see what was hidden among the trees.


Well there goes that plan

I had heard they were doing some Hobbit filming on old defence land and well, here it was. We will have to try again later in the year.

We returned to the carpark and found the second path. A little more rustic this one, across paddocks. Off to the side is the site of an old infantry redoubt. We carried on to a lookout point.

While we plotted our next move, we could see down the hill a security office for the filming. Clearly we couldn’t go that way. In the other direction was the remains of one of the peninsula’s forts.

Fort Ballance (visible) was on a hill over a bush-laden valley with dubious tracks... let's go there then...

…Easier said than done! To be continued.

Wellington hill walks: Palmer Head Battery

Sometimes I really am blonde.

I had long been aware of the old military observation post high on the hill above Wellington Airport, but had always assumed it was on restricted airport land that the public couldn’t access. I was disappointed about this because I love looking around such things. But hey.

Then last Saturday during a walk I glanced up and finally took notice that this bunker-type building was covered in graffiti. Which didn’t necessarily guarantee there was public access but at least that there was a way of getting to it.

Soon after, I noticed someone half-way up what appeared to be a walkway on the side of the hill. A walkway that had probably been there for years.

Feeling dumber by the minute, a short search online when we got home revealed that, sure enough, the area is accessible. And it had been on my back doorstep (so to speak) for the last few years. Doh!! Called Palmer Head Battery, it together with other sites around Wellington, used to form the city’s coastal defence system.

The next day after Mike’s boys came over we went for a walk to have a look close-up.

The walk started in Miramar suburbia...

...went through Wellington Airport...

...where on the other side we reached the access road to the water treatment plant and the hillside walkway

'twas a bit steep in places - thanks to the people who built the steps and handrail!

Somewhere to catch the breath and admire the view over Lyall Bay, the airport and the golf course (also the water treatment plant, but that doesn't really count)

At the top there was a narrow green belt to walk through before we found ourselves in a street of state houses in Strathmore

A short walk along the street led to an opening in a fence from where you join the old military access road

Palmer Head was the site of three 6” guns. It was built in 1938 and added to over the following years, development hastening when the threat from Japan spiked in 1941. Accordingly, the site was operational during WW2. Its service ended in 1945 when the Japanese surrendered after which time some equipment and buildings were distributed to other local bases. In 1957 the New Zealand Government decreed that the coastal defence sites were no longer needed and they were all dismantled.

The Palmer Head observation and radar post as it exists today

Here is a fantastic photo showing the site operating with radar.

Like similar abandoned sites on the peninsula, it has clearly been a magnet over the years for local paint-wielding youth.

A tad more decorative now than when first commissioned, the complex is made up of several concrete rooms

It looks out to the Cook Strait, this side being the entrance to Lyall Bay

I think just about every centimetre of wall space has been covered

Josh and Flynn at the window, their dad in the background

Possibly the only door still in place

View from a roof on the lower section

We have a book called In Defence Of Our Land which shows a photo of Palmer Head in its heyday, so to speak. It is amazing to relate it to what’s there today. All that remains is the observation post and radar complex, some of the original roads and parade grounds. Underground tunnels and rooms still exist somewhere, though blocked off, and there may still be a gun emplacement that was buried rather than blown up.

Along another section of road

Hillside covered in the colourful weed ragwort

Part of the old parade grounds with painted markings still visible. There used to be lots of buildings around this immediate area

We wandered off on a trail to see if we could find remains of gun emplacements

Entrance to Wellington Harbour. It became apparent that any remains were not going to be found easily so at this point we turned around.

At some point I will return again with the book and its aerial photo to have another explore. We continued along to the end of the road.

Here the old road stops, now swallowed by housing developments. The walkway deviates up some steps, along a path, until it deposits you into the top of Strathmore.

Back in the day the military road stretched from Strathmore down to Tarakena Bay, where it could link up with roads to other military stations on the Miramar peninsula. In that era those sites would have been Fort Ballance, Fort Dorset, Shelly Bay and Mahanga Bay. I love living in an area where there is so much of this history.

Today the site still serves a key purpose for the city, housing navigational equipment for Wellington airport.

From where we popped out it was a bit of a walk back home but luckily this was all either downhill or flat. And near home there was a dairy that had iceblocks waiting for us.

Wellington hill walks: Mt Kaukau

Wellington is known for many things, its hills being one. There are many hill walks in the region where hard slog is rewarded with fantastic views. I’ve been thinking of making my way around them over the next few months to string together a blog series. A good way to exercise both the creative and physical self at the same time.

Last month Mike and I took his boys over to the suburb of Khandallah to walk up Mt Kaukau (pronounced like cow cow but without the ‘w’). At 445m, Mt Kaukau is the highest point overlooking Wellington Harbour. It’s the most prominent high landmark in Wellington, in part due to the >100m tall television transmitter mast at the top.

I used the opportunity to test taking and editing photos with my iPhone. I adore the versatility of that device and it may well have made my compact camera redundant.

There are two main routes up the hill: more steep and less steep. With the children in mind – honest – we chose the latter.

Anyhoo off we go…

Mike and boys ready to go at the bottom of the trail

It's a beautiful walk up through the bush

Flynn, dwarfed by his surrounds

There are lots of trails so the occasional sign is useful

Perfect location for a quick rest, the mast poking up in the distance behind

Views over suburbia into Wellington Harbour

Lacking the knowledge of its proper name I shall call this 'purple flower'

Near the top of the tree line

Almost there

Near the top, looking back along an old fenceline

A boy's shadow having a drink on top of the lookout

Looking toward the Makara coast. Nice spot for a picnic.

The Kordia transmission mast

Boys in a tree

On the return trip. Flynn, such a laggard on the way up, was the complete opposite on the way down

Light patterns on the trail

The tip of a fern frond catches the sun

Tree shadows in the carpark

While not being that long a walk, we nonetheless felt very deserving of an ice block so went over to the Khandallah shops. The suburb and many of its streets have names with an Indian flavour. Khandallah, meaning ‘resting place of God’, got its name from the 1880s homestead of an army officer who had been stationed in India. I’m not sure how far the India theme carries through other parts of the suburb but I did like these.

Elephant tiles in the footpath at the Khandallah shops

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