UTVs are great for exploring the backblocks as Doug Ashford found out on a recent day-trip to the Maud Valley southwest of Nelson.
Despite having lived in Nelson for 25 years, Maud Valley was unknown to me, likewise my mate Bazza. We were fortunate then, that the organiser of a recent trip there, Colin, is part of a family that has owned land in the area since the 1930s. Maud Valley runs through private land into the Howard Conservation Area between Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa north-west corner of Nelson Lakes National Park. A steep-sided Beech forest valley approximately 10km long was worked over during gold mining activities in the early 1930s with the 24 hectare flat reworked again with machinery from 1967 to 1993. There are signs of the old miners’ huts and workings all the way up the valley with machinery relics scattered along the valley floor. Several old miners’ huts in the area are also now used by hunters and trampers. Leaving our road vehicles on Howard Valley road we travelled in UTVs up Maud Valley to an old sawmill build in 1924. This mill still operates once a year when the owner has a family day in December. There is also a shed with a planer that was installed in the 1930s. Once Bazza got behind the wheel for his first experience driving a UTV there was no removing him. Travelling up the valley through Beech forests across the 25 ha grass flat through further Beech forest to the end of the track. The track is very rough as it’s often used by the Maud River during floods, entry and exits are quite sharp and steep due to recent floods. At the end of the track is an old gold miner’s hut and a couple of fathers with their boys were spending the weekend possum hunting and tramping. Only the brave sleep there. There are plenty of beautiful camp sites amount the trees, and judging by the camp fire ashes they are well used. After spending time here we retraced our steps back to the mill for a late lunch. The afternoon saw us riding via the private land through magnificent stands of Douglas Fir, Larch and Radiata Pine, stands which would be 50-60 years old. On top of the ridge the owner operates a portable sawmill, transporting logs with a WW2 GMC 4x6 and (in the shed when we were there) a 1932 Caterpillar D2. On returning to Howard Valley we travelled south and up through TDC Forest to a memorial for Howard miners who lost their lives during mining and the World Wars. Once again a great day had by all.
Bazza in his element.