New Zealand Walks: Ramblng in the Papamoa Hills
‘This is the most awesome place ever!’ say the lively young walkers I meet on the track at Te Puke’s Looking Glass Gardens.
Like Alice in Wonderland, I don’t quite know what to expect as I stroll down the path into the deep bush clad valley. I’m following a winding trail that leads to terraces, wooded hollows, grassy slopes and clearings with comical fairy tale scenes and sculptures tucked away in little nooks and crannies. It’s a place of absolute peace and serenity, enclosed by native bush and stately English trees resplendent in their autumnal hues, with views of Papamoa Beach and Maketu far below.
In this topsy-turvy world I come upon a Garden of Live Flowers, which have a distinctly metallic feel when I touch them. Then there’s the giant insects known as bread and butter moths, ladder ferns and strange posts with arms and shovels.
Surely only pixies, elves or fairies could have created the quaint garden beds like ‘Bed Thyme’, an iron bedstead planted with thyme. Also ‘Box Hedging’, comprising a line of wooden letterboxes.
The main trail descends past the Looking Glass House, zig-zagging down the hillside through make believe time zones to an idyllic clearing containing the well-appointed homes of the Three Little Pigs.
Continuing on, I soon come across a very jovial and portly Humpty Dumpty sitting on the proverbial wall. Along the way, silky hens emerge from the heaps of leaf litter scratching the soil in their search for tasty morsels.
I climb up to Queen Alice’s arboreal abode and follow a side trail to the Pearly Gates via the Stairway to Heaven, 196 steps that lead to a fabulous viewpoint 600 metres above sea level.
I stumble over The Red Queen. She seems very grumpy as if I’m quite impertinent to arrive without first seeking an audience through the proper channels. The White Queen appears haughty, which is certainly in character and Queen Alice has a split
personality, evidenced by a hairline crack across her sculptured face.
Looking Glass Garden was registered as a New Zealand Garden of Significance in 2008. The sculptures are the work of Papamoa’s Peter Cramond. The latest masterpiece is the circle of monoliths with the curious title of Stone Hinge. Professional gardener, Peter Cave of Cambridge, has developed the main gardens using an imaginative collection of exotic trees.
The eight hectare garden trail has been created by owner Gael Blaymires from this elevated, difficult terrain. It’s a multidimensional landscape garden with a great variety of seasonally-changing palettes of colour and texture. What started as a modest labour of love in the fertile soil has now taken on an existence of its own as a curious, contemplative visitor attraction bringing Lewis Carroll’s books to life.
Gael’s quirky sense of humour and her touches of fantasy pop up everywhere. They are woven into the garden design and are a delight to behold. Watch out for the big bad wolf, he’s not easy to spot, so leave your red riding hood behind.
If you can escape from the clutches of the wolf you may wish to embark on another ramble in the Papamoa Hills, which provides the most breathtaking views in the Western Bay of Plenty.
The Papamoa Hills Heritage Cultural Park can be found ten minutes drive north of Te Puke. A steep track leads to the 224 metrehigh summit, offering amazing views of the Tauranga Harbour, Mt Maunganui and the outlying islands as far as Mayor Island and White Island.
The real hidden treasures of the park are the seven Maori pa sites, which archaeologists have dated from around 1650AD. The sites are important to local iwi, being the boundary
When you head for the Bay of Plenty heights you’ll need a childhood sense of wonder, writes Paul Rush, when he goes . . .
Above: Rolling farmland extends all the way to the coast at Maketu. Below left: Gael Blaymires likes to welcome guests to her quirky gardens. Below right: Bright-eyed Humpty Dumpty is a truly happy egg.
Above: Te Rae o Papamoa is a hilltop cultural gem. Right: Descending the ‘Big Thyme’ stairway takes no time at all. Below: Queen Alice is marred by her apparent split personality.