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.

Walking New Zealand - - Contents -

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.

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