New Zealand Walk: Styx Mill Puharakekenui Con­ser­va­tion Re­serve

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Brenda Greene

Space. That’s the over­whelm­ing feel­ing of Pūharakekenui / Styx Mill Con­ser­va­tion Re­serve near Northwood in Christchurch. Wher­ever you look, there is space.

Start­ing from Styx Mill Road, the carpark is spa­cious but cosy. Park­ing ar­eas are shel­tered and screened by plant­ings of na­tive grass. Walk on a gravel path to a small knoll to over­look a large wet­land.

Here the Pūharakekenui / Styx River me­an­ders through farm­land. Vol­un­teers from Guardians of the Styx Char­i­ta­ble Trust have planted hectares in na­tives, and are mak­ing great strides bring­ing this back to a more nat­u­ral state. Sheep still graze parts of the sur­rounds.

Spend five min­utes walk­ing to the lake, and sit at pic­nic ta­bles de­signed in the 70’s and en­joy views of wa­ter­fowl.

Large Canada geese are

in­creas­ingly dom­i­nant, ben­e­fit­ing from more in­ten­sive farm­ing on the Can­ter­bury Plains. Australian coots and in­tro­duced mal­lards min­gle with New Zealand scaup and grey duck.

The Pūharakekenui/Styx River catch­ment is a springfed, low­land catch­ment. Ur­ban­i­sa­tion has made the Kāpū­tahi/Ka­pu­tone Creek, one of the main trib­u­taries en­ter­ing the Pūharakekenui /Styx River, one of the most pol­luted wa­ter­ways in Christchurch.

The wa­ter looks good on the surface, but it’s beauty is skin deep. There is no boat­ing, swim­ming or drink­ing wa­ter here.

Walk over bridges, and along­side the river to an al­most com­plete preda­tor proof fence. Erected dur­ing the 1980’s to pro­tect nest­ing birds from cats, ro­dents and dogs, it forms a par­tial bar­rier, mainly to dogs. And boy, there are a lot of dogs in the park.

There is a lot of mown grassed space for pic­nics, kick­ing a ball, walk­ing for a good hour or more.

Toi­lets, seats, pic­nic ta­bles and wa­ter foun­tains are found near the dog park, so take your own wa­ter, and come pre­pared!

Parts of the walk around the fence were muddy, but there were plenty of al­ter­na­tive dry paths. It was easy to think I was head­ing one way when I was ac­tu­ally go­ing the op­po­site, so tak­ing a printed map would have helped.

Like the rest of Christchurch, for­est and for­est birds are few. I saw two fan­tails – one black. It will be an­other 30 years be­fore there are na­tive trees reach­ing the lofty 20m heights needed to bring for­est birds com­mon else­where in New Zealand city back.

In the mean­time, tall wil­lows and other in­tro­duced de­cid­u­ous trees fil­ter the evening light. Pūharakekenui / Styx Mill has space and time to spare. It will be worth the wait. His­tory

Styx Mill Con­ser­va­tion Re­serve (57ha) pro­tects 1.6km of the Styx Mill River that used to drive wa­ter­wheels and pro­vided an im­por­tant source of power for sawmills, flaxmills, and flour­mills. Groups

Pull into the bus park off Styx Mill Road. Groups of more than 50 peo­ple need an event per­mit from the Christchurch City Coun­cil. Pic­nic ar­eas can also be booked. Ac­cess

The main ac­cess is from Styx Mill Road and Hussey Road. Gates are open from 7am–6.30pm. Dur­ing day­light saving months, gates are open from 7am–7pm. Catch a bus con­tact Metroinfo. Many paths are wheel­chair and pram friendly. Dogs

Ac­cess the fenced dog parks – one for small dogs, and one for larger. There are doggy doo bins and hoses to wash down those dirty paws. Dogs must be kept on leads ev­ery­where ex­cept the dog park. Above: Toi­lets and pic­nic area by the dog park. Above mid­dle: Canada geese dom­i­nate the lakes. Be­low: A dog proof fence to pro­tect nest­ing wa­ter­fowl.

Above top: Styx Mill look­out. Above mid­dle: Vol­un­teers from Guardians of the Styx Char­i­ta­ble Trust have planted thou­sands of na­tive species. Be­low: Space for pic­nics, a ball game, or just to walk.

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