New Zealand Walk: Styx Mill Puharakekenui Conservation Reserve
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.