New Zealand Walk: Mount Holdsworth tracks caters for all fit­ness lev­els

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Judy Eva

Mount Holdsworth is one of sev­eral moun­tain ranges in the North Is­land. They form a ridge run­ning par­al­lel with the East Coast of the is­land be­tween East Cape and Welling­ton.

The rugged ter­rain and fre­quently harsh weather con­di­tions served to dis­cour­age any sub­stan­tial at­tempt at pen­e­tra­tion by early Maori. Al­though there is eco­log­i­cal ev­i­dence of ex­plo­ration by Moa hunters as early as the 12th cen­tury the moun­tains re­mained a mas­sive di­vide be­tween tribal set­tle­ments.

In the 1870’s a large por­tion of the ranges was sold to the New Zealand Gov­ern­ment by a coali­tion of the Iwi in pos­ses­sion of the sur­round­ing re­gion. Above left: Well signed tracks in the park. Above right: View over the val­ley from the rocky look­out. Be­low left: On the way to the Rocky look­out. Ex­cluded from the deal was an area of 1,000 acres re­served to pro­tect the sa­cred Lake Ha­puako­rari the lo­ca­tion which re­mained un­cer­tain.

Wa­ter­sheds were added over the fol­low­ing decades to cre­ate a crown con­ser­va­tion re­serve in ex­cess of 250-000 acres. The scenic beauty of the Tararua’s made the moun­tains a pop­u­lar sub­ject for paint­ing dur­ing the Vic­to­rian pe­riod.

It is one of the most fre­quently en­tered ranges in the coun­try, be­tween 120,000 and 150,000 peo­ple vis­it­ing each year.

Among the many tramp­ing tracks is the well known South­ern Cross­ing run­ning from Otaki Forks in the west over Mount Hector and ex­it­ing via the Kaitoke. The western slopes of the ranges are sub­ject to pre­vail­ing mois­ture car­ry­ing winds chan­nelled by Cook Strait.

There is a great di­ver­sity of veg­e­ta­tion on this moun­tain with conifers, ferns, sub alpine shrubs, and tus­sock on the mist shrouded tops with the north­ern range mainly tawa and miro, the south beech and the west slopes fac­ing the Tas­man Sea mixed na­tive rimu, tar­rier, Above left: The in­for­ma­tion kiosk at the en­trance to the for­est. matai, to­tara, and kahikatea and ferns and shrubs.

The Tararua Range is di­vided into a north­ern and south­ern dis­trict re­gion each is dom­i­nated by a cen­tral moun­tain peak, Arete in the north and Hector in the south. A to­tal of 10 rivers rise on the moun­tain slopes pro­vid­ing wa­ter for the sur­round­ing ru­ral and ur­ban dis­tricts.

Es­tab­lished in 1954 this area stretch­ing from the Rimu­taka Sum­mit to the Pahiatua Track is ap­prox­i­mately 116,535ha and is the largest con­ser­va­tion park in the North Is­land. It caters for tramp­ing, hunt­ing, botanis­ing and walk­ing op-

Mount Holdsworth tracks caters for all fit­ness lev­els

por­tu­ni­ties in a wild nat­u­ral land­scape.

The main en­trance to Mount Holdsworth is on the eastern side of the ranges where the pic­turesque Ati­whakatu Stream passes through the area and is home to a di­verse range of an­i­mal, bird and in­sect life. From here you can hike to the sum­mit of Mount Holdsworth a 1470 me­tre peak.

The track climbs beyond the for­est up to the tus­sock cov­ered top and your re­ward is ex­ten­sive views of the Wairarapa farm­land and the rugged in­te­rior of the Tararua Range. The hike is a full day and achiev­able for any­one of mod­er­ate fit­ness. The en­trance to the west side of the moun­tain is from Otaki Forks.

This for­est park cov­ers more than three quar­ters of the Tararua Ranges and is ad­min­is­tered by the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion.

I be­gan my two walks from the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion camp­ing ground where there is ad­e­quate park­ing at the end and where there is a small in­for­ma­tion kiosk with a large map of the for­est and other items of in­ter­est. Fur­ther along through the gate en­trance is Holdsworth Lodge where you must sign a book stat­ing the time you en­tered the for­est and the time you ex­ited.

Walk over the pic­turesque Ati­whakatu Bridge with a gur­gling rocky stream un­der­neath which leads to the en­trance to the tracks. There are a myr­iad of tracks to choose from in­clud­ing fam­ily walks all tak­ing dif­fer­ent times to achieve, all very well sign­posted with the times and length of kilo­me­tres.

The tracks are well main­tained with board­walks where needed and toi­lets in some ar­eas. If you keep to these tracks you can­not get lost.

I chose two walks, the first The Rocky Out­look a walk which was timed at one hour 30 min­utes re­turn but took me three hours re­turn as it was a slow walk up­hill most of the way, time spent at the sum­mit with ex­ten­sive views of the Aitwhakatu Val­ley and the eastern plains, tak­ing pho­tos hav­ing a breather and ad­mir­ing the view which took in the beau­ti­ful for­est cov­ered val­ley be­low.

There is a large rock at the en­trance to the look­out which if you are fit and don’t mind heights you can climb to get a bet­ter view and also take pho­tos. Some of the walk­ers had climbed it and sat on the top to take selfies and have their friends take pho­tos of them. Al­though there was a slight mist over the val­ley it en­hanced the view.

The walk down from the look­out gave a com­pletely dif­fer­ent view of for­est floor to what I ex­pe­ri­enced climb­ing up. It is amaz­ing what you miss on up­ward climbs I sup­pose be­cause you are con­cen­trat­ing on the path on the way up.

The sec­ond walk I chose was Don­nelly Flat via The Loop Walk which was timed as 40 min­utes but took me one hour 20 min­utes again due to dawdling and tak­ing in the scenery and pho­tos. The track takes you through beau­ti­ful beech and rimu trees and into a clear­ing

onto the Ati­whakatu Stream and a bush clad val­ley. The flat is named af­ter Tom Don­nelly, a gold­miner who dis­cov­ered gold in there in1873. He died on Mount Holdsworth.

There is a bar­be­cue area there with pic­nic ta­bles and also a toi­let. A pleas­ant walk through a bush clad track takes you back to the start­ing point. This part of the track in places has large em­bed­ded stones and ex­posed roots along parts of it and is nar­row in places but very beau­ti­ful. All signs have an ar­row point­ing the way back to the car park and other walks.

I can­not speak highly enough of these beau­ti­ful for­est walks which range from dif­fer­ent lengths and timed day walks and the beauty of the moss cov­ered logs and trees, ar­eas of fern, tus­sock, na­tive trees, and the large di­verse of other plants too many to men­tion.

The times men­tioned on the signs for each walk de­pends on your pace and how slow or fast you chose to walk. Give your­self more time if you wish to linger, en­joy the peace and quiet and take pho­tos.

What is very no­tice­able is the lack of bird song in the area. There is a very def­i­nite quiet still­ness in there apart from one bird I heard which sounded like a shin­ing cuckoo.

The main tracks are gravel and easy to walk on. In all the tracks are a credit to the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion as is the camp­ing area. Prob­a­bly dif­fer­ent in the win­ter.

The clos­est all weather road right across the range is the Pahiatua Track in the north which joins Palmer­ston North and the town of Pahiatua is widely used when the Manawatu Gorge is closed.

Ac­cess to Mt Holdsworth is on the right into Nor­folk Road 2 kms south of Master­ton or com­ing from Carter­ton 10kms north on the left into Nor­folk Road. Fol­low the sealed road for about 15kms where it ends in the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion camp­ing ground.

En­joy this beau­ti­ful for­est and the won­der­ful walks. Make sure you are pre­pared for in­clement weather and have suit­able walk­ing shoes or boots, wa­ter, warm cloth­ing and food if you in­tend to stay in there for a length of time and don’t for­get your cam­era.

The cell sig­nal is non ex­is­tent in many parts of the for­est. There are wooden seats in some ar­eas of the for­est but are usu­ally wet.

Do not leave valu­ables in your ve­hi­cle in the car park. A very help­ful ranger liv­ing on site is avail­able to of­fer as­sis­tance and pro­vide lo­cal in­for­ma­tion. En­joy.

Above left: Bridge over the Ati­whakatu Stream. Be­low left: A mossy part of the track. Be­low right: A dell of ferns and logs.

Above left: Deep in the for­est. Above right: One of the many board­walks. Be­low right: The main track into the for­est.

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