My Favourite Walk: Pine Valley Walk a cool walk in Mt Rich­mond For­est Park

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Lana O’Sul­li­van

An­other hot, hu­mid day and t he t hought of a damp shady for­est en­tices me to make a quick de­ci­sion. My friend and I are off to Pine Valley in Mt Rich­mond For­est Park.

The plan for the day is to take our time and stroll to the base of the ridge lead­ing up to Mount Fish­tail.

The track fol­lows the Pine Valley stream and is about a sev­enty-minute walk one way, but to­day time is ir­rel­e­vant, we just want to be out and about in the cool of the for­est.

Pine Valley is 35 kms from Blen­heim and to get there you drive to­wards Nel­son and turn left just af­ter the Wairau River Bridge into North­bank Road. It’s an­other 25 kms to the clearly signed turn-off to the car park.

From the carpark, we fol­low the track to Mill Flat and wind our way above the stream through a small patch of sweet-smelling pine for­est and scat­tered na­tives.

There is a good view­point for tak­ing pho­tos of Mt Fish­tail along the way be­fore ar­riv­ing at the swing bridge.

Mill flat is a large open grassy area sur­rounded by beech for­est and is a des­ig­nated De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion Camp­site. You can take a 4WD there if you are pre­pared to ford the creek at the carpark.

Af­ter cross­ing the swing bridge, we Above left: The turn- off to Pine Valley from North­bank Road. Mid­dle left: The swing bridge near Mill Flat. Be­low left: East go­ing on this part of the walk. Be­low right: Pine Valley Stream.

en­ter a cool, shaded for­est. The track is wide and lit­tered with many years of de­com­posed leaves mak­ing it soft un­der­foot.

Five finger, co­prosma, lance­wood, rimu and other broadleaves in­ter­min­gle with mixed beech for­est.

An­other twenty min­utes of walk­ing and we ar­rive at a small clear­ing where the old Pine Valley hut site used to be. Re­gret­tably, in 2014 it burnt down.

En­ter­ing a gap into the for­est the track con­tin­ues along­side the stream, here and there sun­light fil­ters through the trees, high­light­ing shapes and dif­fer­ent shades of green.

It’s too per­fect to keep walk­ing, and I stop for a mo­ment to take some pho­tos of a minia­ture moss gar­den. Nearby a fan­tail flits about catch­ing in­sects I’ve stirred up, sadly, it’s the only for­est bird I see or hear for the day.

As we get closer to the ridge lead­ing up to Mt Fish­tail the track nar­rows and a few rocky wa­ter­courses cross our path need­ing ex­tra care af­ter the pre­vi­ous week’s rain. Noth­ing too hard, but a lit­tle slip­pery un­der­foot.

Even­tu­ally, we ar­rive at the stream cross­ing which leads over to the ridge and the five-hour as­cent to Mt Fish­tails sum­mit. Stop­ping for our lunch, we nes­tle against some rocks look­ing at the first two steep zig-zags of the track lead­ing up the ridge.

Last time I snaked my way down from Mt Fish­tail, it felt like shat­tered shards of glass in my kneecaps. It was long and re­lent­less. For now, I am quite con­tent to re­lax by the stream un­der the over­hang­ing canopy be­fore wan­der­ing back along the track.

Mt Rich­mond For­est Park lies be­tween Nel­son and Marl­bor­ough and is the sec­ond largest for­est park in New Above: Stop­ping to have a break and en­joy the cool bush con­di­tions. Be­low right The beech for­est fur­ther up the valley. Zealand. The high­est Peak is Mt Rich­mond at 1,760 me­tres. Mount Fish­tail is 1,641 me­tres. There are sev­eral short walks up the dif­fer­ent val­leys from North­bank Road and longer mul­ti­day walks into the heart and top of the ranges. The Pine Valley walk is a good ex­am­ple of a low­land-podocarp-beech for­est.

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