Sunday, 2 November 2014

Pauatahanui and Battle Hill Farm

After our successful Akatarawa ride with the Folding Goldies, John was scouting around for another interesting ride we could do. Using Google Earth, he found that there appeared to be a track that ran all the way from Bradey Road – off the Paremata-Haywards Road, near Pauatahanui – to the top of Takapu Road.

If this was a rideable track, the Folding Goldies could take the train to Mana, ride along Te Ara Piko, on the northern edge of the Pauatahanui Inlet, then ride this track beyond Bradey Road, across country, down Takapu Road into Tawa, where they could take the train back to Wellington from the Takapu Road station.

This sounded like a plausible idea, so on Saturday, 25 October, we set out to check out how far we could get up Bradey Road. This was supposed to be an “easy-peasy” ride, along the flat and only as far up Bradey Road as we felt like, and return the way we came.

We parked at Motukaraka Point, thus avoiding having to bike on Grays Road, which is quite busy with car traffic on weekends. Te Ara Piko begins as a nice smooth gravel path, continues on a boardwalk over some of the swampy areas, and ends up as a protected cycle path alongside Gray’s Road, just before reaching Pauatahanui Village.

Motukaraka Point (photo by John)
Te Ara Piko – The Meandering Path (photo by John)

After coffee at the Ground Up Café in Pauatahanui, we rode towards the road to Haywards, past the roundabout. Though there was quite a bit of traffic, it wasn’t too daunting because there was a nice wide shoulder. We had to cross the road to turn into Bradey Road.

At first it headed downhill, but then there was a steep stretch up the next hill. With my muscles still not quite recovered from the Akatarawa effort, I found myself having to get off yet again, and walk. We met two young women on horseback going the other way, and I reckoned they had the better deal, getting the horses to do the hard hill work.

Bradey Road (photo by John)

After a while we came to the end of the sealed road, and it became a gravel track, which took us into a pleasant valley.

Bradey Road becomes a gravel track … (photo by John)

… through a pleasant valley (photo by John)

We were being watched by a horse on the top of the hill (photo by John)

We went past a few farm entrances and then we hit the end of the road. The way was blocked by a locked gate with dire warnings on it. So that was that. We had to turn around and go back the way we came.

The end of the road (photo by John)

The way back – such a pretty valley (photo by John)

We returned to the car, along Te Ara Piko. John commented on how wriggly the boardwalk was, and wondered if the designer had had a hard night’s drinking when he drew up the plans. But it was probably intended to be this way. After all, it is called “The Meandering Path”.

The Meandering Path (photo by John)

We stopped near one of the little bridges to take a “selfie”. Not the mobile phone variety though. John’s bike-mounted camera does not need a tripod, nor a long arm!

Portrait of a couple of happy, aging bikers (photo by John)

Since we were in the area, John wanted to take a look at Battle Hill. We didn’t know much about it, John just knew that there were some mountain bike tracks. “Don’t worry”, he said, “I won’t make you go riding on mountains bike tracks”. Yeah, really?

From Pauatahanui, we headed up the Paekakariki Hill Road, and after 6 km, we reached Battle Hill Farm Forest Park. It is a beautiful area. Amazing to think we have lived in Wellington for nearly 50 years, and we have never been there. It is actually a working farm, an education facility and an outdoors activity park, with walkways and mountain bike tracks.

The original homestead is now the ranger’s office and information centre. There was no one about, but the information lobby was open, so we had a look inside.

The original homestead (photo by John)
From the homestead verandah (photo by John)

In the lobby was a large map of the park, which included descriptions of the various tracks. One of them, the Wetlands Walk, just 3.1 km long, had an “easy” bike symbol next to it. So we thought, yes, we can do that. So out came the bikes, and off we set.

The beginning of the track was nice and easy – a gravel road. Then the red arrow pointed us towards a fairly rough track in a paddock. So far, so good.

The gravel road was nice and easy … (photo by John)
… the track in the paddock was pretty rough

But now the track started to climb. With my newfound “prowess” on hills – after all I rode the Akatarawa Road only a few days earlier! – I tackled it with gusto. But I soon had to get off and walk, when it became too steep. I started to question the wisdom of trying to ride this track, but John kept saying “it will probably only be for a short distance, it will go round that hill and flatten out”.

It didn’t. It kept climbing and climbing, and getting rougher and rougher. But the views were so spectacular that we persevered. We passed, and later looked down on, a large area of cabbage trees.

The track started to climb (photo by John)

A large area of cabbage trees (photo by John)

Overlooking Battle Hill, where a battle between Government forces and Ngati Toa was fought in 1846 (photo by John)

There were a few places where the track was rideable, but most of the time we had to walk. And somewhere along the way, we must have missed a red track marker, because we ended up down a steep paddock with no sign of a track, and what looked like a drop. John walked down to check, and we ended up having to climb back up to the top and find a different way down.

There was a near-vertical drop at the base of this bump (photo by John)

When we finally found the track, it went past this pretty scene (photo by John)

It was quite an adventure. Only 3 km, but it took over an hour. This was definitely not an “easy” bike track. In fact, I don’t think it was a bike track at all.

We don’t know how we got it so wrong. The "easy" bike symbol on the map was probably a mistake, as there is nothing about it on the website. From looking at the video on the website, it looks like there are some nice tracks, even suitable for buggies, so should be rideable. We will probably go back some time and investigate further, perhaps even just to walk, because it is such a stunningly beautiful area.

On the way home, we sidetracked off the motorway and drove up Takapu Road, right down to the end. It was 4 km of narrow, undulating, sealed road through a beautiful valley, which would also be an interesting ride. At the end of the road we found ourselves at a gate to Belmont Regional Park. Possibly another area to explore …

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