By Judith Simpson
My favourite short walk has always been “Around the Mount” but we’ve discovered Tauranga’s Hidden Secret. The Te Puna Quarry Park Garden.
Perhaps you need to be a little more energetic to do this walk but it’s definitely worth the effort. It’s really a treasure, full of unexpected joys.
Some people run around the main track in 20 minutes, others take all morning to investigate the side tracks that lead to all sorts of adventures for young and old.
It’s a place to take your granny for a stroll along the lower level to smell the flowers in the raised garden for the blind or to just take a rest under the flowering cherries and watch the children clamber over the enormous stone dragon or slide down the silver slide from the princess’s castle.
Take your grandchildren and let them clamber into the big digger and pretend they’re in control of filling the next lorry with gravel. They may want to climb up through the Rhododendrons and Vireyas to make music on the pipes and gongs or walk a little further to ride on a big wooden engine complete with guard and flag while you sit on a bench and admire the view.
82 acres of wilderness.
Making it into a community resource was the vision of a local lady, Shirley Sparks. With a group of willing volunteers they began cutting and hacking their way through the gorse and rubbish. They met every Tuesday morning and still do today to weed, clear and plant, turning it into a parkland.
It was opened in 2000 by the Governor General Sir Michael Hardie Boyes.
The quarry had been abandoned and over time it had become a dumping ground for any old waste, fridges, washing machines, you name it. Most of the area was quite dangerous. Today it is hard to imagine what it must have been like for those early volunteer battling four metre high gorse and scrub.
But let’s take walk up the main track. This isn’t a garden parkland for the purists. There’s been no grand design and as groups have offered time so the garden has developed. Old Heritage Roses, the Fuchsia group, a native area, Bromeliads and a Japanese Garden with Bonsais to name a few have all organised their chosen spaces.
A family giving up as Orchid growers donated a trailer load of roots to make an unrivalled display as you walk up the track.
Take a diversion to investigate the Monarch Butterfly House.
Swan plants reign supreme and butterflies flutter everywhere. If your caterpillars are being eaten by wasps? You can bring them up to Mary who will pop them in the purpose built House to “chrysalis” in peace. And then be released as butterflies.
Onwards to the first terrace and “Brian’s Wall”. A dry stone wall built by his family in his memory and as a lasting gift to the community.
You can lean on the wall and gaze down on the butterflies and Fuchsias or out over the Bay to Omokoroa, Matakana Island and the Mount. Stunning. It’s a wonderful place to show visitors what Kiwifruit orchards look like from above with their tall, thin shelterbelts or just the green, luscious looking Te Puna landscape.
All along the way you stumble across “treasures”. A mosaic set in the pathway below the abseiling cliff wall, a cairn that reminds you of Nepal, corrugated cut-outs of bushmen and you often see groups having their photo taken with the life-sized mosaic family enjoying afternoon tea.
Up the “Lions’” stone steps. What labour went into creating these enabling a round walk to be developed. The Lions also planted a grove of Kauri trees and the local Rotary was involved in pond making and getting the old water wheel into working order. It really is a community project.
As you come off the Lions’ steps you look out over a valley covered in Ponga ferns – a sea of waving, green umbrellas? And then it’s down wooden steps to an area newly planted in Magnolias. What a sight they will be in a year or two.
Shirley and her committee have thought of many ways to be useful to the community.
Want to have a wedding? There’s a pavilion complete with small kitchen that can be yours for a donation and many’s the time we’ve seen birthday celebrations on the green lawn, a Book Club having a summer picnic lunch and their monthly meeting or our group having fish and chips under the cherry trees.
But there’s more if you have time. A hidden path behind the Pavilion follows a small stream up to a waterfall. This part is still untamed and if you’re lucky you may hear a Bellbird sing or see a Wood Pigeon lumber overhead and of course there are tuis all around.
Our Quarry is an amazing place with something for everyone to enjoy. It is my favourite place. Why don’t you come and visit our Te Puna treasure sometime soon?
By Judith Simpson