Taradale Hills – Sugar Loaf, Dolbel Reserve and Otatara Pa Historic Reserve, Saturday 11 March 2023
Tramping in the Kawekas or Ruahines was out, due to flood damage and no road access, so we headed into the Taradale hills. We met at Church Road winery for an 8am start up Sugar Loaf (Pukekura), which is only 127m but probably the steepest of the three hills. Before we even started climbing, we could see evidence of a huge slip behind the winery concert area.
In parts, the track was muddy but nothing to what we are used to. Once at the trig, we admired the sweeping views of Napier and the Heretaunga Plains.
Down the other side, up the road and over the stile and onto Maggie’s Way. The limestone path had been seriously damaged by the torrential rain and at times there was little left to walk on. Our Gazzenia’s memorial seating area at the top was in a terrible state, overgrown and weedy. We will need to organise a working bee to tidy it up.
By now, it was fairly hot as we made our way down Puketapu Road. Ted showed us a shortcut to Dolbel Reserve which beats walking on the tar seal. Along this stretch of track following the stream, Ted pointed out a plaque in memory of four Japanese young people who were tragically killed on the Chesterhope bridge. Mr Google says they were from Taradale and the parents paid for cherry trees and natives to be planted in that area. This stretch of track is called Cherry Grove.
In fact, there are a number of memorial trees planted and donated by families of the deceased in Dolbel Reserve. I showed them Stitsy’s (Brian Stitson) plaque under a tree on the first climb.
It didn’t take long to reach the top, check on the housing development over the fence then head down towards the creek. Ted and Simon pointed out trees and bushes that they have planted and shared useful information as we walked. We especially thank our members Ted, Paul, Geoff, Simon and John Holschier for the extraordinary voluntary work they do on this reserve.
The track connection between Otatara Pa and Dolbel isn’t completed, so it was a little walk on the roads; up Churchill Drive admiring all the huge homes, a short limestone path following the road was most pleasant as it was bush and in shade.
At the top, and over another stile, we climbed a well-defined grassy track around to the top of Otatara Pa. There were many smaller slips from the top of each hill as reminders of the recent cyclone’s destruction. It was here that we took a longer break to take in the devastation caused by the Waiohiki Bridge collapse.
Then we retraced our steps, except for Ali who decided to continue down the hill. It had taken more than three hours by the time we hit the Taradale streets and the café was calling, so we continued walking back to the vehicles along Church Road rather than over the tops. Some of us met for a well-deserved hot or cold drink at Drop Shot.
It was a good opportunity to catch up and stretch the legs and, for a few people, it was their first time on one, two or three of the hills.
Walkers: Julian Phillips, Sue Gribble, Marie Deroles, Simon Hill, Ali Hollington, Margaret Palmer, Ted Angove, invited guest Wilmer and reporter Sue Martin