The Hogget, Saturday 6 May 2023
Banner Photo: The group at ‘the yards’, with distinctive ‘Aorangi’ in the centre
Why is it called the Hogget? And why is a patch of it called ‘the yards’? It’s something of a mystery, but the lie of the land that our trampers explored gives a few clues.
We were 15 in number, including two newbies, so a van and a car were called for. Half the group were going to the Hogget for the first time so there was an element of anticipation. With it being Saturday and early, we had no hold-ups getting out of town and onto the Napier Taihape road, where lies Timahanga Station.
At 8.30, we were at the farm gates. The drive to the start of the track takes you through what looks like a compact village, a mixture of houses, sheds and barns, many looking like they could be original to the farm.
We began walking at 8.45 on a four-wheel drive track leading down to a stream. We had to climb over a windfall to get to the stream which was running low – so no feet were wet. After the stream, the bush-proper starts. It was beautiful to walk through, with beech predominating on the upper level and horopito and crown ferns on the lower. But bush lawyer was also in residence, so you had to be careful not to get scratched.
There was a selection of fungi and it was good to see some regenerating rimu, totara and the odd miro. It was fairly easy following the track at this stage but once we got into the overgrown scrub and grassland, we tended to keep each other in sight lest we got separated.
Tea and snacks were taken on a ridge where we were exposed to the wind. Once layers had been added, we were off again to steeper terrain. Climbing up and along the ridgeline took about an hour before we reached the Hogget, a barren, open area. And that’s a major clue, because records show this was a sheep farming area in the 1870s and the native bush had been cleared for pasture.
But by the 1930s, rabbits had not only eaten all the pasture – they had driven away the farmers, whose morale had also been sapped by low prices and the sheer difficulty of farming the area. The yards probably refers to an old mustering area.
On this bleak landscape and sheltering under outcrops to keep out of the wind, we had lunch and took in views of the ranges and peaks. Sadly, no mountains could be seen today.
Coming back down, we took a side track to look at a private hut nestled in a stand of beech. It looked very inviting inside with a small fireplace, solar power and great views.
Back on the track again, we managed to lose Di and Julia for a short time – which goes to show how easy it is to go astray up there. In the bush, we noticed the birdsong had ramped up so we just stood and listened to the tuis, bellbirds and parakeets.
We arrived back at the van exactly six hours after we started out.
Thanks go to Alan Roberts for allowing us to go through his farm and to drivers Geoff, Alison and Campbell who took us out.
Trampers: Bryan Powlesland, Di Reid, Shona Tupe, Fiona Bryant, Campbell Living, Mary Campbell, Amelia Moorhead, Juliet Gillick, Alison Greer, Julia Mackie, Julian Phillips, Geoff Donkin, John Dobbs, Nelia Schultze and reporter Marie Deroles
History of the station:
The Roberts/Apatu story began with the Fernie brothers at Ngamatea. John Fernie’s daughter Annie married Joseph Roberts. One of their sons, Lawrence, was Jack and the late Margaret Apatu’s father. Timahanga, originally an outstation of Ngamatea, was divided off for Jack and Jenny Roberts in 1972 after they moved there in 1964. They have handed over the reins of the 10,700ha Timahanga to their youngest son Alan, while Rēnata is managing director of the Ngamatea Farming Company’s 28,000ha. Source: Stuff, Kate Taylor15:45, Mar 01 2017
Māori had some farming in the area before the arrival of Europeans, who began sheep farming in the 1870s. The original Ngamatea Station had no boundaries, with sheep and cattle eventually grazing up to 100,000 hectares.
The Fernie family began farming the Ngamatea Station for wool in 1932, after previous farmers had been driven away by rabbits, low prices, and the difficulty of farming the land.
Musterers would be hired for eight months of the year to bring sheep in from the far reaches of the station, and spending a year on the farm became a rite of passage for many young farmers. Ngamahanga became a community of farm workers, cooks, shearers, shepherds, gardeners, rabbit hunters, and “tough, eccentric landowners”.
The area remained extremely remote, often taking people several days to travel to.
Colin Wheeler painted the homestead area of the station in 1973, including dogs’ kennels, shepherds’ quarters and other buildings.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Government subsidies were provided to permanently clear tussock and scrub.