Monday 19 November 2018

Waiheke Walking Festival - Onetangi Sports Park and Surrounds

That's not, to be frank, the most inspiring of walk titles, especially when its sub-heading is 'An exploration in conservation with Treescape' - but I thought I'd give it a whirl as much as anything because, being the resolute anti-sport type that I am, I'd never actually set foot in the sports park before. I did once go to its gateway, but that was entirely to investigate the colony of roosters that lives there. Spurned for not being female, poor things (although that's kind of a satisfying novelty to come across), mean people dump them there to fend for themselves, and other, much kinder, people feed them and look out for them.
Anyway, after being scrubbed and sprayed again (that kauri die-back disease has so much to answer for), we set off with our first guide, who may (or may not) have been Michael. We left the carpark where a film crew was set up - the general opinion was that a new police recruitment ad was being made "Because they said they'd increase the numbers of police!" sneered a cynical OWM who clearly didn't vote Labour and still isn't over the election result - and a couple of determined recyclers were getting stuck into the pile of rolled-up old tennis court artificial grass that was being replaced (I did try, but couldn't think of a single use I could put it to myself). He took us down to the wetlands they've been rescuing from gorse, kikuyu grass, tobacco plant and other weeds, and was full of enthusiasm, pride and information about what they've been doing there - inspiring to see, even if it made me tired just to think about all the work they've done.
Then we went with - possibly? - Paul to climb up Rangihoua, which is a high hill once used as a pa site by local Maori, with the defence rings still kind of visible. Here it was even more remarkable, seeing the work that's been, and being, done by a small but apparently indefatigable team of workers, spraying and hacking away at the tenacious weeds that grow all over the site. We went right to the top, and the views were terrific in all directions - I've never been so high on Waiheke before. (Unlike others - oh, I can't be bothered. Finish that joke yourself.)

Then we dropped back down again and entered what Paul (?) called, with heavy irony, the Fairy Forest - where the pernicious creeping asparagus made a dense carpet under, and for several metres up the trunks of, a big stand of manuka. It was certainly green and lush and feathery, and had the American woman behind me gasping in admiration as it was spotlit by the late afternoon sun - but it's a choking, dominating weed that would totally take over, given half a chance. It started out here about 20 years ago as a garden plant introduced from South America, and has ramped away ever since.
So today's walk was enjoyable for the excellent views from the top of Rangihoua, and for witnessing the determination of the exceptionally hard-working Treescape team, who really have to be congratulated for their refusal to let the weeds win. Good for them! 

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