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Trip Report – Whakatikei River headwaters, Akatarawa Forest

Trip Report – 6 May 2017 :   Whakatikei River headwaters, Akatarawa Forest

The day dawned calm, with blue sky, as we 22 travelled to meet at 9 a.m. at the Paekakariki shops.   We then drove for 20 minutes into the Maungakotukutuku Valley, and the entrance to Akatarawa Forest.   The drive through the forest was long, bumpy, exciting and eventful, with bogs, narrow roads with steep sections and great landscapes.   Our destination was the 257 Track, so named because of the Cook Strait transmission-line tower number that the road / track leads to.   This road traverses the ridge along the southern and eastern side of the south branch of the Whakatikei River’s headwaters.   At an elevation of 500 metres, the ridge is broad and wide.   The streams and ridges running to the north are gently sloping, and have deeper, more fertile soils in the more benign terrain.   To the south, the terrain is steep, with thin soils and rock outcrops.   The head-waters of the Whakatikei River are the northern extremity of the Wellington beechtree gap.   To the south, the beech gap widens towards the Hutt Valley; to the north it continues along the western foothills of the Akatarawa and Tararua ranges.   The forests in this area were podocarp / broadleaved, with miro, rimu and northern rata.   They have been logged, but now there is good regeneration of most species.

Lunchtime in the sun

Lunchtime in the sun.

On arrival at the old proposed windfarm’s anemometer site, half way between spot heights 506 and 561, we forayed down the old logging road to the north.   Near the start, the vegetation was regenerating broadleaved scrub 2-3 m tall.   Common species seen were Gahnia setifollia, Coprosma robusta, C. rhamnoides, C lucida, Beilschmiedia tawa, Coriaria arborea, Elaeocarpus dentatus, Hedycarya arborea, Melicytus ramiflorus, and Weinmannia racemosa.   Further down the road, the understorey was darker, and the tree canopy became taller with the same species present as at the start, plus Pittosporum tenuifolium, Pseudopanax arboreus, P. crassifolius, Pseudowintera axillaris, P. colorata, and Schefflera digitata.   The understorey had several fern genera including Hymenophyllum, Asplenium, Blechnum, Hypolepis, Lastreopsis and Microsorum; also Leptopteris hymenophylloides and Lindsaea trichomanoides.   Highlights of this foray were finding Ascarina lucida / hutu (close to the stream), Tmesipteris tannensis, and Dawsonia superba.

Some did not make it as far as the stream, then we all slowly returned to the ridge, vehicles and lunch in the sun.   After lunch, we all botanised back along the ridge towards spot height 561, with people ducking into the bush to the left and right of the road.   The forest in this direction was taller, and the forest canopy height was natural, but missing the emergent trees.   The more mature forest was reflected in the presence of mature Podocarpus laetus, Prumnopitys ferruginea, and Weinmannia racemosa.   On the north side of the road, there were small wind-leads in the forest where the canopy has opened up, testimony to the ferocity of the winds in this area.   The botanical highlights from the afternoon were Metrosideros robusta, Neomyrtus pedunculata, Nestegis cunninghamii, and Raukaua edgerleyi (unc)*

Neomyrtus pedunculata

Neomyrtus pedunculata.
Photo: Jeremy Rolfe.

A great day was had by all on one of the very few fine weekends in Autumn 2017.   The return journey was no less eventful, and probably more so, and a bit hard on the body for many.   Thanks to everyone for such a great day, and a very big thank you to the two drivers from the Wellington 4WD Club for giving up a Saturday to provide us with the extra transport.   A big ups guys.

Participants : Eleanor Burton, Gavin Dench, Michelle Dickson, Pat Enright, Chris Hopkins, Alison Lane, Barbara Lane, Rodney Lewington, Pat Mclean, Pascale Michel, Leon Perrie, Barrett Pistol (GWRC), Lara Shepherd, Darea Sherratt, Sunita Singh, Owen Spearpoint (leader / scribe), Julia Stace, John van den Hoeven, Julia White, Debra Wotton, and Wellington 4WD Club drivers Barry Insull and Brett Smidt.


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