Cape Brett Track – Northland, New Zealand

With winter and rain on the horizon, my hiking season is coming to an end. Nevertheless, with a short gap of sun I did find an interesting overnight walk and shot off up to the Bay of Islands in the Northland province.

The Bay of Islands houses Russell, site of the first European settlement in New Zealand. And, at the eastern edge of the bay is the Cape Brett Peninsula, a forest covered area with a lighthouse at its tip. One of the islands just out from the end of the peninsula is also home to one of the region’s better known tourists spots, a natural arch of rock called the Hole in the Rock.

After my drive north from Auckland, I stayed at a backpackers in Rawhiti, right near the beginning of the track, driving a winding road to Russell for dinner.

Day 1 – Oke Bay to Cape Brett Hut – 17.3km – 8 hours

My backpackers is a kilometre from the trailhead of the Cape Brett Track, and my parking was included in the price, otherwise places charge NZ$10-20 for the night. I walked along the road past Kaingahoa Bay, to Hauai Bay, through the waharoa and up stairs.

With Oke Bay at my left, I began the climb up the highest peak on the track, Pukehuia, although at 345m it isn’t as tall as some of my previous climbs. Most of the walk will be through forests, so I am resigned to just enjoying what I can. As the climb to the top of Pukehuia is over 2km, the track is not particularly steep. But as the day is warm, I made it to the rest stop at the top covered in sweat, but with great views of the Bay of Islands.

I stopped for a brief break, and when I was about to leave, I met one of the three other people I’d see during the walk. I set off again, and on the far side of the hill is a track leading south which is marked as closed. There’s also a good view south to another pair of rocky peninsulas.

At the base of Pukehuia is another closed track, this one also leading to the remains of Whangamumu whaling station. Soon after, I reached the predator proof fence that crosses the entire peninsula. It’s an electrified fence that keeps the possums out, although the gate was open when I arrived, I closed it once I’d gone through. For my second climb of day, smaller than Pukehuia, and the second highest of the walk, with a pair of peaks which I called the nipples. As I climbed down the first of these nipples, I passed the other two people I would see on the trail, and continued on to the far side of the 2nd nipple, where there’s a shelter. I stopped in an open grassy areas nearby for lunch with Outu Bay below.

Over the next several kilometres the trail descended to the Wait ui Stream before climbing steps to the junction of the only side trip of the walk and location where the Water Taxi collects people. As it would have added an hour to the walk, I skipped it and continued on up the hill to be regaled by views of the end of the peninsula and climbs yet to come.

As I drew closer I could make out the track climbing along the sheer cliff face on the most dangerous part of the walk. Thankfully, today the wind was calm.

After the fourth and shortest climb of the day, I came to the cliffs leading up to the entrance of the aforementioned most dangerous part of the walk, the clifftops.

At one point, on the way to the pole that marks the highest point, there’s a guard rail to protect walkers. Beyond the highest point the thin trail leads along the top of the 200m high cliff.

And from this last rise, the lighthouse came into view, along with Piercy Island, home of the Hole in the Rock.

I climbed down to the old lighthouse, which is now redundant, replaced by the smaller (a tenth of its size), stronger, electric powered one on the other side. From that vantage point, I could for the first time see the old lighthouse keeper’s hut below, which has been converted into the Cape Brett Hut by the Department of Conservation. The rest of the walk is down the hill on long switchbacks, but after a long day walking, my legs are a bit like jelly.

On arrival at the hut, I discovered there was already a dozen people there that had walked in earlier in the day. The hut also had its own cookers, pots and cutlery. I had been warned that as it’s late summer, the water may have run out, so I carred in extra water. But, I found there was still water in the tanks, although I still used my own water first. After reading for a while, I cooked my dinner and returned to my bunk for an early start the next day.

Day 2 – Cape Brett Hut to Oke Bay – 17.3km – 8 hours

More people had arrived after me the night before, and the hut was rather busy. There was also a cyclone pushing down on Northland, so most people in the hut were arranging to catch the water taxi before the seas got too rough. As I hadn’t seen a single person walking back the other way on day 1, I assumed they’d also got the water taxi too. Maybe I’m too cheap, but I came to walk, so I hikedout. When ready, and with a far lighter pack in the morning, I climbed the hill back to the lighthouse.

As I crossed the dangerous portion of the track, the wind was a little stronger , but nothing more substantial. While today was supposed to be mainly cloudy, most of the morning was sunny. The track was now familiar, and I remembered all the parts I walked over the day before. During the day, I met a family of 8 heading to stay in the hut overnight. I hope they didn’t get stuck there, as the water taxi doesn’t come in choppy water. A few hours later, I emerged from the trail, down the stairs and through the waharoa.

I walked the 1km to my car and drove to my night spot over an hour away in the city of Whangarei.

Overall,
The Cape Brett track was a nice overnight hike made more challenging by its distance, several climbs and the last section. While I usually prefer not to double backalong the same track, sometimes there isn’t other walking options. Overall, a good couple of days, although I wish less of it was in the forest.

Until next time,
The Lone Trail Wanderer

Rangitoto Motutapu Circuit – Auckland

About six hundred years ago, the volcanic cone that is Rangitoto Island erupted its way out of Auckland Harbour beside Motutapu Island. Rangitoto is the largest of the approximately 53 cones in the Auckland volcanic field, all of which are considered dormant.

I’ve not previously been to either island, and at NZ$39 return for the ferry, I decided to make the most of it and do an overnight hike. There’s no formal hike here though, only a number of day hikes on one or the other. So I made one starting and finishing at the Rangitoto Wharf and camping at Home Bay, the only public campsite on the far side of Motutapu Island.

Rangitoto Wharf to Home Bay Campsite – 12.3km – 4 hours

I booked the last ferry to the island for the day at 12:15 pm. The trip over was only 25 minutes, with a stop at Devonport. There were few people on the ferry, one other guy and his son who would be staying at Home Bay, and a day walker. The Auckland weather was sunny and warm, and there was a slight breeze on the top of the ferry as we crossed although clouds hung across both islands, stretching off into the distance.

On arrival, I marched along the wharf and through the waharoa.

Rangitoto Island has the largest forest of Pohutikawa trees in the world, although large portions of the island are covered in jagged volcanic rock. A wide path had been cleared and flattened in many places for the numerous tourists who climb the peak.

After a while, the clouds moved on leaving a hot day for the rocky climb cutting a fairly straight line up the side of the 260m cone. About 15 minutes from the summit, I came to a small camping area with a trail leading off on the side track to the lava caves.

As I had no intention of returning this way, I cut off along the side track, finding some rocky paths that led back down the slope a little before coming to the first of two main lava tubes. At the first, there were two women and their young children, so I left them to it and continued to the second lava tube. This tunnel was about 30 metres long with a nice spot in the middle with a ceiling gap. At the end I had to stoop down to get through before following a trail back to the start of the tube where I’d left my pack.

The kids were just leaving the other tube when I got back to it, but the holes were only small. I walked the 15 minutes back to the main trail and climbed to the summit where there was a large viewing platform beside an old WWII bunker.

After my brief stay at the summit, I followed a trail around the side of the cone and down an overgrown path to the summit road.

This summit road cut through trees and rock fields all the way to the causeway, which was built to connect the islands during WWII. On the road near the causeway were several baches (beach houses), remnants of the 140 built in the 1920s and 1930s before they were banned in 1937.

I stopped for a rest and at the entrance to the island.

After my break, I cut along a path although the two inch grass made it somewhat hard to walk through. The two islands are like polar opposites, and could be described as Good and Evil, or Heaven and Hell. Motutapu has rolling hills, and lots of open grassy fields, while Rangitoto is harsh, with its volcanic rocks and good covering of trees and plants.

I followed the trail across the island, with good views of the harbour, islands and the Auckland Coast until Home Bay came into view.

I climbed down the hill to the campsite and found a spot to pitch my tent. The Home Bay Campsite has 142 non-powered tent sites and during my stay there was only two tents, mine and the man I’d met on the ferry on the way over with his son.

I hung out on a seat near my tent reading until the sun went down in pinks across the sky.

Home Bay Campsite to Rangitoto Wharf – 13.5km – 5 hours

There was a fine layer of dew on everything when I woke, but instead of the forecasted cloudy day, it was full on sun.

I decided I wanted to make the 2:30pm ferry, and arranged my pickup at the other end. This gave me some time to check out other parts of Motutapu Island. I headed north up the hill and along the Rotary Centennial Walkway.

The walkway came to the junction of several roads and further up a brief hill climb to a set of gun emplacements installed during WWII.

Further down the hill was the main gun emplacement area with several underground tunnels, rooms, and large emplacements along with signs explaining various parts.

After some exploring, and checking out another set of tunnels near the junction, I followed a road along to an education camp. I was supposed to stop off at reception and announce my arrival, no exceptions, but I passed through and up the hill on the other side without talking to anyone.

I crossed Administration Bay briefly before heading back up the grassy hills and around the North Western edge of the island back to the causeway. I stopped briefly to talk with some Department of Conservation workers who were scouting for Kiwi, of which they had caught, scanned and released 23 today with a target of 50. I had no idea there were Kiwi on the island.

I stopped for a break at the causeway before beginning along the coastal trail back to Rangitoto Wharf.

At Islington Bay Wharf, I realised the coastal track would take me too long, and I would miss my ferry, so I cut back along the road, followed it up towards the summit and split off part way to race towards the Rangitoto wharf. The sun continued to beat down during the afternoon, and it was again roasting on the rocky Rangitoto. I arrived back at the wharf just prior to the ferry arriving, but was utterly drenched in sweat. As soon as I could I got into a large bathroom and changed into my dry clothes for the trip back.

Overall,
My Rangitoto Motutapu Island circuit was a success, there was plenty to see on both islands, and being a Monday, it was quiet. I enjoyed my time there.

Next, I will wait for an opening in the weather and will find another, hopefully longer, walk before winter pushes me into hibernation.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Pinnacles Loop Track, Coromandel – New Zealand

After a day walk in the Karanagahake Gorge, I headed to Thames, a 115km from Auckland, to prepare for an overnight hike to the Pinnacles in the Coromandel Forest Park. While a large portion of it is in the forest, there is a good portion in the tussocks above it too, so I will let it go. The mid-March weather also continues to hold up.

The Pinnacles Loop is a 17.2km trail amalgamating three trails, The Kauaeranga Kauri Trail to the Pinnacles hut, the side trail to the top of the Pinnacles themselves and the return walk on day two along the Billygoat Walk. While 17.2km is around my average walking distance on a typical day on my multi-day hikes, I’m stretching it out over two days as I want to stay at the Pinnacles Hut.

Day 1 – Kauaeranga Valley Road End to Pinnacles Hut – 6km – 3 hours + side trail to Pinnacles Summit (2km – 1.5 hours)

I headed out from the carpark at the end of Kauaeranga Valley Road, through the boot clearing station and onto the rocky trail. There is an epidemic of Kauri Dieback disease in New Zealand, and one of the defences is to clean boots before and after walking in Kauri forests, and thus there are boot cleaning stations everywhere. A few minutes in, I followed a short side trail to view the Billygoat Falls. They are distant and small, but caused loggers in the early 1900s much trouble.

I continued along Webb Creek as the trail began to climb steady on a rock and dirt trail with steps cut into it in many locations. These steps were often build with branches or chiselled out of the stone. This was to help the the pack animals climbing the trail and hauling logs back down again.

Much of the 400m total ascent occurs during the first 3km with the trail, crossing the creek several times either by rock hopping or on small bridges. On several occasions there were flood trails for those days when the creek is unsafe to cross due to high water levels, but today it was very low. After two hours in the forest, I came out at the Hydro Camp, a flattened areas which is the junction on the trails. I paused for a break and took my boots off in the sun.

From here the tall tussock begins giving more access to the sun and the views. This entire region was created by volcanic activity over the past 20 million years, with the bluffs and pinnacles acting as rocky plugs of the long extinct volcanoes.

The path grew drier and wider and after another hour, I came over a knoll to see the hut. I proceeded to it and dropped my pack. It was only 2pm and the sign left by the warden said he’d be back at 3.30.

I took a break, had a look around, filled my water bottle, then with only my lighter daypack, headed towards the Pinnacles themselves on a manicured path. The sign says it’s a 50 minute climb to the top.

To make the climbing easier, there are a large number of stairways climbing up to the first of the pinnacles.

But the views from this lower one was still good.

After this pinnacle, permanently installed ladders replaced the stairs. And in several locations, bars of metal have been pounded into the rock to be used as steps in areas where the rock scrambling grew more difficult.

While I didn’t find the climb particularly difficult, the views in all directions were well worth it.

And from this height, the towns of Pauanui and Taurui come into view on the Bay of Plenty coast.

I spent some time alone at the top enjoying both the sunshine and the views, before I made my descent. Coming down was quicker, and when I arrived back at the hut, went straight past to the nearby Dancing Creek Dam, which has been rebuilt to show what the original dam once looked like.

The Pinnacles hut can accommodate a total of 80 people, but there were only 13 booked for the night I stayed. The kitchen area is large and has gas burners and electric lighting. Many of the people in the hut came later than me, arriving close to sunset. As it is only an overnight walk, the wine bottles appeared from packs after dinner. This also meant that people were coming to bed later and making more noise.

Day 2 – Pinnacle Hut to Kauaeranga Valley Road End via Billy Goat Walk – 7km – 2.5 hours
All of the late comers from the evening before also decided to get up early to meet the sunrise at the top of the pinnacles, so the noise began again. And once I’m awake, I find it difficult to get back to sleep again, so I got up. I moved all my stuff into the dining area in the dark, as I watched the light begin to brighten the sky. I made breakfast and began packing waiting to see the fresh pink sunlight on the Pinnacles.

Once I was ready, I made a quick march from the hut back across the trail to the the Hydro Camp where the trail split and I barrelled on down the the Billygoat Walk trail. For a handful of kilometres, the trail undulated with several dips and climbs but always seeming to come back to a similar height, until it didn’t anymore, and the main descent began. In the trees, there was little to see as I came down, with similar steps in many places cut from stone, branches or packed dirt. Eventually I came out at the Billygoat Campsite where I had a brief chat with an American girl who was packing up her tent. I continued on and the main steep descent began. I got a good view down the valley as I went, some mist still hanging on the hills in the distance.

I came past an old tramline a couple of times, the higher end once held the engine which moved very little, but using tow cables, it lowered and raised cars laden with logs and equipment.

The slope continued its steepness, and I pushed on down it for nearly a kilometre until it finally came out at the Kauaeranga River, which thankfully was not running strong at this point. I rock hopped across and came out on Kauaeranga Valley Road 300m from the carpark. Not long after, I arrived and dropped my pack.

Overall,
While a good portion of the walk was in the forest, it was short enough to not set off my annoyance and the views above the forest line were excellent. It was a short walk, and I could have easily done it in a single day, I enjoyed getting away from civilisation for the night.

With the weather packing up for the next couple of weeks, I’m back to the gym hoping to get a clear week at the beginning of April for an early autumn walk at the end of my walking season before I begin my winter hibernation.

Until next time,
The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Karangahake Gorge Loop Day Walk, Coromandel – New Zealand

Instead of putting together a multi-day hike in the Coromandel, I decided to do two different walks, a day walk and an overnight walk. For the day walk, I decided to head to the Karangahake Gorge and figure out what to do when I got there.

There were plentiful cars in the various carparks when I arrived, so I parked up, threw on my day pack and headed out. I crossed a bridge and picked a walk from the sign, found it on my AllTrails app and headed out on the 14.4km Karangahake Gorge Loop.

Apparently, there’s a trail called the Windows Walk, but it was closed, so I headed along the other side of the gorge, following a flat path cut out of the gorge wall with a guard rail.

At a bridge, I crossed to the other side where a gate blocked off a cave into an old gold mine.

Across from it, on the side of the gorge I’d just come from was another opening into a large set of mines. According to the sign before me, the mines go quite far back into the mountain.

I continued along the now dirt trail without a hand guard following an old pipe that had been chained to the rock.

The trail wound its way along the gorge for a handful kilometres before coming to the Dickey Flat Waterfall. While the falls are not huge, they are split, with one part running through an old minding tunnel, delivering the water into the river.

Beside the waterfall, the trail entered a similar mine tunnel. I broke out my head torch and headed in and was glad I did, as I wouldn’t have been able to avoid the plentiful puddles without it. At times the tunnel was quite low for my height, but nothing too short. I passed a girl coming the other way and exited through the far end.

Another kilometre on and I crossed the river and walked past the Dickey Flat Campsite and onto a dirt road.

From here, the trail led up the dirt road for another kilometre before arriving at a sealed road, then on for a handful more kilometres, crossing a hill before coming past the Owharoa Falls.

A minute further on and I arrived back at the Karangahake Gorge. From here the trail followed it for 3 kilometres along a wide flat dirt path shared by cyclists and walkers, with the cars streaming along the gorge road opposite.

At one point a small trail leads off to another small waterfall at the base of Dubbo Stream.

Three kilometres along the gorge and a wide rail bridge led into an 1100m railway tunnel, with dim lights spaced along the way. I put on my head torch again to give me a better look at the walls and walked on. At the far end I crossed a bridge and walked for another 500m back to the carpark.

Overall,
The Karangahake was a nice day walk with plenty of history based around the old gold mining industry. After my walk I headed to the coastal town of Thames to prepare for the overnight hike to the Pinnacles tomorrow.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Routeburn Track, Fiordland, New Zealand

During the COVID pandemic, I chose to take a break from Europe and head to New Zealand for a bit. In early February, I’d planned a hike in the central North Island. But due to sustained rain over the two available weekends, I put that trip on hold and instead flew to Fiordland, at the the bottom of the South Island, where it was still sunny.

The Routeburn Track is a popular 3-day hike crossing the Mount Aspiring National Park and the Fiordland National Park. As it’s considered a Great Walk run by DoC (the NZ Department of Conservation), there are 3 huts along the way where most people will stay. However, at NZ$68 a night, I chose instead to camp for only NZ$21 a night. Unfortunately, there are only two campsites on the trail, meaning the first day would be very short, and the second day, very long.

Day 1 – Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats Campsite – 7.5km – 1.5hr

Having spent the night in nearby Queenstown, I caught a trail transport to the trailhead at the Routeburn Shelter where several of us were dropped off. I left the shelter feeling icy at just after midday, marching into the forest and following Route Burn. A burn is a watercourse, somewhere between a large stream and a small river.

Over the course of the day, there would be a gradual 250m climb, which was barely noticable. With only a short walk, I out marched the others from the trail transport, crossing several side streams on swing bridges and static wooden bridges. These bridges gave the only real views of the day other than trees. The water of the burn ran very clear and was a tourquoise blue in many of the pictures I took.

As I walked, I came to a purpose built toilet, just off the side of the trail. There’s nothing like the sense of being in the wilderness with random toilet blocks.

The trail itself could be described as the motorway of hiking trails, wide, flat and stony. This was purposeful, I assume, to make the hike accessible to beginning hikers. Before long, I could see the flats opening up on one side of the river and came to the Routeburn Flats Hut. Only 200m to the campsite and I was out of the trees, where I pitched my tent and hung out for the afternoon.

Day 2 – Routeburn Flats Campsite to Lake MacKenzie Campsite – 13.5km – 7hr + Side trip: Conical Hill

It had been cold overnight, but my new gear was warm. I was up early the next day, and as I packed up I watched the pink light on the tops of the mountains as the sun came up, well before it reached me and the other handful of tents. Once ready, I headed out of camp, back past the hut and up the hill. It began a fairly steady climb of 250m over the course of the 2.3km, but still in the trees. The trail became thinner and rocky as it skirted around the mountain until the hut came into view. After my first spot of hard work on this hike, I dropped my pack at the hut and took a 10 minute break, admiring the view back whence I’d come. It was around here that I first began to notice my pack didn’t feel weighted right.

After my break, I pushed on up the hill and out of the forest for the first time. Today, the weather was blissfully sunny, as I climbed another 250m over 2km and got a sight of the trail ahead crossing the small plateau. At one point I passed an older couple and their daughter having a late lunch.

Without looking at the map, I guessed a lake sat in the crater above. On climbing around the side of the peaks my guess was confirmed when Lake Harris came into view at the top of the Route Burn Left Branch.

As the path led around above the lake, I crossed the hike’s highest point (not including side trails) at just under 1300m, and rounded the peak to see the Harris Saddle Shelter. I crossed the saddle and set my pack down for lunch.

It’s here that the side trail up Conical Hill begins. I’d heard it was well worth the effort, so I donned my day pack with water bladder inside and begin the climb. I won’t lie, it was hard work, and I stopped many times for short breathers until I finally came over the top. At 1515m, the summit of Conical Hill gave me great views along the Hollyford River Valley leading to Lake McKerrow and further out to the Tasman Sea.

At the other end of the valley I could see a lake, but with so many lakes in Fiordland, I couldn’t tell which it was. I hung about for 10 minutes before heading down. As I got to the shelter, I discovered I was out of water with 3-4 hours of today’s walking still to go. I stopped for a few minutes before heading off south along the upper slopes of the Hollyford River Valley.

I’d heard much of the water in the streams, huts and campsites were good to drink without treating. So at the first stream I filled up. The taste was crisp, clean and refreshing. I continued along as the trail slowly undulated around the small peaks. I again passed the trio from before the saddle, they too had run out of water, but were more nervous about drinking from the streams.

I continued and eventually rounded a peak to see Lake Mackenzie below, the hut (the white block on the right), and the camp (near the largest of the visible beaches. After rounding the peak, it was all downhill to the lake.

The trail hit a couples of switchbacks before diving back into forest. Over the past couple of hours, I had begun to notice more and more that my pack wasn’t quite right. It was hanging to one side all the time, and the straps kept slipping. It felt more like a travel pack meant to sit on the back for an hour at a time, not a 9 hour slog over mountains. I stopped and repacked it, but while the balance felt a little better, but it still wasn’t quite right. I followed a girl down the hill and came out at the hut. Nearby people swam in the lake as I continued the the 10 minute walk to the campsite. Finding a spot, I pitched the tent, had a wetwipe ‘shower’ and zipped myself in for the evening.

Day 3 – Lake MacKenzie Campsite to The Divide 12km – 5 hours + Side Trip: Key Summit

Most of today would be in the forest, so after a late breakfast I headed out. I climbed the first of today’s two short climbs, barely noticing the 100m over the 1.5km distance. It was then fairly flat over the next few kilometres, the only views were in places where there had been slips although signs advised to hurry through and not stop.

At one point, I ran into the older lady and her daughter and stopped for a chat. Then a kilometre on I came out at the Earland Falls and met the husband with a family I’d met on the transport to the hike on the first day. It seemed we would all be on the transport out of the hike later that day. Earland Falls is a 179m tall with a large pool at the base. The water levels were low, but it can apparently flood during the winter.

From here it was a descent of 300m over 2.5km, but as it was through the forest, it was hard to tell. I passed several people going the other way in the early hours of their hikes before eventually coming out at lake Howden where I stopped for a 15 minute break. There was once a hut at this location, but it burned down a couple of years ago. After my break, I headed up the last 100m climb of the trail, still in the forest and stopped after a kilometer, when the trail led up to the Key Summit. I dropped my pack and headed up without it. The side trail climbed above the forest line giving wonderful views back north along the Hollyford River Valley from whence I’d come. At the top, it also gave a view of Lake Marian.

I stopped only briefly before heading down again. I donned my pack and continued for the last 3 kilometers of the trek, all downhill and all within the forest. I emerged at the Divide Shelter, took my pack off and rested. Not long after, others began emerging too, many of whom would be on the 4 hours bus ride back to Queenstown.

Overall
The Routeburn trail is a classic three day hike centred around crossing Harris saddle, with much time spent above the forest line. It was a busy and popular hike that I’d rate as having a moderate difficulty. I’d recommend for beginners and and those fairly new to hiking, although advanced and experienced hikers would enjoy too, although there are other more challenging hikes around.

It was good to get out on the track after 18 months away from hiking due to COVID and moving countries. I was troubled by my new pack, so set a task for myself to buy a new one on returning to Auckland.

Next week, I head to Nelson to start the Abel Tasman Coastal Great Walk.

Until then,

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit, Nelson Lakes – New Zealand – Part 2

Eighty-six kilometres south of Nelson in the Nelson Lakes regions, I walked the Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit. Click for Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit, Nelson Lakes – New Zealand – Part 1

Day 4 – West Sabine Hut to Sabine Hut – 14.2km – 6 hours

After making the decision to skip the day walk to Blue Lake, I headed out this morning and made for Lake Rotoroa and the Sabine Hut. A hundred metres from the West Sabine hut I cross the wide river on a suspension bridge and followed it into the mossy forest.

Today’s walk is six or so hours through the forest, but thankfully, unlike the previous day, there is no major climbs or descents, just a gentle downhill for most of the day.

And yes, with the exception of the 2 hours I spent crossing the saddle yesterday, this is my fourth full day in the forest. But even the forest itself seemed to feel my frustration and came out to remind me all was fine.

There were plenty of opportunity views back along the river…

And the occasional open grassy areas to cross, to break up the constant forest. This one led onto the only real climb of the day, passing over a knoll to get the heart pumping a little. At the end of the knoll, I met an exhausted looking couple who were carrying far too much. They’d only started an hour earlier after getting a water taxi across the lake.

With only a couple of kilometres left, I crossed the river and made my way through the flat forest waiting for the lake to appear. Then, for the first time this hike, the weather turned and a very light rain began. It continued until I finally arrived at the lake and then shortly after to the hut. On arrival, the sky opened up and bucketed down with lighting and thunder for much of the evening. About midway, a rather wet walker arrived, no doubt thankful to be out of the rain.

Day 5 – Sabine Hut to Angelus Hut 7.2km – 6 hours

After the rain of the previous evening, I was concerned that the steep first route that left from beside the hut would be overly wet and slippery, but I went anyway. The initial climb was very steep and foot placement was pertinent, carefully placed on dirt with a slight covering, no rocks or roots unless I could get a good foot holding.

It was slow work, and I used the trees where I could. After the first hour, the steepness eased with easier paths, but I remained fastidious, ever watching my steps. The climb grew easier, but the forest must have held a fairly low temperature, as I neither felt tired nor even broke a sweat as I climbed. This is odd, as I am an easy sweater while walking under weight. The trail grew steeper in hour three, only to round off and become flatter once again.

The Sabine hut is at 467m and at 1335m I emerged into a sunny Tussock covered rolling hilltop. I stopped just inside the forest to prepare for the open trail.

I climbed a further 200m in the glorious open sky to the summit of Mount Cedric and stopped for lunch. Below me lake Rotoroa stretched away while to the side mountains stood tall. Out of the shade of the trees the wind at this height was icy, so I put on my wind breaker.

A crown of mountains headed off to the right, and I saw that the Mount Cedric Track followed it, so after eating, I continued walking.

My climb, now in the open air, was glorious, and under the direct sunlight I began to sweat. The climb grew higher as I skirted around the rocky top of the crown and followed the ridge line off to the left, climbing even higher.

After being in the forest for four days, just being atop an open mountain ridge gave me a sense of enjoyment. The direct sun, the slight breeze, the rocky bliss and the sense of smallness among giants…

While there was a defined path, there was some rock hopping and thin somewhat precarious paths, but I always walk with caution on these paths. I got past and rounded the ridge line to look down onto the valley where Lake Angelus was supposed to be, but there was another smaller ridge in the way. Below me I could see the Hinapouri tarns instead.

I descended towards their smaller ridge with much rock hopping, which took some time, before I finally climbed down the slope to stand before Lake Angelus.

I climbed down to a flat tussock path, then around the lake to the Hut where, in the blissful sunshine, dropped my pack and chatted to some ladies on the front deck. Angelus hut turned out to be a very social hut with more people arriving through the afternoon.

Day 6 – Angelus Hut to St Arnaud – 18km – 5 hours

After my usual breakfast and packing regime, I set out across the tussock towards the ridge line behind the smaller two lakes in the basin, to the trail called the Robert Ridge Route. The climb affording good views back down the Lake Angelus basin as I climbed. The lake soon disappeared as I walked along the top of the ridge away from the hut.

As I climbed towards the Mt Julius Summit at near 1800m, I got a view down the valley to where I had crossed on the 2nd day of this adventure.

At Mt Julius Summit, I found a wide area where I could stop – wide in this case being 1.5 – 2m. I also found good 4G reception, so thought I would video call my parents at home in Auckland, to show them the view.

Afterwards, the trail cut across the side of the rocky ridges as it continued, before changing to the rounded hilltops with wide paths. There were some climbs, but nothing major, but all the time glorious views in all directions with the weather warm and minimally cloudy.

The route continued and I began to see walkers coming towards me, I climbed the last of the large round hilltops and stopped on some flat rocks for lunch.

After chatting with a couple of passersby, I headed off again along the ridge, this time slowly descending. The route continued down past a rest shelter likely build for day walkers, to the summit of Mount Robert, the final peak before my big descent out of the National Park.

I took a break at the top to chat to another climber and admire the view down on Lake Rotoiti.

The descent to the carpark was partially through the forest, but mostly in the open, growing steadily warmer as I got closer to the bottom. There are more than 22 switchbacks on the way down, and I find it handy to count then down. In my mind it helps as fast descents are not my knee’s favourites.

At the bottom, I set out along the road towards St Arnaud, a further 90 minutes along a dirt road which turned to a major highway. I had intended to camp 45 minutes from the end of the hike, but it was still early with plenty of daylight left, so I decided to crack out onto the road and thumb a lift back to Nelson, some 86km away. I made it getting two lifts and not having to walk too much.

Overall,
I should have taken more care in selecting a hike, as I found this circuit to be particularly frustrating. If I had walked the entire length as planned, but added the side trip to Blue Lake, it would have been six days in the forest, with only 2 hours in the alpine region crossing the Travers Sabine saddle. As I particularly dislike walking in the forest for anything longer than a day, I was thankful for the girl I walked partially with on day 2 and her suggestion to go to Lake Angelus instead. As these are my first long hikes in the NZ mountains, I will be more careful with my planning in the future.

Next, after a week or so giving my legs a break, I have a couple of walks in the North Island.
Until then,
The Lone Trail Wanderer

Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit, Nelson Lakes – New Zealand – Part 1

After walking the 4-day Abel Tasman Coastal Great Walk, I took a break and caught a transport 86km south of Nelson to the Nelson Lakes Region looking for more of an alpine hike.

Initially, I was due to arrive late afternoon and camp the night in St Arnaud. But due to a change in timing for the transport, I would be in the region several hours early, so chose to start the hike immediately with a short first day.

Day 1 – St Arnaud to Lakehead Hut – 3hr – 10 km

I arrived in St Arnaud, bought a coke from the Petrol Station/General Store, and with the lunch I’d brought with me, sat on the beach of Lake Rotoiti to enjoy them.

My big mistake was not to not know there aren’t any rubbish bins in St Arnaud. I’d have to carry an empty coke bottle for the entire hike. You live and you learn. After lunch, and a bit of harassment by a duck, I headed off around the edge of the lake climbing a little as I went on a thin non-manicured trail.

The 10km of today was entirely in the forest, and it would not sink in until later in day two that the vast majority of the hike would be this way.
Lake Rotoiti looks somewhat like an angry sperm, with two large nobs at one end and and a thin tail at the other. Near this table end, I stopped and boots off, dunked my feet in the water. Around me wasps crawled everywhere, attracted to the Beech trees most of the forests in this region contain. None bothered me, and neither did the sandflies, as for this hike I had bought some DEET insect repellant.

It didn’t take me long to reach the hut and I settled into hut life, chatting to the people who were already there including some Te Awaroa walkers and a girl who had arrived via water taxi. I talked to her into the evening and once everyone else had gone bed, we too decided to slip off to our respective sleeping bags.

Day 2 – Lakehead Hut to Upper Travers Hut – 19.6km – 7.5 hours

The first part of today was walking through the long grass at the end of the lake, before I disappeared into the forest once more.

I left last from the hut, but within 30 minutes I ran into the girl I’d been talking to the night before, who was reorganising her bags, of which she had brought too much.

Once she was ready to move on, I walked with her through the forest for the first half of the day, talking about everything and anything. Even as the sole of her boot fell apart before me, we continued walking and talking, and before we knew it, we arrived at the John Tait Hut, where we stopped for a coffee and lunch.

After our coffee break, my new friend and I continued on, beginning the climb towards the Upper Travers hut. About 30 minutes in, she took a break, but told me to push on. I bid her farewell, that I would see her at the hut, and set off up the trail. Not long after, I came to the Travers Falls. I dropped my pack and climbed down the steep bank to get a better look.

I ran into my friend again while I was putting on my pack. She seemed to like the idea of not carrying her pack for a while, so I left her to enjoy the waterfall. The climb continued at a fair pace, although within the trees I really couldn’t tell how far I was climbing except when I came out to cross the occasional stream. I’d been alerted to one of the bridges in this area having been washed out, and I located it, or what was left of it, as I crossed the rocky stream.

Then after three hours of climbing since the John Tait hut, I came over a rise to a tussocky field with great mountain views and the hut nestled in a small copse of trees. I crossed the field and set my pack down, preparing for the evening. For the next couple of hours I kept an eye out for my friend, who did eventually arrive, having left one of her bags behind. That evening I discovered much of the rest of the hike would be through trees, except for 2 hours crossing the saddle the next day.

Day 3 – Upper Travers Hut to West Sabine Hut – 8km – 6 hours

My walking friend from the day before made the choice to stay another night in the hut and return down the same track we’d climbed the previous day. While chatting over breakfast, she suggested a more alpine route, which I decided to ponder on the way to the next hut. I bid farewell and began climbing straight into forest, but only for 10 minutes before it opened out into an alpine landscape including a crown of mountains.

The trail plodded up towards the crown for several hundred metres before beginning a steep climb up the side of Mt Travers before slowly rounding out to the saddle, a 90 minute climb total.

I dropped pack and took a break with the view of Mt Travers behind me.

At the advice of another walker, I climbed to see small tarn a little further up, and also got a great view back down the valley I’d climbed from.

On the other side of the saddle, I got a view of where I would be going. With no sight of other walkers, I took up my pack again, and began the climb down. Half an hour later, and near where the trail dove back into the forest, I stopped for lunch in the sun.

Back in the forest, the trail led steeply down and seemed endless. Very occasionally, I could see the mountains around to judge how far I’d descended. But again, it felt never-ending and my knees didn’t thank me for the effort. Finally, after what seemed like hours, I began to hear a river ahead and followed the noise along a gully until I came out at the bottom where a stream met the raging East Branch Sabine River.

Thankful for the break, I took off my books and dipped my feet in the water. Afterwards, I headed along what I thought was a flat rest of the trail, but I was wrong. It was for the first several hundred metres before it crossed a bridge where deep below, the wide river raged even harder through a thin channel. The trail climbed around the side of Mount Franklin, still deep in the forest, with often muddy areas, until after a handful of kilometres, began yet another steep decent leading down to where the east and west branch of the rivers met. Then it was a 500m flat walk to the hut where I found two ladies from the previous hut, and no-one else. That night, I did some research on my way forward.

I’d originally planned to do a return day walk to the Blue Lake, then on to Sabine hut, the following day, with a long day out to St Arnaud for my last day. But this would see me walking predominantly in the forest, which I was honestly sick of at this point. The other option was to skip Blue Lake, head straight to Sabine Hut and then climb into the alpine region to Lake Angelus Hut instead. This sounded much more my style.

Next, part 2 of my Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit.
The Lone Trail Wanderer

Abel Tasman Coastal Trail – Nelson – New Zealand

For my second hike in as many weeks, I flew to Nelson at the top of the South Island. From here I will be doing a pair of hikes, but the first is a coastal and listed as one of New Zealand’s most popular hikes. Thankfully the school holidays are over and as I start on a Monday the trail is expected to be quiet.

The Abel Tasman Coastal Track Great Walk! is a 60 kilometre, 3-5 day walk which I did over four days, the last of which was a short day due to having an early pick up from my transport company. In addition, there are several inlet crossings on the trail, one of which doesn’t have an alternative high route, so tide times are important to ensure there are no delays.

Day 1 – Marahau to Torrent Bay Village Campsite – 17 km – 5.5 hours + Side trip to Cleopatra Pool

It was an early start from the hostel this morning to get to the pick up location, and I wasn’t able to find a coffee. I was collected with six others, most of whom were being dropped off like me at the southern start point.

As we pulled up I noted a cafe right next to the trailhead, but when I got there, I found it was closed on Monday and Tuesdays. I guess I’ll have to find time to make my own coffee. I started out along a boardwalk to where to the stony trail began and headed into the bush that I would annoyingly be spending much of the hike in. From time to time as I walked I got views along the golden sands of Porters Beach.

A couple of kilometres into the walk, I stopped at Tinline Campsite, the first of many, where I made a coffee.
As I drank, I had my first meeting with a Weka. It seemed friendly, but I would soon learn not to trust these thieving little beasties, thankfully not because they took any of my stuff.

After coffee, the trail climbed a little, making the views just that little bit better. I climbed down a steep thin path to Coquille Bay Campsite before continuing on. A couple of kilometres later, I did the same at Apple Tree Bay Campsite, but learned that climbing down to every beach campsite meant climbing back up to the trail again, usually on a steep path.

I was looking for a lunch spot another couple of kilometres later as I rounded Stilwell Bay. A sign sent me to Yellow Point Lookout in hope of finding a nice spot, but after a short walk, I discovered to my disappointment, there was very little to see at said lookout. I also had my first encounter with the wasps in the National Park, which were everywhere. They paid me little attention, and I learned later that this entire region was rife with them due to the plentiful beech forests. Next to the Yellow Point Lookout path was the path down to Akersten Bay Camp where I dropped my pack and took lunch, but not before visiting the small cave at the end of the beach.

My camp for the night was to be on the other side of a bay usually crossed at low tide. But as I knew this ahead of time, and with low tide several hours away, I took the high tide route around and was able to walk 10 minutes on a side trail to Cleopatra Pool, part of the Torrent Bay River.

The river runs down a slide into the Cleopatra Pool, and as I dipped my feet in the cold water, I watched a couple of women slide down.

After my break, I walked the hour around the bay and when I got to the campsite, I found a nice spot, pitched my tent and went for a walk. The Torrent Bay Village is a village of baches (beach houses, to non-Kiwis) with numerous private property signs. I wandered around a bit and enjoyed the golden sand, swam in the bay and waited for more people to arrive, but even at low tide came, no-one crossed. Tonight, it would appear, I would be the ruler of the camping ground, with my sole subjects the mozzies.

Day 2 – Torrent Bay Village Campsite to Awaroa Campsite – 18.5km – 7 hours + Side trip to Awaroa Lodge

It was low tide on my waking and people were beginning to stream across the dry bay. As I got ready and had breakfast I watched more and more begin the soggy crossing. I bumped into some later and they told me they were all coming from the Anchorage Hut or Campsite.

When ready, I walked through the village and along the beach a little before beginning the climb up the hill on the far side. It was not a tall climb, and I soon came to the Torrent Bay View point.

I headed on, winding through the forest on a curving path that stayed fairly level. These paths/tracks are very wide, as are all Great Walk! Paths.

I crossed a stream and climbed a little until I came to the Halfway Pool, formed by a stream coming through the area. Compared to Cleopatra Pool, Halfway Pool isn’t even a half sized pool.

I continued on, crossed the Falls River Suspension Bridge and began a slow descent to the turn off to Medlands Beach. I had a quick look at the carving there before continuing on. I rounded the bay and came down onto the Bark Bay spit, where I dropped my pack, took off my boots and had some lunch.

When I headed out again I noted that the bay behind the spit was dry, so decided to cross instead of going the long way around. At the far side, the water was just coming in and was too deep to cross without taking off my boots. On the other side, I put my boots back on and climbed the short steep path to the trail.

It descended slowly down to Tonga Quarry where stones were extracted for the Nelson Cathedral. The quarry was once a Campsite, but was permanently closed after storm damage in 2018. Another short climb led around to Onetahuti Bay where there had been a warning of a deep stream crossing the beach. It wasn’t deep and I crossed with little issue.

I sand walked to the end of the beach, which is not the most fun, and dropped my pack and boots for a break. I then crossed a bridge and headed back into the hills before coming to a T-junction, one way heading down to the Awaroa Lodge, the other continuing the trail. A group of girls were deciding if they should go to the lodge, but decided not to, so I tailed them a little way before they stopped and I continued on. Just over a kilometre later was another shorter route to the lodge, and with the thought of a cider creeping into my mind, I decided to take it.

The Awaroa Lodge did indeed serve cider along with hot chips, so I had a couple of drinks and relaxed. After an hour, I pushed on, following a flat path that would lead to a bay crossing. The bay still had water in it and I had to decide to wait possibly hours for the tide to go down, or to go around. I decided to go around, although I hear I could have easily crossed as the water was only waist deep. I cut through the Awaroa Glamping site instead and ended up bushwhacking a little to get back to the path. The rest of the trail was hard work, especially as I had relaxed so long (nothing to do with the cider, nope). An hour later I finally arrived at the campsite, set up my tent and to get away from the sandflies and Weka, got in. Just before dark a noisy group arrived, but thankfully stayed at the other end of the campsite.

Day 3 – Awaroa Campsite to Mutton Cove Campsite – 14km – 5 hours

In the morning, everyone was up early to get the low tide crossing of the bay, all except the noisy crowd who were barely rising when everyone else was heading out.

Halfway across I noted there was still water higher than ankle deep, so I removed my boots and put on my flip flops. The rest of the crossing was slow and muddy, but I got there, cleaned up my feet as I looked back across the bay, put my boots on and headed off.

With a minimal climb, I crossed the peninsula to Waiharakeke Bay and walked along the bay until I came out on Goat Bay Beach.

There was a steep climb over the hill at Skinner Point, but I noted the tide was still out enough that I could try to rock hop around instead. I deemed there would be plenty of time to come back if I got stuck, but there weren’t any issues.

I jumped down onto Totaranui Beach and walked along to the campsite where there were plenty of RVs and people on holiday. I stopped and made a coffee before pushing on again, heading past the Totarani Education Centre on a grassy path…

…before climbing a small hill over to Anapai Bay Campsite, a small beach camp.

I stopped for a rest before pushing on over a pair of short ridges.

I came down into Mutton Cove Campsite where I would be staying for the night. The camp was a large grassy area, but there was a lot of wind coming off the sea. I found a tucked away spot and pitched my tent. For much of the afternoon, only the occasional other walker would come by to stop for a break then head on again. Of course, I was not to have the place to myself, as late in the afternoon the noisy bunch arrived, thankfully camping at the other end.

Day 4 Mutton Cove Campsite to Wairau Bay Carpark – 8km – 2.5 hours
Today is a short day as I need to meet the trail transport in the early afternoon. I set off at my normal time, again just as the noisy crowd awoke.

I headed up the first steep climb right out of the camp as it crossed the peninsula to Wharwharangi Bay, and walked along the trail off the beach. The trail cut inland and passed the Wharwharangi Bay hut where I stopped to get some toilet paper to clean my sunglasses, then off again straight away onto the highest climb of the trail.

I powered up the sometimes steep trail and eventually came to the summit feeling strong. I took a break on a seat before beginning the slow descent around into Wainui Bay, where I was 2 hours early for the pickup.

I had hoped there might be a shop of similar nearby, but it was not to be the case. So, I found a camp table, got changed into long clothes to avoid the sandflies and just waited. The vehicle was early, and as all five of us were already there, we packed up and headed back to Nelson.

Overall,
The Abel Tasman was a nice little hike with one main issue for me, a large portion of it was spent in the forest. I’ve done plenty of forest walking in my time, but it tends to feel like I am on a treadmill with a screen showing forest displays. You climb and descend, turn left and right, but really have no idea where you’re going. I found this to be a typical case around the northern South Island. Other than this, I found the walk interesting and the various inlets a good respite from the forest. I did also note that two thirds of the people walking were woman. I noted similar on my next walk too and certainly aren’t complaining complaining.

After a day’s break in Nelson, I’m off to the Nelson Lakes Region for a more alpine walk.
Until next time,
The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Nottingham, England – Impressions

Part of the England’s East Midlands, Nottingham is just over 200km north of London. It’s steeped in the legend of Robin Hood and is surrounded by Sherwood Forest to the north. The city gets its name from an Anglo-Saxon chieftain named Snot, who ruled the area of Snotingham, meaning the homestead of the people of Snot.

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A week ago, I was in Norwich for a couple of days, and after a short week at work, I headed north to do the same in Nottingham.

Robin Hood Statue
It’s impossible to think of Nottingham without at some point thinking of Robin Hood. While there’s no actual proof he was a real person, it’s believed the name was a local reference to bandits in general. A legend grew around the character, spawning books and movies and growing a host of folklore about his Merry Men, his lover and nemesis, the Sheriff. The statue is in place outside Nottingham Castle.

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Sky Mirror
Situated outside the Playhouse in Wellington Circus on the Northside, the 6-metre diameter circular stainless steel mirror weighs nearly 10 tons. Its surface is said to reflect the ever-changing environment. A similar but somewhat larger 11-metre mirror was installed at the Rockefeller Centre in New York. With others in Monaco, Saint Petersburg and Tilburg, the Netherlands.

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Arboretum
Arboretum was the first designated public park in the city, opening in 1845. As the town grew around it, the neighbourhood took on its name. Past the lake and carpet bed, along the path with the Aviary to the left and Victorian flower garden to the right, the Arboretum opens into a pleasant grassy park lined with trees. Other features on the Arboretum include a formal garden, a Chinese bell tower, and a Bandstand. However, the latter was cordoned off for special events. A pleasant stroll on a cloudy afternoon.

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Theatre Royal Nottingham
The grand theatre in the heart of Nottingham is connected to the Royal Concert Hall. Like its namesake in London, it regularly attracts major touring dramas, opera, ballet, West End musicals and even an annual pantomime. It can seat 1186 people over four floors.

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Nottingham University
While not as sprawling as the universities of Oxford or Canterbury, Nottingham’s University takes up a fair chunk of the north side of the city.

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Old Market Square
At the base of the steps leading up to the city council chambers is one of the largest paved pedestrian squares in the UK. It was originally the centre point between the Norman town of Nottingham and an old Anglo-Saxon town called Snothryngham (the original spelling), where a market square was formed. It was also the site of the Nottingham Goose Fair between the 12th century and 1928, when it was moved due to space limitations. The fair has gathered in October every year for most of those 700 years, although it was cancelled in 1646 due to the Great Plague and during both world wars. It was also cancelled last year for the COVID pandemic. In 1764 it was notable for the cheese riot that occurred due to the significant increase in cheese prices from the previous year.

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Motorpoint Arena and National Ice Centre
The Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham is the sister Arena to the one in Cardiff I visited 18 months ago, before the world got strange. It is also used as a concert venue, although I didn’t go inside this one. Connected to it is the National Ice Centre, UK’s first twin Olympic-sized rink, and where Nottingham-born Olympic champions Torvill and Dean first developed their love for skating.

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Nottingham Castle
Built-in 1068 by Willian the Conqueror and originally a wooden structure, it was replaced by the more defensible stone castle. Then by 1651, it was largely demolished except for its walls and gates.

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20 years later, a ducal palace was built on the site, only to be burned down by rioters. It was then rebuilt and became the art gallery that stands there now. During my visit, it held a display on three of Nottingham’s most rebellious and bloody episodes, a creative gallery and the museum of the Mercian Regiment.

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The castle, ducal palace, and the art gallery were all perched atop a bluff of Triassic sandstone riddled with caves and underground passageways. It was through some of these tunnels that various acts of violence were brought against the castle and palace. During my visit, I went down into some of the caves and tunnels beneath the gallery on a cave tour.

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Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
Nestled at the base of the Castle walls, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem claims to be the oldest inn in England dating from 1189AD, the year Richard the Lionheart became king. However, there is no documentation to verify this date. Several other inns across the country claim the same honour, including several in Nottingham. But, after I visited the castle, I had to pop in for lunch, because maybe it is the oldest, perhaps it’s not, but the Fish and Chips were good.

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Nottingham Contemporary
Near the National Ice Centre is a contemporary art space with large sprawling rooms, sparsely decorated with art. This one is from a Brazilian artist and contains several large pieces, along with many wall hangings. It was only a quick visit as there was honestly not a lot to see.

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National Justice Museum
The museum is housed in a former Victorian courtroom, prison, and police station, and details the historical process where people could be arrested, tried, sentenced and executed. A visit to the museum often starts with a court trial with several audience members playing roles. This little role play is designed to show how cutthroat the system could be.

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Beneath the courtroom, are several floors of cells, which get steadily worse the lower you go until at the bottom they are little more than dark, dank caves where prisoners were held. The prisons were separated into men’s and women’s gaols, with the men doing more hard labour, while the women did more menial labour.

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The back courtyard has a set of gallows where a mock hanging takes place, although the ‘prisoner’ (a member of the audience) gets saved by a writ from the king. The back courtyard only held a small number of hangings at the time as most were held on the front steps, so locals could watch.

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Impressions
Nottingham is smaller than many of the other cities I’ve explored and has perhaps more of a common township feel than a magical place where legends were born. Yet, I still enjoyed exploring another of England’s historical locations.

Until next time,
The World Wanderer

Norwich, England – Impressions

About a hundred miles to the North East of London is Norwich, which until the 18th century was the second-largest city in England. The town was founded in about the 6th century as Northwic (North Farm) and over time has become Norwich, with a silent ‘w’.

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In its early years, Norwich was a bustling trade centre even while being raided and burnt in 1004 by the Viking king of Denmark. Wool was Norwich’s primary trade good, which was said to have made England rich and funded many churches in the region. Norwich has more medieval churches than any other city in Western Europe north of the Alps.

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So, taking a couple of days off, I caught the train out of London and, after dropping my bag at my hotel, set about exploring the city.

Cow Tower

Skirting north along the River Wensum, I discovered the Cow Tower nestled on one of its bends. The late 12th-century artillery tower was built to defend the northeastern approach to the city from the local English rebels and the French. The weapons of choice on the defensive building were hand cannons and bombards.

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City Walls – Barre Gate and Magdelen Gates

Continuing along the river, I found two different sections of the seven-metre wall that once surrounded the city. Norwich had twelve such fortified gates and boasted the longest system of urban defences in Britain. I did find other scattered bits throughout the city. An artist’s impression can be found here.

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Dinosaur Art Trail

As I walked towards the centre of the city, I discovered a two-metre tall, brightly painted T. rex on the side of the road. Littered throughout the city are 21 of these sculptures, of which I may have found about 10. They are part of the GoGo Art Trail in Norwich, which has included hares and dragons in previous years, with woolly mammoths next year.

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Elm Hill

Just north of the city centre is a historical cobbled lane that dates back to the Tudor period between 1485 and 1603. The lane’s name is from several Elm trees that once grew in the square at the top of the road. Due to Dutch Elm Disease, the tree in Elm Hill is no longer an Elm tree.

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Tombland

At the bottom of Elm Hill lane is Tombland, the location of an ancient Anglo-Saxon marketplace. While today it is a popular restaurant area, it also houses a pair of old gates into the courtyard of the Norwich Cathedral.

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Norwich Cathedral

The cathedral is one of the most complete Norman Cathedrals in England. Some parts were sectioned off for an exhibition called Dippy on tour, the cast bones of a Diplodocus dinosaur. The display had closed by the time I popped by, but a choir was practising at the other end. While we couldn’t take photos of the choir, the cathedral’s acoustics gave their voices an awe-inspiring sound.

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Norwich Castle

The castle at the centre of Norwich is perhaps the most untypical looking castle I’ve seen in my travels with its distinct cubic shape. (Although during my trip to Nottingham the next week, I found another just like it). Its construction was ordered by William the Conquerer late in the tenth century. The castle was used as a prison from 1220 to 1887 before being converted to a Museum. Unfortunately, during my visit to the city, the castle had some of the original medieval floors and rooms being reconstructed, and I couldn’t visit the site.

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Plantation Garden

Also known as the Secret Garden, the Plantation Garden was established more than a hundred years ago in an abandoned chalk quarry beside the Roman Catholic Cathedral. The garden is a spot of serenity in the city includes a huge gothic fountain, a 10-metre long Victorian-style greenhouse and a medieval terrace wall.

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The South Asia Collection – Old Skating Rink Gallery

Not far from the centre of the city is a large restored Victorian roller skating rink with a dramatic arched wooden roof. It originally opened in 1876 but barely lasted a year. Over the years, it has been a Vaudeville Theatre, an American tinned meat sales building, a Salvation Army citadel and a builder’s merchant. In 1993 it was bought for the South Asia Collection and converted to an art gallery and shop. Unsurprisingly, it now holds an extensive collection of art from Southern Asia.

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The Museum of Norwich at Bridewell

Hidden away in a small building near the central city, the museum tells the story of Norwich’s industries and the people who lived and worked there. The period stretches from medieval to modern and shows how the city adapted to changing fortunes through the textile trade, shoes, chocolate, and mustard production.

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Impressions

I was surprised to find a city of art, numerous gaming stores and many many churches, along with quaint old Victorian lanes and plentiful history. It was a nice place to explore for a couple of days.

Until next time,

The World Wanderer