Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A visit to the Titirangi Ranges in 1876

From the NZ Herald, 30 December 1876


On Boxing-day the new 'bus made by Messrs. Cousin and Atkins to the order of Mr. F. Quick, for the Auckland and Whau line, made its maiden trip, having been chartered by Mr. B Gittos to take a party of friends to his kauri bush in the Titirangi ranges. The vehicle —which has been named “Carryall"—is licensed to carry 24 passengers, is built in Messrs. Cousin and Atkins' best style, and will prove a great convenience to the settlers of Morningside, Mount Albert, the Whau, and also to other residents on the New Great North Road.

There are evident signs of progress and prosperity in these localities, and the cosy villas nestled at the foot of Mount Albert, with their ornamental pleasure grounds and shelled carriage drives, would not do discredit to the more aristocratic suburb of Remuera. Business does not seem to be overlooked in the pursuit of pleasure, for across the valley, on the boundary of the Whau district, are the brick and tile works of Mr. Boyd; further west, those of the Hon. Dr Pollen, the Whau tannery of the Messrs. Gittos and near the Whau bridge the fellmongering establishment of Messrs. Bell and Gemmell —evident tokens that our local industries are being diligently cultivated and developed.

On of the latest improvements added to this section of the Whau is the Presbyterian manse, occupied by the Rev. Robert Sommerville, the esteemed pastor of the district. For years the Lunatic Asylum has stood in desolate grandeur on the northern side of the plain, but it will now have to divide the honours with the pile of buildings known as the Auckland Waterworks —the tall chimney-stalk of which struggles skywards, as if bent on keeping its head above and beyond the fragrance of the passing night-carts. Shortly the many hundred-armed machinery of that establishment will send streaming down from the Khyber Pass and Ponsonby reservoirs the sparkling God-given water that shall rush under our roadways, dash out of the hydrants, toss up in our city fountains, and with silver note, and golden sparkle, and crystalline chime, say to thousands of our population, in the authentic words of Him who made it, “I will: be thou clean!”

It needs but a glance at the configuration of the country to see that the payable line for the Auckland and Kaipara Railway is by Morningside, Mount Albert, and the Upper Whau. A large suburban population is rapidly settling on the volcanic slopes and patches along the New Great North Road, which in addition to the yearly increasing number of manufactories in the valley, will form no unimportant "feeder" to the through traffic of the Kaipara line. The route via Ponsonby and Point Chevalier, with two trains per day, will never have a "show" for the suburban passenger traffic against Quick's buses running to and from the centre of the city every quarter of an hour. After getting out of Ponsonby the character of the country will prevent settlement in a westerly direction to the sea, unless departures for the projected cemetery at Point Chevalier, and brickdust and pipeclay are regarded as factors in the computation of the anticipated traffic.

After passing the Whau Bridge the character of the country greatly changes, but not for the better, and the eye turns with a sense of relief from the dun coloured interminable waste of fern stretching away south, to the alluvial bottom lands of the Whau Flat, clothed in emerald green. Here may be seen what agricultural skill and science can effect in the land farmed by Mr. Bollard, whose experiments in utilising the night soil of the city are, after a very heavy expenditure of capital we are glad to learn, likely to prove remunerative and successful. On the fern plain above alluded to, for many miles, the only indications of human industry and skill are the little pipe clay mounds which betoken that the irrepressible gum-digger has been "cavortin' around."

On the Titirangi Ranges things are but little changed, during the past fifteen years—the roads are greatly improved, and speedier access is obtainable to the city for stores; but not a few of the settlers have one by one given up the struggle to wring a bare competence from, in many instances it is to be feared, indifferent soil. The staple of the district is its timber. A pleasant feature in the landscape is the pretty little schoolhouse (also used as a place of worship), shewing that the settlers value that best of blessings for their children—a good education—though removed from the advantages and pleasures of town society. From the top of the mountain at the back of Bishop's clearing could be seen the ranges trending away to the waters of the Manukau and the West Coast, with shelving, precipitous banks, while from base to summit the watershed on both sides was clothed with forests of magnificent kauri—some of these giant monarchs of the forest rearing their bare trunks, straight as a gun barrel, sixty and seventy feet into the air, and a horizontal section of the "stump" of one of them would form a commodious "round table" for King Arthur's Knights.

From the hill above alluded to is obtainable one of the finest views in the province—a panorama of mountain, and forest, sea and plain, which is only distantly approached by the view to be got from Maungarahe, above Tokatoka, on the Northern Wairoa; and one can readily understand how such ardent admirers and students of nature as Governor Gore Browne and Sir George Arney should have frequently repaired to this spot. Even “the Earl and the Doctor" had heard of its fame, and on the summit stands a fragment of a pole planted by the Earl of Pembroke, in token of his visit. How the pole came to its present condition is a moot point; on the one hand, it is asserted that Young New Zealand "went for" that pole in order to shew his contempt for the "bloated" British aristocrat, while on the other hand, it is cynically suggested that colonial snobbery was rampant, and the pole handled by "a real live lord" disappeared by inches in the manufacture of relics.

From the staff, facing westwards, the spectator views the Waitakerei ranges, with the Big and Little Huia, piled tier above tier heavenwards, on any principle, or rather, no principle, but just looking as if they had been "hove" there by the gods during some Titanic rumpus. Carrying the vision to the right are seen the Helensville, Wade, and Tangahua ranges; then in succession the Kawau, Great Barrier, Cape Colville, and the Thames mountains dying away towards the Ohinemuri country. In the more immediate foreground, looking east and south, are the Wairoa and Hunua ranges, the Pukekohe and Bombay settlements plainly visible, Awitu, Waiuku, and the Waikato Heads. Following the coast line to the starting-point, the drift-sand, which is steadily advancing inland and encroaching upon settlement in that quarter, can be plainly seen at a glance. The panorama closes with the South Head of the Manukau, its front—scarred and gashed by a thousand tempests—frowning out on the Pacific, which, with eternal refrain and "immeasurable laugh," dashes itself into foam on the sandbanks at its base—while the Paratutai semaphore, standing out in bold, relief against the western horizon, gives token that “A sweet little cherub sits up aloft and looks after the life of poor Jack." The Manukau basin—an inland sea only inferior in extent to the noble estuary of the Kaipara—stretches away from the feet of the spectator to Drury and Waiuku, and on Boxing-day mirrored on its bosom the noble mountains on its northern margin, under a sky

“So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful,
That God alone was to be seem in Heaven.”

The only incident worthy of special record during the trip was the advent in that truly rural district of an officer of H.M. Customs. The wild and sequestered ranges of Titirangi and Waitakerei have long lain under the blighting suspicion of a “private still” but as the contents of certain hampers of the tourists had duly paid toll to Her Majesty, the Volscians were not fluttered. The officer in question "tooled" his four-wheeler up the ranges in the rising morn, only to find that there are exceptions to the old adage touching “the early bird getting the worm.” The solution of the mystery turned out to be that, instead of “bulling or bearing" in the Custom-house, he had taken advantage of the holiday to refresh his spirits by getting a sniff of the Titirangi ozone, in preference to “guaging" those of other people. Both parties of tourists returned to town wiser, in some respects, and certainly not sadder, by the trip.

1 comment:

  1. What a roll call of half-forgotten names! - I'd never thought of Pollen Island as being named for a person, let alone a premier (as a quick trip to Wikipedia revealed). Do please keep posting these time capsules, not least for the way they throw light on changing values: one decade's "dun coloured interminable waste" is another's "bush".