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9 March 2007

Arnold River Power Station

page 1

When I'd driven over Arthur's Pass previously, I had often wondered about a great big bridge across the Taramakau River that headed back towards Greymouth. This time, on my way through to Westport with some time up my sleeve, I decided to explore it. It is back country driving up past Lake Brunner, which the Maori simply call Moana: the sea. I stopped there for lunch, then carried on up the Arnold Valley road until I saw a sign advertising Kotuku Potteries, and I headed in to discover Ian Dalzell in his workshop with his coal fired kiln. I emerged from there with a couple of wonderful plates and a fresh sense of adventure.

I'm just starting to come to terms with the "real" meaning of coal. As a child I recall staying at my grandparents right alongside the Fernleigh railway station at Waiuku, and feeling the house shake gently each night as the train rumbled through, and smelling the coal smoke. Grandad used to take his wheelbarrow and shovel up to the station and there was always enough loose coal lying about on the ground to keep his house warm right through the winter.

On the West Coast I smelled coal smoke again for the first time in years, and Ian's kiln awakened something from my childhood, so that later when I visited Denniston with Lerey I was open to the experience in a way I might not have been otherwise.

As I left, I asked Ian if he knew of any good walks locally, and he pointed me at the Arnold River Power Station a few kilometres up the road towards Greymouth.

Turn right towards Kaimata, cross the railway and turn left down towards the power station. It's not well-marked but you can find it if you know about it.

While I'm putting my boots on, a weka comes to visit, but by the time I grab the camera, it's off into the blackberries.

The sign is unassuming and says nothing whatever about plastic bags to carry your rubbish in, or dogs.

I head round the back of the powerhouse enclosure.

I get the sense that at one time there have been permanent staff here, and that things are now largely automated. There's a scruffy and deserted air about the place

Ahead is the first grass covered bridge I've ever seen, taking me over the Arnold River.

The river, looking one way, is so English I almost expect a couple of striped blazers in a punt to head round the corner any second. Right out of Hagley Park in fact.

The other side is much more recognisable

We swing around to the right here, and, hello, is that a DoC logo? I reach instinctively for my plastic rubbish bag and relax. I have not been caught unprepared.

We make our way into the bush proper past a more or less customary mix of blackberry, bracken, foxglove and other weedy scrub. I'd love to see this stuff addressed by some kind of eradication program, but political considerations probably rule this out.

The surroundings change abruptly.

The slightly raffish approaches excepted, this is a honey of a track once you get inside.

There are ferns hanging off just about anything that will support them

Shortly, the path branches to the left and soon we pass through a small semi-clearing filled with Crown fern or piupiu (Blechnum discolour)






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