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9 June 2007

Cutty Grass Track

page 1

The Cutty Grass Track goes from the Scenic Drive (just past the Fairy Falls Carpark) down to Anawhata Rd. Or vice versa. Unless you have a two car setup you are going to walk it both ways. There's no simple loop that will bring you back anywhere near your starting point.

My guess is that it was originally constructed in the course of getting electricity to Anawhata, as power poles and lines accompany the track throughout. It is 2-3 metres in width for most of its length, with a gravel/rock foundation in many parts.

There's broken windscreen glass in the carpark at both ends, so you pays your money and takes your choice. But I've seen that in the Cascade Kauri carpark too. I don't think there are any guarantees, even when a spot is well-frequented. I decided to begin at the Anawhata end to have the benefit of a slight downhill slope for much of the return journey. The grade at the Anawhata end looks worse than it is.

When I arrived at the Anawhata end, a large truck occupied most of the parking area.

He'd just finished reshaping the section between here and Ridge Rd, and as I discovered, done a nice job.

Unfortunately with the fresh earthworks and the recent rain, large bits of track stick to my boots every time I put my foot down, and in between my starting and finishing, an orienteering group go through here leaving a treacherously greasy track for me to negotiate on the way down. (I met the leaders on the way up.)

I recommend, if you're looking at this track before spring 2007, you use the Ridge Road entrance about 500m back towards the Piha Rd. By spring, the fine slippery clay will have washed out leaving a residual sediment of grit that will not adhere to your boots and the track will be less liable to disappear from under you.

The canopy is mostly kanuka, and some of these trees are not only substantial but sculpted by time into all manner of interesting shapes.

These bulbs are montbretia, and for them we probably have to thank the same gardening enthusiast who brought us Mexican Daisy. These are the bright orange spikes of flowers that emerge in December/January in their millions throughout the country. They've been disturbed by the earthworks and spread still further.

It's a measure of the strangeness of this year's weather that we encounter a couple of flower spikes further along in the middle of June.

Up above us, and with us throughout, power lines, and I surmise the track owes its existence to these in the first place.

One of the features of the Heaphy Track after the first day is the ever present Westland Quintinia (Quintinia acutifolia) at the side of the track. There's a North Island cousin, Quintinia serrata or Tawherowhero, which I've spotted here and there in the Waitakeres, but on this track it is a major feature, and part of the canopy.

Here's a young one showing the typical light greeny bronze leaves.

However, in the right conditions they colour up wonderfully.

In places along the path the leaves form the major component of the track litter. (Incidentally, examining the litter is probably an easier way of identifying canopy trees than trying to make sense of a black silhouette some distance above against the glare of the sky.)

As we near Ridge Rd we see somebody has been distributing gravel along here, a narrow strip down the centre of the road. Walking on it, it becomes obvious that it is still extremely soft, disappearing into the sticky clay surface.

I'd probably be more inclined to throw a bit of lime rock at it, the sort dairy farmers use in their races to drive cows along - it crushes and forms a firm layer you can put gravel on later - but perhaps ecological considerations prevail.

We pass a clearing with a small gravel dump, and continue, on a gravel surface past the intersection with Ridge Rd




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