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Category Archives: West Coast History

Historic Reefton - the Little Big Town

Posted by Jan Roberts on May 16, 2017

The small village of Reefton nestled in the Victoria Forest on the West Coast is immersed in history.  It may be a small village but it is big in every other respect.  So much history it practically oozes from her very being.

Known as the Town of Light, it was the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to generate its own power and have street lighting – beating even some of the posher suburbs of London and New York.  Not only that, it would have to be our favourite little town on the West Coast.

There is so much to see and do in Reefton but it is also a great place to just relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

Relax and enjoy the scenery was the aim of our latest visit.  We purchased a little caravan over the summer and had been dying to try her out.  With a couple of fine days on the cards and no guests we loaded her up and headed up the valley to Reefton.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather – typical Autumn/Winter weather on the West Coast, mostly clear blue skies and glorious sunshine.

There is a great little walk you can do from town – The Bottled Lightning Powerhouse walk, over the swingbridge – a popular swimming spot for locals and visitors alike.  Yes we may have stopped here a few times……

You then continue along the trail following the information boards positioned along the rivers edge leading you to the site of the old powerhouse, giving you all the history regarding what lead to Reefton becoming the first place to have electric lights in 1888.

The Powerhouse walk was our walk of choice for our afternoon stroll with the boys.

Reefton is a town originally born from gold in the mid 1800s – first alluvial and then quartz.  In the early to mid 1900s the industries changed to coal, sawmilling and dairy.

The gold mining history has been embraced through tourism and Reefton has a very proud heritage and you can see that pride with the number of lovingly restored buildings around the township.

The next day we headed further up the valley to check out Larrys Creek track.  We’ve only ever biked this trail in the past and is a short flat fast flowing trail following the river up the valley.  Although the sun was shining, the trail is in the native bush so we were in the shadows of the trees for the duration and I’m happy to say I was prepared with my beanie and puffer jacket – it was a tad chilly.  Walking this trail instead of biking meant we had plenty of time to look up and admire the majesty of the trees towering above us.  We were completely submerged in a forest of green – I couldn’t help but sing to myself I see green, I see green, I see green (fabulous Split Enz song, except they see Red – NZ band for those of you who don’t know, highly recommend googling them).

The Larrys Creek trail meanders close to the river edge but never leaves the bush line.  Eventually it heads up the only little hill to end at the historic Robbie Engine and Duffys Mine.  I think each time we see Robbie he has deteriorated just a little bit more.  Mother nature eventually reclaims what is rightfully hers but we enjoy seeing all the old relics left in the bush and imagining what was.

There are some wonderful hikes and bike rides close to the village of Reefton in particular the Murray’s creek tracks.  After a bite to eat back at the camp site, Stephen headed out on his bike for a quick jaunt up the Murrays Creek track.  It is a nice meander up through the forest following the creek and taking you up the bush line passing lots of mining relics along the way.  I’m sure they were left to remind us the hard work our forefathers endured and giving us a reality check when we are huffing and puffing while out for a leisurely stroll or bike ride.

The Murray’s Creek trails are dual purpose – both hiking or mountain biking and certainly a favourite of ours to explore whenever we are in Reefton.  You can bike straight from town – only around 15 minutes down the road.  There are then options at the top of the trail to either come back down the same way or choose some more technical riding – down to the Waitahu River or deeper into the forest past the Inglewood and Ajax mine sites and back down the Konini Packtrack – right into Reefton.  Options, options – just comes down to time and fitness.

Stephen was on time constraint so he was just doing an up and back.  I in the meantime was spending my time wisely…… relaxing in the sunshine with the dogs and my book.

After a couple of relaxing days it was soon enough it is time to pack up and head for home – back to reality.  Thanks Reefton for our little break away – we will be back!

If you’re heading to the West Coast – make sure you include Reefton in your itinerary – so much to see and do and a wonderful history lesson.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and making the most of this wonderful region they call home.

 

 

 


Hidden World of West Coast Coal Mining History

Posted by Jan Roberts on April 08, 2017

Growing up as a kid down in Southland was all about farming – rolling green hills dotted with sheep.  In the winter our homes were generally heated with wood and coal.  Never gave a thought to where that coal came from until I moved to the West Coast.

The history to be found on coal mining is in abundance on the West Coast – much of it hidden deep in the bush slowly but inevitably being reclaimed by nature.  Some of New Zealand’s first coal mines were established on the West Coast.

We are lucky to have access to some of this history right across the road from Breakers.  To say there is a track in the bush might be pushing it a bit – certainly not a normal well-formed DOC track.  Is is more of a trail through the bush, under the bush and over the bush leading you through some magnificent ancient native forest including our own Nikau Palm trees and loads of towering Rimu trees meandering up high into the tree line following a little creek before coming to some coal mining relics slowly disappearing into the undergrowth.

Recently we had some lovely German guests Claus and Monika, staying with us that were interested in history so what better place to share with them.  With Stephen and Ziggy as  their guides they headed off to be immersed in a sea of green and gold.

The Nine Mile Valley hides a wealth of coal history including the school of mines – about three small mines we think were used as a training ground for miners back in the early 1900s.  You can still see the main drives and their return in the sides of the mountain among the undergrowth.  They definitely have an air of mystery and intrigue surrounding them.

After some delicate foot placement and wonderful balancing acts on the part of Claus and Monika the history lesson for the day is over and the intrepid explorers return back down to civilisation as we know it.

It is always a pleasure to share our backyard with our guests and share the beauty and the history of this region that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by day in and day out.  To see the smile on their faces upon their return and hear their enthusiasm as they relived their explorations was a pure delight.

Discovering our history – not just West Coast but New Zealand history is exciting and rewarding but even more rewarding is having the opportunity of sharing it with our guests.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring their “backyard” – nature’s playground.


Nine Mile Valley's Hidden Coal History

Posted by Jan Roberts on August 30, 2016

 

There’s gold in them there hills – black gold!

 

 

Stephen had the pleasure of playing tour guide recently and taking a photographic artist into the hills behind Breakers to explore some of the fascinating coal mining history hidden away in the forest.

 

 

Chris Corson Scott is an artist based in Auckland and currently working on a project involving NZ history.  We met Chris and his partner Amanda on a recent walk up the 10 mile valley – turns out they found the 10 mile valley and its history thanks to our blog – now that puts a smile on my face.

 

 

There is much history in the Nine Mile Valley and loads of relics to photograph.  To top it off it would have to boast some of the most stunning West Coast native bush (yeah ok NZ native bush but we have the best here on the West….. no bias).

 

 

The sense of history oozes out from all the various relics and mine entrances – trying their best to tell their own story.

 

 

The Nine Mile valley is also a great example of nature reigning supreme with the bush slowly but surely reclaiming her space.

 

 

 

So love having the wonder of the Nine Mile Valley right at our doorstep – one minute we’re by the seaside with the pounding surf and the next we’re immersed in lush green forest and discovering some of the secrets of our heritage. That’s the West Coast for you.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about exploring the region and sharing their discoveries for others to enjoy.