Conservation Focus 4: Whareroa Connections

The Whareroa Guardians are a wonderful volunteer force of over 200 people and an ideal partner for the Department of Conservation… Former Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith

The wonders of Whareroa Farm

By Roger Childs.  Photos by Ian Linning

Whareroa 12In a great triumph for community action on the Kapiti Coast, Whareroa Farm was saved in 2005. Instead of being sold to developers, the government bought it and handed it over to the Department of Conservation (DoC).

The Whareroa Guardians Community Trust was set up in 2006 and over the last nine years the Guardians have worked with DoC to transform the area.

Whareroa Guardians picVolunteers have planted over 40,000 trees, shrubs and flaxes, caught a large number of pests and organised many public events. However, for walkers, trampers, runners and mountain bikers, the tracks linking the lower part of the farm with Campbell’s Mill Road high above, have been a fantastic development.

There are now five trails winding up the hill and more are planned.

The popular Link Track

Whareroa 7This is affectionately known to many runners and mountain bikers as the zigzag. It starts as a short bush trail then merges into a grassy section before the major clay track climb of about 3 kilometres (km). The Link Track is probably the most popular means of getting to Campbell’s Mill Road, as it has a moderate gradient. It is also the designated uphill mountain bike track.

In late May, it is the downhill section for the annual In the Footsteps of the Marines event. Up to 160 walkers and runners spill down the mountainside into what was the American’s Camp MacKay in 1942-3.

The well established Downhill Track

Whareroa 6This is a sharp grassy rise of about 1.5 km, south of the zigzag and a tough one to run. As the name indicates, it is the currently the designated track down for mountain bikers.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s this was the early part of Stage 4 in the Kapiti Harriers Running Tour. This event had five stages totalling 47 km over two days. The climb up the “downhill” was well named as the The Enduro and it was just the start of a 17 km run to Waikanae!

The new East Ridge Track

This is just to the south of the Downhill and was officially opened a few months ago. It is another grassy trail and can be slippery.

It is a demanding climb of about 1.3 km, but has a nice feature with alternate routes about half way up. The Link, Downhill and East Ridge Track all meet at a spot known as FIVE WAYS. The two other ways take people up to Campbell’s Mill Road about 200 metres away. One of these is the continuation of the Link track.

As with all the trails, the vistas of the Kapiti Coast are spectacular on a fine day, and probably the best viewing position is at FIVE WAYS.

The sensational South East Ridge Tracks

A public education session at The Hub
A public education session at The Hub

This is an amazing recent development with tracks covering about 4-5 km. Built by volunteers with diggers, picks, crowbars, wheelbarrows and spades the main South East track hugs the ridge to the south of the spur which carries the Downhill and East Ridge trails. Access is from THE HUB, an area from which all the uphill tracks diverge. The lower part of the SE excursion takes you past one of the relict features of Marines occupation, the concrete “Water Intake”.

This new trail provides a highly technical downhill ride for the experienced mountain biker and a demanding climb for the fit runner. At present it is 98% complete and just requires two small ravines near the top to be crossed. It is “at your own risk” on the upper section, but can be negotiated with care.

The SE Ridge Track includes a steep grassy slope, some bush terrain, a long open section hugging the north slope of the ridge and finishes with more zigzagging through the bush. It joins onto the top of the Link Track.

About two thirds of the way down there is the early development of an alternative track up or down. This is negotiable but not well formed at this point.

The overgrown Horse Track

This starts from the bottom of the clay section of the Link track and finishes at Campbell’s Mill Road. Back in the 1980s when the area was farmed, this was a well formed trail which, along with the Downhill, was the only way up  or down. However, it is currently very overgrown with high grass and weeds, and probably hasn’t seen a horse since late last century!

The upper sections are very steep and even coming down, the high undergrowth makes running or walking very difficult.

Challenges for young and old

Whareroa 4The various tracks up the slopes from Whareroa Farm are great for fit runners, walkers and mountain bikers. However on the flatter areas of the main part of the farm there are plenty of shorter excursions through bush, recently planted areas and farm land.

One of these trails is the Cairn View Track which is a manageable climb of about 500 metres to a terrace where a large cairn has been built. From here there are spectacular views across the Farm, the Kapiti Coast and the sea and of parts of the five tracks linking Whareroa with the high road.

Whareroa Farm is  a huge success story and the evolving landscape does great credit to the Trust and their hard working volunteers.

Whareroa Farm is located off State Highway One, north of Paekakariki. From the south, turn off at Mackays Crossing, go under the highway to the car park off the roundabout. From the north, take the Mackays Crossing exit. The Whareroa Farm car park is off the roundabout on the left.