Kapiti Observer : January 14th 2013
4 KAPITI OBSERVER, JANUARY 14, 2013 5062868AA Secret vistas a treat Gimme Shelter: Farm animals now use decommissioned World War II ammunition stores for shelter on farmland in the park. From the top: The view over Porirua from the airstrip in Belmont Regional Park. City centre: Lambton Harbour can be seen in the distance between hilltops, looking over abandoned World War II ammunition bunkers. Hilltop view: The Rimutakas behind Wainuiomata, and pockets of the Hutt Valley can be seen from the top. Reporter Karoline Tuckey takes a walk in the park and discovers the best views in Wellington. Sometimes the best kept secrets are those that are out in the open. I've lived most of my life in the Wellington region, but have barely set foot in Belmont Regional Park until recently. My lack of interest stemmed mostly from its steep legend on maps and talk of hardman adven- ture sports like long distance hill running and mountain biking. However, after venturing forth I'm surprised by the hilly park's accessibility and amazed by the views I've missed out on till now. From the car park in Hill Rd on the Hutt side only 20 minutes walk takes us into the hilltops. From there you can see scraps of Lower Hutt suburbs, the Rimuta- kas behind Wainuiomata, Kapiti Island, Pauatahanui inlet, Pori- rua Harbour, Mana Island and Titahi Bay, the new Aotea subdiv- ision and Lambton Harbour in Wellington, all within 10 minutes walk along the track. The views are breathtaking, and standing in the hilltops look- ing almost to the ends of the region in each direction is a rad- ically different perspective on landmarks I know well. We pass very few people, and barren windswept farmland sur- rounds us. It feels like the hidden heart of the region. To get there we started at the Hill St car park in the Lower Hutt suburb of Belmont, which gives a head start about two thirds of the way up from the valley floor. The rutted farm road we follow climbs about 100 metres over about 2.5 kilometres to a mowed airstrip in the hills used by top dressers. It takes us about half an hour, with pauses to take photos. It's not hard, but it is work. One of my walking partners remarks that it's a pity the views aren't accessible to all by car, but I tend to think that the remote- ness and small test to get there increases its value. In the foreground on the Pori- rua side is Transmission Gully. If or when it's built the park itself will be cut into two lengthwise by the construction. For now there are tracks linking Lower Hutt, Cannons Creek, the Paremata Haywards Rd (SH58), and Granada North. There are a good handful of other entrances to the park, and a range of attractions to see. The Dry Creek waterfall and swimming hole is Blue Lagoon beautiful -- though not tropical. The walk up to the Korokoro dam is also surprisingly easy and feels like stepping into an isolated wilderness. Surrounding the Hill Rd track there are dozens of concrete World War II ammunition bunkers built to look like a poultry farm from the air. Originally they were intended to house 15,000 tonnes of ammunition, but now some are used as farming stores, and others are left open for sheep and cows to take shelter in. Regional Parks guides say Boul- der Hill is dotted with remnants of ancient boulder block fields. While some of the park's trails follow the Old Coach Rd, which linked the Hutt and Pauatahanui from the 1850's, and itself followed a Maori war trail in parts. Bring: Sunblock, good shoes, a hat that won't blow away, water, windbreaker, camera. Check first: Some areas allow dogs, horse riding and mountain biking. Because parts of the park are a working farm some trails are closed during lambing. See gw.govt.nz and www.tracks. org.nz.
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