Pre-Xmas Tidy-up

26 November 2012

It’s hard to sit at an office desk in Wellington and receive regular email reminders of Wedneday night workparties at Project Rameka. Very hard. All the images of sun and long grass and the purr of knobbly tyres down a dusty track come flooding in and can leave you hankering to get down there and join the fun. The last week of November; things were a little quieter in the city, and the lure proved too hard to resist.

This trip followed a familiar and enjoyable format:
Spring is an important time for plant growth – and that includes the weeds. The first two days on the Project saw all hands on deck releasing the natives from long grass, biddy-bid and other choking weeds.


November Bronnie Jonathan Murray D releasing

Just to remind us all how important releasing is, and how much the trees can achieve when they have the space to grow, Jonathan took the following photo of Bronnie heading past some wineberry and lemonwood that were planted by Corrina and Patrick Ward in 2009. Three years old, and these natives have really added to the experience of riding Great Expectations. No wonder Bronnie is smiling!

November Bronnie pedals past planted wineberry

And because Great Expectations is riding so nicely, it seemed appropriate to add in a bit of spring cleaning maintenance work to the track. Bronnie swept loose rock away from the switchbacks, while Ricky and Frank built up the edges into a fine rock wall.

November Bronnie smooths GE switchbackNovember Ricky and Frank working on GE switchback

Tim Galloway joined in, helping tidy the short Kaikomako Walk near the hut, named for the kaikomako (Pennantia corymbosa) trees that abound in the area.

November Tim G helps out at Lair

This time, we also treated ourselves to an outing, joining in the celebrations for opening the initial stage of the Takaka Walking and Cycling Track along the Takaka River edge from Paines Ford. And an elegant piece of track it surely is! Hats off to all involved in designing and constructing such a fine trail.

November Takaka walkway opening

Winter Workout

18 August 2012

A trip to Rameka in the winter months is always an interesting experience. Will the weather play ball? Will the sun hold out long enough for some track to be dug and plants to get in the ground or will wind, rain and hail confine us all to the shelter of the wee Lorax Lair?
The balance swung more in our favour when Andrew McLellan decided to make a mid-winter cycle trip across from Wellington. With this dogged powerhouse involved, we were fairly confident that all 600 seedlings would get in the ground regardless of the weather, and Andew lived up to our expectations.
Martin Langley, Matt Nalder and Tim from Christchurch had already
festooned the slip area with flaxes donated by Tim Prebble just after the
Christmas disaster.

Now, on the Saturday, together with Jonathan Kennett, Bronnie Wall, Fill and Albie Burgers, Paul Kilgour and a select group from the Golden Bay Tramping Club ensured that 250 trees and flax were snuggly in place. And the sun shone the whole time.

August planting party in the sun

But the good weather would not last. On the Sunday, the team were joined by Murray Drake, Ginny Wood, and their friends Bill, Gill and son Louie, from Nelson, and a further 250 trees and flaxes found their way into new homes in the ground around the slip areas and the Lorax Lair. All this planting was completed under grey skies that soon turned to drizzle and then steady rain.

The only solace was that there was no wind. The sodden planters returned to the Lorax Lair for a late lunch and decided to leave the remaining 100 plants for another day. And fair enough.
Come Monday, the skies cleared once more, and Andrew led the charge!

August Albie Andrew Phil planting final plants after the rain

With the plants safely in the ground, it was time to turn the attentions to other matters. Now that Great Expectations had met … well, all expectations, people were keen to see the more advanced track The Odyssey develop. Jonathan and Andrew headed out to continue sketching out the design Brent Hartshorne had initiated the year before.

The Odyssey would not only provide some serious fun for advanced mountain bikers, but more importantly, it would open up an area of the Project that had not yet been explored and allow Matt Shoult easier access for pest control. Fun and conservation together … a winning combination!

And while we might have suggested that Great Expectations was done and dusted, who can resist a little tidy-up every now and again? Jonathan and Bronnie spent a few quiet hours “massaging” a couple of the harder switchbacks to make them smoother and easier to cycle round.

August Jonathan working on switchback

Knuckling down

28 April 2012
Anzac Day had been and gone, and it was time to spruce up Great Expectations in preparation for some good autumn mountain biking.

The main focus was on track maintanence and upgrading sections that had deteriorated with time and use. This translated to a fair amount of track widening and clearing off-putting loose rocks from the track.
It wasn’t long before people’s attentions focussed in on one particular corner. The section where stage 1 of Great Expectations had jumped out on to the road, at the slip point was now more or less redundant. The slip had confirmed that, but more to the point, Great Expectations now continued in wide swoops right down to the valley. In future, the short-cut out to the road would be reinstated, but for now, the focus was on inproving the flow of the main track – Great Expectations.

Over two hours, four to six eager workers built up a sweet sweeping berm that would have cyclists spinning down and onwards without a pause.

Totara berm track party April 2012

At the same time, Paul Kilgour led a hardy group in planting out 50 totara around the sunny ridged area of the berm. This would lead the corner to be nicknamed Totara Berm, a name that would stick.

Once the dust settles

23 April 2012
Four months since the big slips, and it’s time to check out exactly how we’re placed. Jonathan went to assess the head of the slip site with committee member Matt Shoult.

Matt on slip edge April 2012

Ok, so they were able to get to the top, but things didn’t look pleasant up there.

Looking down from the top of the slip April 2012-400

There seemed to be a chunk of land cut away at the top that was just waiting to slide further down.
The slip covered about 1 hectare in area, and we had lost 200-300 seedlings and several short sections of track. The track could be rebuilt, and new plants could be put in the ground, but the possibility of another slip occurring loomed large.

Slip top April 2012-400

We realised we needed help. Jonathan phoned the Tasman District Council and sought advice from the experts. Resource scientist Andrew Burton was brilliant. He came out and gave the site a thorough assessment:

“Tree species are required to control the gully and slip erosion processes. Council has available suitable poplar planting material. I would be happy to provide that material free of charge for the purpose of slip planting. … 400-500 plants may be required for the complete area. The planting material we provide is unrooted 1m cuttings that can be put in with a light crowbar so they are easy and quick to plant. Not all of the slip face can be planted because there is nothing to plant into (its rock) and some planting will be required adjacent to the slip area as well”

Poplars weren’t quite what we were hoping for a revegetation project, but the practicalities of controlling a dangerous slip site won out. And besides, poplars would do very nicely in carbon sequestration, and we worked out that once they were established and had stabilised the ground enough, we could come through, thin them, and set in some natives to take over.

On a brighter note, plants in the unaffected areas were beginning to take off.

Jonathan with 2m lemonwood on roadside-400

That lemonwood had been planted three years ago on the edge of the road. It didn’t seem to mind the harsh condititons of roadside life!

And there was even time to tidy up around the Lorax Lair, with Bronnie smartening up the inside of the toilet with a lick of paint in a smart cream colour, making it a salubrious spot to hang out.

Painting the toilet April 2012-400

Havoc at Christmas

28 December 2011

After a great pre-Christmas track opening and plant releasing stint, Jonathan and Bronnie left the Project buzzing and headed back to Wellington for a relaxing Christmas. Desolate at their departure, the rain began to fall … and fall … and fall.

The Rameka valley was one of the worst affected areas.  A slip developed on the land above the main road heading through the Project. It rolled over the road and down into what had become known as “kahikatea gully” and there it gained momentum.

Close-up of Kahikatea gully slip Dec 2011

Kahikatea gully had been well planted out with a huge variety of trees, not least being a number of kahikatea, which had thrived in the narrow cool glutch at the base of the gully. The “midpoint” exit from Great Expectations crossed the gully and popped out onto the road just to the downward side. The slip took out this exit point and the majority of the plantings. It continued its downward trajectory, gaining momentum as it flowed.

What had been a fairly innocuous random stream – sometimes flowing, sometimes disappearing underground, was now a deep gouge all the way down to the Rameka Creek. Grey, clogging silt smothered everything. Random snippets of green plastic plant guard and bamboo plant markers poked out at different points along the way.

Great Expectations bridge swamped with debris but still standing

Blue barrel culvert blow-out Great Expectations

Further down valley, the tracks One Click and Two Click were basically annihilated. Disheartening.

But not for long! Within days, people were eager to be back on their bikes and were talking of ways to repair the tracks.

Reese biking down the slip