The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 8 (April 1, 1932.)
Lovely Native Bush
Lovely Native Bush
The combined rail and motor excursion from Christchurch to Peel Forest (run on 7th February in conjunction with the weekly Christchurch-Timaru excursion) was a thoroughly enjoyable one. The train carried over 350 passengers, about 40 of whom made the journey to Peel Forest.
Leaving Christchurch at 8 a.m. the party detrained at Orari and were conveyed by McKenzie's bus and cars over the twenty-mile run to the Forest, which was reached shortly before noon. In a short time a fire was started, the billies were set to boil, and lunch was on the way. With milk, sugar and tea provided free, the excursionists were only called on to supply their solid provisions. The halting place, on the northern side of the Forest, made a faery setting for the al fresco meal, the presence of a number of other visitors by motor-car adding to the picnic appearance of the little glen.
Shortly afterwards, under the guidance of the railway officers in charge of the excursion (Messrs. P. A. Taylor and W. T. Hanna) the party set off on the trip, by bush track, through the Forest to Eland's Wood—a distance by the main (lower) track of one and a half miles (on the map). It proved slightly longer— probably two miles—but the trip through virgin New Zealand forest was so wonderful that few, if any, of the party would have objected had it been longer.
Heavy bush, comprising numerous giant totara trees—some up to 24ft. in girth and towering to close on 100ft.— and dense undergrowth of ferns of many kinds, konini, lawyer, lance-wood, and so on, all in a state of nature, combined with the lovely dells giving glimpses of infinite beauty, the rise and fall of the track over the hill and gully, gave the majority of the visitors the first and surprising experience of the wonders of the New Zealand bush.
One section of the party, under Mr. Taylor's guidance, made a visit to Deer Spur—a detour off the main track—climbing up 2600 feet through heavy bush. Several of this party were of the older generation, but all spoke enthusiastically of the beauties of the trip.
An Ancient Totara.
The party gathered at the Peel Forest settlement (there are a number of houses and baches buried in the depths of the bush there) where they found the bus and cars, and where Mr. McKenzie and his assistants were busily engaged preparing for tea in the community shed built at the end of the track. About 4 p.m. a start was made on the return journey, which led past Commander G. Dennistoun's property, and thence through Geraldine to Orari. This part of the journey— page 47 usually, on most excursions, the least interesting part—had its own particular thrill when a stop was made to view, on Commander Dennistoun's place, a giant totara calculated by competent authorities to be 1500 years old. Towering to well over 100ft. this monster shows a graceful sloping bole that reaches some 20ft. before branching, and which, at 4ft. from the ground, measures 361/2 feet. There are several of these great trees in the vicinity, and these, with several specimens of fine black pine, more than repaid those who threaded their way through the bush to inspect them.
There are numerous attractions, including interesting bird and plant life, to hold the attention of visitors to Peel Forest. Before next season it is hoped to have the lawn tennis courts repaired and put in good order, and a swimming pool built in the creek bed.
On the return journey the excursionists reached the city shortly after 8.30 p.m.