The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 12 (March 1, 1939.)
Highways and Byways … — Some Mid-Canterbury Scenes
In these days of fast travel one becomes quite used to the oft repeated question, “How long will it take me to get to …?” and it seems that Time makes most people interested in the highways and forget the happiness that comes to those who wander in the byways and flaunt a most disrespectful gesture in the face of Father Time.
The writer, having recently joined a party travelling to Cass, on the Midland line (South Island) made this interesting journey not by the usual route, but via Mid-Canterbury. Few people realise the beauties of the countryside round about Oxford—about thirty odd miles from Christchurch. This is really surprising, because, apart from the attractions of Banks Peninsular, there is no other area of hilly country closer to the City of the Plains. Less than an hour's driving brings the traveller to undulating country, and if it is spring time he passes through orchards which are a mass of blossom—ample promise of a rich harvest to come. This fruit growing district of Loburn is an important source of supply for Christchurch.
Keeping towards the west and drawing near Oxford the road winds between tall and stately poplar trees, then patches of pine, and if you have a photographer or a painter with you—well, you'll probably miss your lunch!
A few miles before reaching the much frequented Ashley Gorge, a sign directs one to the Government reserve of Mt. Richardson. A narrow road leads up the valley for a mile or so, and then comes to a full stop at the remains of a bridge. Here a well-graded track is followed, and as the traveller enters the more dense timber country he is immediately confronted with a notice, reading: “No Fires.” He soon finds that this warning is necessary, for, as the next point is rounded he sees the devastating results of a big forest fire. There seems to be something very impressive about tall forest trees, and when a bush fire ruthlessly sweeps down these giants with its destructive power we instinctively feel a pang of regret.
As the track ascends the traveller passes the fire-swept belt and the bush becomes thicker. Here and there huge dragonflies drone round and settle on a sunbathed rock. Many small streams cascade down the rocks and cross the track, but these can be easily negotiated, and all the time one is conscious of that “bushy” smell—black pine predominating—which makes city life seem very, very far away. No human sound breaks in upon the bush as one pauses, peering through the undergrowth, trying to find a bellbird whose call has rung across the valley with crystal clarity.
After walking for a time, the track ascends steeply, and suddenly one comes upon a clearing. Here at one's feet spreads the timbered valley below, and in the mid distance the Canterbury Plains stretch as far as the eye can see. It is a magnificent glimpse framed in trees.
On the way back to the road the sun climbs higher and the photographer takes the opportunity of using backlighting to show up the height of the trees.
As this is a Government reserve guns are prohibited, but outside the reserve area, towards Lees Valley, good pig and deer shooting is frequently reported, and this has made the area quite popular with many page 35 sportsmen, many of whom have permanent shooting lodges in the vicinity.
We resumed our journey through Oxford, to Mt. Oxford, along the road that winds out through View Hill and proceed to the Waimakariri Gorge.
If a nor'-west wind is blowing, the crossing of the Gorge bridge is an exciting experience, for the formation of the country here creates very strong wind currents. In the old days when a horse and trap wished to cross in a high wind the driver usually stopped and loaded his trap with big boulders so that it would be weighted down and thus prevented from being blown off. The slopes of the hills all around the View Hill district were, at one time, heavily timbered and there were large timber mills in operation. A disastrous bush fire, however, swept the whole area, burning out the timber and the mills. Some of the small farmers about here were mill owners in those days, but this fire ruined them. Recently an old musterer, who would have been comfortably off as a mill owner but for this calamity, told how he was trapped in the fire and saved himself only by standing up to his neck in the water of a creek for five hours while the fire raged round him.
Leaving the Gorge bridge behind we travel until we join the Midland West Coast Road. As we near the end of our journey at Cass, high fleecy clouds climb the sky and, at last, the photographer insists that we stop to take another photograph.
How long does it take to smoke a ton of tobacco? It has taken an old Canterbury resident—an inveterate lover of the weed—just 73 years. He commenced to smoke when he was 13 years old, is now 86, and is still smoking! He was a cabin-boy when he learned to smoke, and for three-quarters of a century has found comfort and solace in his pipe. Anti-tobaccoites declare smoking shortens life. But there is reason to believe (as in this case) that it often prolongs it. Good and pure tobacco, containing but little nicotine undoubtedly benefits the health because it lessens nervous strain and banishes the “blues.” New Zealanders are fortunate in that respect. Our Dominion tobacco is so pure that many doctors smoke it habitually and recommend it to their patients. It is toasted and the “bite” taken clean out of it. A more delightful tobacco or a less harmful one the world does not produce. The five brands are: Riverhead Gold, Desert Gold, Navy Cut No. 3, Cavendish, and Cut Plug No. 10.*