Overland from Nelson to Southland in 1856

[By W. H. S. Roberts.]
Who was Roberts??

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North Otago Times, 22 June 1894, Page 1
On Saturday, 26 April, 1856 the three of us started at 8.30 am in a south-westerly direction up the Wairau valley, instead of following the usual track.

North Otago Times, 10 July 1894, Page 1
16th. — I rode into Christchurch. Leaving Teviotdale at 9 a.m. I crossed the Waipara river at the cutting, which was very long and stoop on the north side. The banks were very high on both sides. On the both the road wound up a deep gully, which in bad weather would a watercourse. The Waipara was called the northern boundary of the Canterbury Plain, which reached nearly to Timaru (about 150 miles) without a hill. I was now on Mr Brown's station called Double Corner. His house was close to the Waipara river. ...

Drinking was rather a prevalent vice, and one young lady whose father was rather too much addicted to brandy, thus parodied "Pop goes the weasel " —
Up and down the Lyttelton road,
In and out the Mitre,
That's the way the money
Makes Pa's pocket lighter. ...

North Otago Times, 13 July 1894, Page 1
(Continued.) Port Cooper was so named after an old whaler who resided there before New Zealand was proclaimed a British colony. The north-west headland at the entrance to Port Cooper was called Godley Head, after the general agent of the Association. The entrance to the Heathcote was six miles from Godley Head. There was a bar with 14 feet of water on it at low tide. The Heathcote and Avon both empty into the same estuary inside the bar. The tides rose six or eight feet, covering a mud flat of 700 or 800 acres. A curious angular shaped rock, about 30 feet high, stood near the mouth. The Heathcote flowed from the plain along the foot of the hills and was navigable for boats for 15 or 20 miles. The first settler on the plain was Mr Dean, who had a farm on the Heathcote in 1850. Mr Godley visited him in April 1850, and reported that he had excellent crops of grain, fruit, and vegetables."

I remained in Lyttelton till the 19th May, on which afternoon I rode to the Heathcote Ferry, and spent the evening with Messrs Brown and LeCren, who were general merchants and forwarding agents there. Seven schooners of the "Mosquito Fleet" were there loading or unloading, as all the goods for Christchurch were discharged at the Ferry and carted to town. On one of the schooners I saw two of the sailors who ran away from the ship in which I came from England. They were delighted to see me, and said they were very glad they had remained in the colony, as they were getting high wages.

20th. —Davidson, who was also at the Ferry, rode with me into Christchurch, and we got breakfast at the Golden Fleece Hotel. We had our horses shod at Andersons, the charge being half-a-crown a shoe. In the afternoon we started for Otago, with two horses each, as we still required our tent and blankets, food, billy, and pannikins. I may here mention that the first person who travelled overland from Christchurch to Dunedin direct was Mr W. H. Valpy in 1852. He had two companions, Donald and Duncan Cameron, both shepherds, They took 12 days to accomplish the journey. In 1853 Mr Valpy drove the first mob of horses through to Christchurch from Dunedin. The first three miles there was a very good road, then a bullock dray track which, after one or two turns, struck straight along the plain in a S.W, direction for 10 miles. We always carried a pocket compass, by which I took the bearings I have so often mentioned. We reached Lake's Station and an accommodation house kept by Mrs Paulby (25 miles) at 4.45. We passed only one small bush near Rickerton, and no house after the first three miles, nor was there a stream or gully the whole distance.

21st.— We left Paulby's at 10 a.m., crossed the bed of the Selwyn or Waikerikeri close to the house, but there was no water to be seen. The plain was quite flat, and rather stony in places, along the track to the Rakaia or Cholmondely (so named in 1849 after the Marquis of Cholmondely). The river bed was two miles of shingle, the water fortunately low, so we did not require to swim our horses, but we got our feet and legs wet in the deepest part. On the south bank we came to an accommodation house among the sandhills, with good feed upon them. This was Mr Chapman's run, and was twelve miles from the Selwyn ; his house was close to the accommodation house. After dinner we rode along a level plain, without a creek or river for 18 miles, to Mr Hearst's house — who was managing Mr Tancred's station — we were made very welcome and treated most hospitably. I think the Maori name of the river at Hearst's was Waiateruati.

22nd.— Very sharp frost. Fine but cold day. After leaving Heart's we had a track for half, a mile to the north branch of the Ashburton or Hakatere river, after that we had to steer by compass from directions given us by Mr Heart. We crossed three creeks running through beds of flax, and a second branch of the Ashburton. We were here a long way inland from the ninety mile beach. From the third flax creek we rode ten miles in a S.S.W. course, good flat country, well grassed, excepting occasional stony patches. We then came to a large swamp full of cabbage trees, called Kahuru also Ti Kouka, which, had we known it, we could have avoided by going further east. However, we managed to got through it by leading our horses, and then pursued the same course to the river Hinds, or Wangatere. It was named Hinds after the Rev. Dr Hinds. The water was so low that I walked across dryshod.

After leaving the Hinds we steered for three cabbage trees, which were growing quite lonely on the plain, and at first only visible with the assistance of binoculars. Having reached them we camped for an hour, to feed our horses and take our lunch. The plain appeared as a dead level to the north, east and south as far as the horizon, without a single object to break the monotony. But to the west, the mountains appeared to be at no great distance, with Mount Peel rising above them all, in a N.N.W. direction. After lunch six miles of very stony ground brought us to the Rangatara, or Alford, named in 1849 after Viscount Alford, a member of the Canterbury Association. The banks were high and steep, and we were some time finding a place where we could descend to the bed of the river, which was about two miles wide, with numerous crooks and swamps full of ti-trees. The shingle was very rough, with large stones. The river itself was fortunately low, so we had no trouble in crossing it. After travelling some distance we observed a pole, and going up to it, found it was a surveyor's trig station marked an arrow over 23. To the west we had a fine view of the low hills forming part of the Aglionby Downs, wooded by the Talbot Forest of 10,000 acres extent and other small bushes. With the assistance of the compass, always carried in our hand, and the correctness of the bearings given us, we fortunately sighted Dr Macdonalds station on the Orari river, and rode straight up to it. It was situated about seven miles from the sea, five miles from the hills, and 85 from Christchurch. We were made welcome, an shown into a comfortable cottage, where our supper and breakfast was brought us, as the master was from home. The houses were principally built of Totara slabs (Podo-carpus Totara). This is a very valuable timber, of a red color, hard, and durable, easy to work and splits freely. The foliage somewhat resembles that of the yew, but is larger and not so bright a green. The bark is rough and stringy. It was considered the best timber grown in the Middle Island.

23rd.— Sharp frost during the forenoon, and the wind changed to the S.W. with cold showers. Close to the station we crossed the Orari river, with a wide shingle bed but not much water. There was a well defined bullock dray track from Dr Macdonalds to Timaru - 23 miles. Between the Omahahu (or Temuka) and Opahi (or Carew) rivers we passed a bush called Orifenua, at which there were several Maori whares. From this bush there was a track going S.W. to Mr Rhode's celebrated station known as "The Levels," comprising all the Timaru Downs. We followed the track making for Timaru Point, but after travelling about six miles it seemed to come to an end, as everyone appeared to leave the flat for the downs wherever they pleased. We rode up the low hill in a southerly direction, and on the top came upon the track from The Levels to Timaru. The wind on the hills was bitterly cold, so we camped for dinner at the first creek we came to, in a gully about three miles north of Timaru, near an unoccupied whare. From there to Timaru the track passed over the downs, crossing the gullies not far from the sea, which was dashing angrily against the high cliffs.

At Timaru we descended to the beach. There was a good-sized house, three storehouses and a woolshed. The great number of whale bones and skulls, with some large tripots, plainly showed tint it had formerly been a whaling station. A township had lately been surveyed here, but we could not ascertain whether any of the sections had yet been sold. We rode on to Mr D. Innes' station at Poreoa (eight miles) the road sometimes following the beach, at others climbing the low ridges and crossing gullies. We passed between the sea and several salt water lagoons, on which appeared a few ducks, and crossed two or three small streams. Mr Innes' house was a fine large one built with split weatherboarding and roofed with galvanised iron. The fender in the sitting room was the rib of a whale, and there was a chair with a whale's vertebre for a seat. It was a storm night, the wind blowing a S.W. gale with heavy rain. Paraoa means a whale.


24th May.— Four miles, partly flat and partly over low spurs, brought us to the boundary river between Innes and Thompson's runs, called Otaio. A little further on the track took us to the sea beach, which we rode along for live or six miles, with a salt water swamp and a lagoon on the landward side. We then struck inland, and outspanned for dinner on the bank of the Markikihi stream, which, however, was dry. In the afternoon we travelled along the foot of the spurs, in and out, up and down, to avoid the swamps on the flat, till we reached the Waimate river, and spent the night at Mr Studholme's station, which he called Inglewood. There was a fine bush in front, and the low, well-grassed downs rose into the high hills on the West. There was a great deal of tamataguru and spear grass upon the ridges. We had travelled 20 miles, making Studholme's 140 miles from Christchurch. (To be continued.)

North Otago Times, 17 July 1894, Page 1
25th.-— We had a long hunt for our horses, as they had gone up the valley to the bush, where they revelled in the change of food, sow-thistles, etc., so that it was nearly mid-day before we started. The track passod over the low ridges to the Waihao (encompassed by water) river — 3 miles — when it turned to the right and passed a house that was being built for a Mr Innes. It struck me that all this part was splendid agricultural land, and wondered how long it would be allowed to remain as sheep runs. We crossed the Waihao and two flats, then another stream, and rose some low hills, near a large lime stone cliff. Our course was south-west up and down gullies to a saddle, then down a swampy gully to the Waitangi plain. We were advised to go over these low hills as the flats were so swampy in places. There appeared to be a large quantity of flax (Phormium tenax) on the flat. All the high hills we could see were covered with snow. We then turned to the west for two miles, crossed several gullies and reached Mr Pike's station by 4 p.m. Here we met Messrs Samuel Pike, W. H. Dansey and Herbert Meyer. We had only travelled 11 miles. The run belonged to two brothers Bailey and Samuel Pike. There were no men or servants on the station, so we had to cook for ourselves, and also to grind wheat to make scones, Mr Pike had a box hand mill, which ground the wheat and separated the flour into firsts, seconds, and bran, but it was pretty hard work turning it. The flour made splendid bread, very palatable and wholesome. The Pikes were only residing here temporarily, and intended building nearer the sea. The hut was built of clay, without any glass in the windows. Chairs they had none, but empty boxes took their place. They had to cart the firewood eight miles. They were most hospitable, kind and pleasant young men, active and plucky, just the sort for pioneers in a new country. Gentlemen with good education, yet could do a day's work with any laboring man.

We remained with them till the morning of the 27th, when we rode some distance up the Waitangi plain till nearly opposite the Maori Kaik (valley or resting place) which they called Panamaru, situated on the south bank of the river about eleven miles from the sea. Mr Dansey had kindly given us full instructions where to cross, as the Waitangi (meaning weeping waters or Waitaki, water diverted) is seldom fordable, and a swift cold river, the water in which is always a white clay color, supposed to be caused by the friction of the glaciers on Mount Cook, over a bed of pipe clay. We succeeded in fording it in several streams, none of which took the horses off their feet but one was so deep it very nearly did, as the water was running over their backs. Mr Mantel called the Waitaki the Shakespeare. The Waitaki was the boundary between the provinces of Canterbury and Otago, we were therefore in the latter province as soon as we had crossed. Davidson parted from me here, as he wished to go up to Otekaike (Run No. 28) to see Mr J. P. Taylor, who then owned that run. I rode down to Papakaio, and introduced myself to Mr Richard Filleul and Mr Frederick Every. They were busy hand dressing their sheep with mercurial ointment (l lb mixed with 5 lbs of fat) for scab. The house was situated at the foot of a low range of hills, about four miles from the sea, at the mouth of a wooded limestone gully. They had a paddock of oats and wheat, which was still in mows or small stacks in the field. There was also a good garden and orchard well fenced. Mr W. G. Filleul returned home at 1 p.m. Both brothers were exceedingly kind and hospitable. Mr R. Filleul and played two games of chess. He read prayers before we retired, a most praiseworthy but unusual thing on a station. There was a well defined and pretty level track from hero up the plain to Messrs Williams and Lemon's station, known as Waikoura, and south to Oamaru, Valpy run, lately purchased from H. Robinson. ...

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