Avonhead Gardens

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The Avonhead Gardens leg of the Christchurch 360 Trail is intended to run from Mcleans Island Rd to Riccarton Bush. However, no footpath infrastructure exists alongside the roads between McLeans Island and Avonhead Park, so we have not been permitted to mark this portion of the trail. As a result, the marked portion of the Avonhead Gardens leg runs from Avonhead Park to Riccarton Bush. There is also a small marked section across the Mcleans Grasslands Park.

 

Description of Route

You can find a Google Map of the route here.

The track is approximately 7.5 km long between Avonhead Park and Riccarton Bush, and will take a typical walker around 3 hours 20 minutes. If you decide to find a route between the Mcleans Island endpoint of the Waimakariri Braids and Avonhead Park, expect to add about 15km to the length of the leg.

At the end of Chesterfield Mews, there is an access path into Avonhead Park.

When you enter Avonhead Park, you find a path leading along a line of trees. There is a swale here that is the start of one of the tributaries that forms the Avon River. From here, we will follow the headwaters of the Avon River as best we can through the city as far as Riccarton Bush.

Turn right, and follow the path through Avonhead Park to the laneway out of the park in the southern corner, into Greystoke Lane. There is another lane at the end of Greystoke Lane, heading south through Karnak Reserve, to join up with Karnak Cres. Turn left into Karnak Cres, then left into Ansonby St. Turn left into Apsley Drive, and go north until you are opposite the entry into Crosbie Park. Cross Apsley Drive safely, and follow the water course through Crosbie Park, keeping it on your left. At the southern corner of Crosbie Park, exit onto Woodbury St.

Continue east along Woodbury St, through the roundabout, and onto Staveley St. Turn south onto Avonhead Rd, then east onto Parkstone Ave. Look for the laneway access into Corfe Reserve on the south side of Parkstone Ave. Continue through Corfe Reserve along the watercourse, exiting out of the reserve at the eastern end, south onto Corfe St. Go east to Brodie St, turn left, then cross at Athol Terrace.

Just north of Athol Tce is a track through a reserve alongside the watercourse. Follow this to Peer St. Turn left on Peer St, and cross at the signalised crossing.

The University of Canterbury has not granted permission for us to place our markers on their property, so through the next section, markers are sparse and may appear on lamp posts that are not ideally situated for providing clear direction. The following directions should assist with navigation, or check the online map: Head south on Waimari Rd to Homestead Lane, then turn left. Follow Homestead Lane to Ilam Rd, then turn left. Continue up Ilam Rd to the pedestrian refuge near University Drive. Cross Ilam Rd safely, and turn right into University Drive. Follow the footpath on the southern side of University Drive, all the way through the University to Clyde Road. Turn right on Clyde Road. From here, the trail should again be marked more clearly.

Continue down to the crossing point near Hinau Street. Follow Hinau St to Miro St. Go down Miro St to Totara St. Turn left on Totara St to the end of the road, and right into Ngahere St. At the end of Ngahere St is an entrance into Riccarton Bush and Riccarton House.

Follow the path into Riccarton Bush toward Riccarton House. On your right you will see an historic cottage, the oldest building on the Canterbury Plains. A path branches off to the right here, to the fenced off part of Riccarton Bush. This reserve is protected by predator-proof fencing to keep out mammals that prey on the native wildlife. Follow the path to do a loop through Riccarton Bush. You will enter and exit via a double-interlocked-door system that forms part of the predator defenses.

On leaving the fenced part of Riccarton Bush, return to the path alongside the Ilam Stream. You will pass the historical Riccarton House. Continue down the driveway’s avenue of trees to the gate on Kahu Rd. Turn right into Kahu Rd, then right into Titoki St, where this leg of the Christchurch 360 Trail ends.

Access Points

You need not tackle the entire leg in one go, if you do not have the time or the strength. Much of the Avonhead Gardens leg runs closely to the road network, and there are several places where you will be able to park up and start the walk at intermediate points.

Here are a number of natural segments for the walk, with approximate walking times between these points.

Start: There is residential street parking in Chesterfield Mews and Karnak Crescent.

1.2km 35 mins

Crosbie Park: There is a carpark inside Crosbie Park, off Cutts Rd.

2km 50 mins

Corfe Reserve: Park in the residential streets Corfe St or Parkstone Ave.

2.3km 65 mins

Canterbury University: There is public carparking off University Drive.

2.8km 1 hour 10 mins

End: There are car parks in Rimu Street adjacent to Riccarton Bush Park, and residential street parking in Ngahere St.

Hazards

Traffic: The Christchurch 360 Trail passes alongside some roads that experience heavy traffic flows at times, and vehicles may travel at open road speeds. There are places where it is necessary to cross roads, including multi-lane highways. Please use the crossing facilities where provided, and  exercise extreme caution at all times around traffic.

Cycles: The Christchurch City Council will not allow us to promote the Christchurch 360 as a cycling route, because a route promoted as a cycling route might be perceived by some users as having an implied suitability for cycling that could reduce their level of safety awareness, and as the Christchurch 360 Trail does not follow streets that meet standards required for cycleways, cyclists may be exposed to unacceptable risks. Because of that, we are not permitted to mark or recommend a cycle route option for the Christchurch 360. If you choose of your own initiative to follow the Christchurch 360 on your bike, please ride safely and responsibly, and follow the road rules.

Things to see

You can find a Google Map of Things To See here.

Avonhead Gardens With the exception of the McLeans Grassland Park, there is no marked track between the end of the Waimakariri Braids section and Avonhead Park. Those walking this part of the trail must find their own way, and without the facility of footpaths. The part of the trail across the McLeans Grassland Park is, however, marked. It runs from Conservators Road on the west to McLeans Island Road on the east.

McLeans Grassland Park

The dry, shallow waterways are a reminder of when the Waimakariri River flowed across the area unconstrained. (See also Waimakariri Braids section.) The holes in the banks of the waterways reveal the presence of rabbits. Introduced to New Zealand for both food and sport as early as the 1830s, they bred much more prolifically than in Europe and the first of several rabbit plagues occurred in the 1870s. As a result, rabbits have cost New Zealand many millions of dollars through the direct cost of controlling them and the loss of production from farms. In some of the drier parts of the South Island, the vegetation grazed by rabbits has never recovered. Attempts at control have included predation (ferrets, stoats and weasels), hunting, trapping and poisoning. There are also small fenced areas across the reserve, protecting the natural vegetation, including native broom (Carmichaelia australis), one of the shrubs adapted to the shallow and stony soils.

McLeans grasslands: native broom

McLeans grasslands: native broom

Avonhead Park

At the end of Chesterfield Mews, there is an access path into Avonhead Park. The trail resumes beneath high voltage power lines, which are part of Christchurch power distributor Orion’s network, transmitting electricity from national grid operator Transpower’s sub-station at Islington through to Bishopdale. Beside the path, there is a swale that is the start of one of the tributaries that forms the Avon / Ōtākaro River.

Crosbie Park

Named for the Crosbie sisters, Agnes (1851-1933) and Jane (1854?-1936), both dressmakers, who, in 1894, bought a small farm of 30 acres including what is now the park. Along the Burnside Road (now Memorial Avenue) frontage of their farm they planted 200 trees and shrubs. Today the park features an attractive mix of exotic and native trees. Wandering through the park, and crossed by a bridge, is a small stream, being a tributary of Ilam Stream, which after subsequently going underground and re-emerging, joins the Avon River at Ilam Gardens (see below, Ilam Gardens).

Source of the Avon / Ōtākaro

Spring-fed but initially piped underground, the Avon River emerges into a narrow creek about a metre wide in a suburban backyard on Nortons Road in Avonhead. It then winds through a couple of backyards before passing beneath Balrudry Street. The stream can be seen along the trail by taking a short side trip down Balrudry Street to number 41 – turn right off Staveley Road after passing Staveley Park and Nortons Road. Although in a straight line from here to the estuary is only 14 kilometres, the river actually meanders for nearly 26 kilometres through Hagley Park, central Christchurch and the eastern suburbs to where it enters the estuary at Bexley. The name was officially altered to Avon River / Ōtākaro by the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998.

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Autumn colours, Parkstone Avenue

Teachers College

At the junction of Parkstone Avenue and Solway Street, on the NE corner, is what was the Christchurch Teachers College, now the University of Canterbury College of Education, Health and Human Development. Beginning as what was called a training school, it was founded in 1877 and became a teacher’s college in the early 1900s. From 1930 it was located in the central city in what became the Peterborough Centre in Peterborough Street. By the 1980s, teacher’s colleges had become colleges of education and in the 21st Century have merged with the relevant university. As with the University as a whole, see below University of Canterbury, the Teacher’s College re-located to Ilam, completing its move in 1975.

Corfe Reserve

Opposite the junction with Solway Street is the entrance to Corfe Reserve. The trail crosses the Avon River, now a free-flowing stream between two and three metres wide, to emerge on Corfe Street,  named for Charles Corfe (1847-1935), headmaster of Christ’s College 1872-88.

College House / Bishop Julius Hall

At the crossing point on Waimairi Road, one is confronted by the austere white and grey of College House. From 1873, College House, at that time located in the city centre, became a residential hall for students of the University of Canterbury and from 1882 was at the corner of Rolleston Avenue and Cashel Street. When the university moved to Ilam, College House followed suit, moving to the Warren and Mahoney designed building in 1966. Adjacent to College House, at the corner of Waimairi Road and Homestead Lane is Bishop Julius Hall. The Hall was founded as a result of the vision of Bishop Churchill Julius, the second Anglican Bishop of Christchurch. On the 23 August 1917, what was known as “The Bishop’s Hostel” came into being for young women bent on teaching and university work. In 1924 the hostel moved to 10 Cranmer Square, and in 1974 the Hall moved to Ilam. The first “guests”, in January 1974, were Commonwealth Games competitors. The hall also included male students from 1993.

Ilam Gardens

Exiting Homestead Road and turning left into Ilam Road, one can see on the left, set back from the road amongst garden and trees, Ilam Homestead. Ilam was named by John Watts-Russell (1826-1875) for Ilam Hall in Staffordshire, England, his birthplace. Watts-Russell came to Canterbury in 1850, and purchased 500 acres at Riccarton. In 1858 he built the lower storey of a two storey house. After a succession of owners it burnt down in 1910 and was rebuilt by Edgar Stead, a distinguished horticulturist and ornithologist. Stead established the world-renowned azalea and rhododendron gardens. When he sold Ilam to Canterbury College in 1950 he requested that the gardens be maintained in perpetuity. Ilam Homestead then became the home of the Rector (nowadays Vice-Chancellor) of Canterbury College. After further reconstruction, it was opened, in March 1971, for the use of the University Staff Club. A detour from the trail to wander through the rhododendron gardens and along the paths through the native forest beside the Avon River and Ilam Stream is recommended.

Ngaio Marsh Theatre

The trail turns right out of Ilam Road into University Drive. Immediately on the right is (as at July 2017) the reconstruction of the University of Canterbury Students’ Association building, incorporating the Ngaio Marsh Theatre. The original students’ association/theatre complex was demolished following the 2011 earthquakes. The theatre is named in honour of Dame Ngaio Marsh (1895-1982), New Zealand’s most famous crime fiction writer. Dame Ngaio also, from 1942 until 1969, directed many productions of the university’s Drama Society (now Dramatic Society), and mentored many actors.

University of Canterbury main campus

The university was founded in 1873 as Canterbury College, the first constituent college of the University of New Zealand. Its original campus was in the central city, but in 1961 when it became an independent university it also began moving out of its original neo-gothic buildings, which were re-purposed as the Christchurch Arts Centre. The move to Ilam was completed on 1 May 1975. As of 2017 it has a roll of 10,838 students and offers degrees in Arts, Commerce, (physical) Education, Engineering, Fine Arts, Forestry, Health Sciences, Law, Music, Social Work, Speech and Language Pathology, Science, Sports Coaching, and Teaching.

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Avon River beside University Drive, with ubiquitous road cone

Departing the university, the trail crosses Clyde Road. As an un-named stock route, it first appeared on a map in 1864. In 1890, it was re-named from Office to Clyde Road in keeping with the theme of naming Riccarton streets after places in Ayrshire, Scotland where the Deans family originated.

Riccarton Bush / Deans Cottage / Riccarton House

Riccarton House and Bush is administered by the Riccarton Bush Trust, which was established by an Act of Parliament in 1914. The Trustees are appointed by the Royal Society, the Deans family, and the Christchurch City Council. The trust administers:

  • Riccarton Bush, preserved through the foresight of the Deans family, is a 7.8hectare predator-proof reserve, and is the sole remnant of the kahikatea forest that clothed much of the Canterbury coastal floodplains. Besides 400 to 600 year-old trees such as matai, totara and hinau, the bush is used by the Department of Conservation as a crèche for juvenile birds, including great spotted kiwi. The trail includes a two-kilometre loop through the bush reserve.
  • Deans cottage, built in 1843, by the first settlers to farm successfully on the Canterbury plains.
  • Riccarton House, completed in 1900, was the home of the Deans family for 80 years. The modest home of 1856 was expanded in two stages to the imposing structure seen today.
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Riccarton House

On passing Riccarton House, the trail continues down the driveway’s avenue of trees to Kahu Rd, and turning right, finishes at the junction of Kahu Road and Titoki Street.

Thanks to Stuart Payne for text and photos

Flora & Fauna

Flora

 

Fauna

Bellbird/Korimako Anthornis melanura: 

The bellbird’s loud, melodious song can be heard in bush along the coast and waterways and in trees and patches of bush in the Port Hills. Bellbirds are easier to hear than see, as their dark olive plumage makes it easy for them to blend in to the surrounding foliage.

Bellbirds feed on nectar, insects and fruits, and they play an important role in pollinating native plant species.

The bellbird is endemic to New Zealand.

Fantail/Piwakawaka Rhipidura fuliginosa:

This friendly native is recognised by its long tail, acrobatic flight and tinny cheep. Fantails feed on insects in bush and shrub and are found in many different habitats. If you walk through bush and there are fantails nearby, they will come and check you out. Photos are difficult, however, as fantails seldom stay in one place for more than a moment.

There are two morphs. The most well-known, the pied morph, is dark brown, with a cream-coloured belly and black and white bands. The black morph is dark brown all over, with no banding and a white spot behind each eye. About a quarter of South Island fantails are black.

Silvereye or Waxeye/Tahou Zosterops lateralis:

The silvereye is slightly smaller than a sparrow, with an olive head, grey and buff body and a distinctive white ring around each eye. Young birds do not have the white rings. They have a quiet, high-pitched call.

The silvereye was first recorded in New Zealand in the 1830s and has since spread throughout both islands. Silvereyes tend to flock in flowering bushes. They eat insects, nectar and fruit.

Grey duck/Parera and Mallard Anas superciliosa (grey) and Anas platyrhynchos (mallard)

Grey ducks and mallards are found on many New Zealand lakes and rivers. Both male and female grey ducks are similar in appearance to mallard females. Because the two species interbreed, the plumage of male mallards varies considerably.

Mallards are larger and more dominant, and as a result grey ducks are critically endangered.

New Zealand scaup Aythya novaeseelandiae:

This small diving duck can be found in waterways around Christchurch. The male has bright yellow eyes and both male and female have dark brown plumage.

Paradise shelduck/Putakitaki Tadorna variegata:

The Paradise shelduck is large and goose-like and can be found in parks and along waterways throughout Christchurch. Often found in pairs, the female is the more striking bird, with a white head and chestnut-coloured body. The male is darker, with a black head.

In flight, the male gives a low honk, while the female answers with a higher-pitched call.

Ducklings are brown and white-striped, and fledged young resemble the male.

New Zealand Pigeon/Kereru Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae:

A much larger bird than the common rock pigeon, the New Zealand Pigeon has an iridescent green and purple head and back, bright white bib and belly and red bill and legs. When in flight, their wings make a distinctive heavy whirring sound

The kereru feeds on fruits and is an important disperser of the seeds of native plants.

In Christchurch, the Kereru is found mainly in and around the Botanic Gardens and Riccarton Bush, but they can occasionally be found in patches of bush in the Port Hills, especially near Victoria Park and the Cashmere Hills.

Services

Public Toilets

Avonhead Park, north-west corner.

Crosbie Park, off Woodbury Street.

Rotherham Street, Riccarton, near the Riccarton Bush end of the leg.

Food & Refreshments

On Staveley Street,  near Withells Road, is a small shopping centre including a dairy.

The UCSA (University of Canterbury Students’ Association) has a café just off University Drive.

Accommodation

Near the airport, especially down Memorial Ave, a number of motels provide accommodation at average to premium rates.

Near Riccarton Bush, especially down Riccarton Ave, a number of motels provide accommodation at average to premium rates.

Public Transport

Visit metroinfo.co.nz for bus trip planning, route maps, and timetables.

No buses run to Mcleans Island. You will need to make your own pick-up or drop-off arrangements.

Bus 130 runs near Avonhead Park, along Kedleston Drive.

Bus 130 runs along Kahu Rd with bus stops near the entrance to Riccarton Bush at the end of this leg.

Bus 130 runs bi-directionally between Hornby and Burnside, weaving crazily through Upper Riccarton, Riccarton, back towards Ilam, through Avonhead, before lurching up towards Burnside. So while it runs conveniently enough between (roughly) Avonhead Park and Riccarton Bush, you will almost certainly need to catch a connecting bus to get to anywhere useful.

Several busses run along Riccarton Road, besides the 130 – 100, 120, 140, 80, Orbiter, Purple (Airport to X), Yellow (Hornby (Rolleston) to X).

The 23 is a bi-directional link between Hyde Park in Avonhead and The Tannery mall in Woolston, via the central exchange.

Nearby Points of Interest

Orana Wildlife Park: Found on Mcleans Island Road, near the leg end point for the Waimakariri Braids and what should be the start point for the Avonhead Gardens. Orana Wildlife Park is the only zoo in New Zealand to feature open-range enclosures. There are giraffe, kiwi, a white rhino, gorillas, cheetah, zebra, hyena, gibbons, Sumatran tigers, and lions.  An adult’s annual pass is only $69 and a child’s is only $19. It is open every day except Christmas Day, 10am to 5pm.

Christchurch International Airport: This may well be your access point to and from the city, if you are an international visitor. Besides airport services, there are a number of café dining options available, as well as gift stores.

Ilam Gardens: The old Ilam Homestead is surrounded by gardens featuring rhododendrons and azaleas, and beautifully groomed lawns. There are a number of Japanese-style bridges crossing the Ilam Stream.

Okeover and Dovedale Community Gardens: These gardens are community spaces, providing fresh organic produce to those in the community. It was established as an informal recreation and learning space for students and staff, but anyone, those associated with the University, and those in the community with an interest, can be involved. For more information, see the Sustainable Campus website. 

Hagley Park: A massive 164 hectare (405 acre) park just to the west of the Christchurch CBD. It includes the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and the Canterbury Museum.

Westfield Mall, Riccarton: A large metropolitan mall, near the Riccarton Bush end of the leg. There are many options for dining and refreshment, with many additional retail options to explore.