The Opawaho Divide leg of the Christchurch 360 Trail runs from Riccarton Bush to the Halswell Quarry Park.
The name Opawaho Divide comes from the fact this leg crosses over from the Avon/Otakaro watershed to the Heathcote/Opawaho watershed, just like the Main Divide separates the western watersheds from the eastern watersheds – but at a somewhat more imperceptible altitude change!
The track is approximately 16.1 km long, and will take a typical walker around 6 – 7 hrs.
Description of Route
You can find a Google Map of the route here.
The track starts in Titoki Street, near the corner with Rimu St, outside Riccarton Bush.
Follow Rimu St south, then turn right into Rata St. Follow Rata St into Kauri St, then turn right into Riccarton Rd.
Go west along Riccarton St to the traffic lights at the intersection with Matipo St. Use the crossing lights to cross Riccarton Rd. Follow Matipo St south, down the western side of the road.
You will get to a major intersection with Blenheim Rd. Use the lights to cross Blenheim Rd. You will need to first cross Matipo to the other side, then cross Blenheim, before crossing back to the western side of Matipo St. This will give you the best view of the plantings and cultivation in the planted detention pond and reserve behind the industrial buildings to the west of Matipo St, part of a stormwater management system.
Continue along the road, over the railway lines, and down to the roundabout on Wrights Rd. At the roundabout, turn right to follow Birmingham Drive. When you come to Marylands Reserve, enter it and follow the path into the park, crossing the park to the Marylands Cycleway. Follow the Marylands Cycleway west to the end of Annex Rd. Cross under the Christchurch Southern Motorway through the tunnel to rejoin Annex Rd on the other side.
Continue down Annex Rd until you get to the Kiwi Kids Preschool. Opposite here is a small reserve, take the lane through here to Mokihi Gardens. Go south-west to the T-intersection, then cross the intersection to the path that continues towards the south-west. When you get near the stream, follow it to the south-east. There is an open park space next to Jamiesons Bush, with a path that rejoins Annex Rd. Follow Annex Rd to Halswell Rd, turn right and go south-west along Halswell Rd, and use the lights at the intersection of Curletts Rd to safely cross Curletts Rd.
Take the pathway north-west alongside Curletts Rd. Cross the bridge over the Heathcote River, then take the left track to follow the Heathcote River upstream. Continue along this path until you get to the southern corner of Canterbury Park. Here the Heathcote River is not more than a swale. You can cross the watercourse here, and keep it on your right as you make your way between the Aidanfield Christian School on your left and the St John of God complex on your right. Continue alongside the river to Nash Rd. Cut across the park near the end of Nash Rd, and look for the crossing point on Aidanfield Drive. Cross Aidanfield Drive, and follow the swale through Nash Reserve.
Cross McMahon Drive, and continue following the Nash Reserve swale as far as the end of Annies Lane. Take the path through the reserve alongside Annies Lane, to Date Crescent. Go south-west on Date Crescent to Bibiana St. Continue straight ahead down the lane that cuts through to Burbank Drive. Turn left on Burbank Drive, then right into Cyclamen Pl. After Cyclamen Place bends right, you will find a reserve on the left. Cut through here to Dunbars Rd. Cross Dunbars Rd safely, and enter Lancewood Drive. Turn right, and continue until Lakeview Pl. Turn into Lakeview Pl, and at the end of the cul-de-sac you will see a lane through a reserve. Continue through here to Eskdale Pl. Turn right out of Eskdale into Westlake Drive. Continue west along Westlake Drive to the Westlake Reserve.
The Christchurch 360 Trail loops around the lake in Westlake Reserve, heading north-west first, before returning to the eastern side of the lake near Westlake Drive.
Instead of rejoining Westlake Drive, take the path that runs to the east along the north edge of the park. At the eastern corner, take the path that exits the park to the east. Exit the park, turning right onto Lancewood Dr. Follow Lancewood Dr south until it becomes Wales St. Follow Wales St to Oakridge St, turn right, then turn right again into Nicholls Rd. At the end of Nicholls Rd, turn left into Halswell Junction Rd. Follow Halswell Junction Rd east until you get to the pedestrian refuge, and use this to cross Halswell Junction Rd safely. Continue east to the intersection with Halswell Rd. Cross Halswell Rd safely using the signalised crossing, then continue south along Kennedys Bush Rd. Turn right into School Rd, left into Larsens Rd, Left into Glovers Rd, then right back onto Kennedys Bush Rd.
Continue down Kennedys Bush Rd to the Cashmere Rd intersection. Cross Kennedys Bush Rd safely here, and enter Halswell Quarry Park from off Cashmere Rd. Cross the Halswell Quarry Park fields to the southern ponds, make your way east around the top of the ponds, and head towards the Halswell Quarry carpark. The sign marks the end this leg of the Christchurch 360 Trail and the start of the Sugarloaf Hills leg.
You need not tackle the entire leg in one go, if you do not have the time or the strength. There are a number of places where the Opawaho Divide 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 natural segments for the walk, with approximate walking times between these points.
Start: Riccarton Bush. Streetside car parking is available here, though it can be difficult to find an open space, especially when the Riccarton Market is happening on Saturday mornings.
2.7km 1hr 15 mins
Marylands Reserve, off Burmingham Drive: Streetside car parking is available here, though it can be difficult to find an open space during working hours.
4.6km 1hr 45 mins
Canterbury Agricultural Park, Augustine Drive: Streetside car parking is available here.
3.8km 1hr 30 mins
Westlake Park, Westlake Drive: A car park services the lakeside park.
5.4km 2hrs 15 mins
End: Halswell Quarry Park. Car parking is available here.
Things to see
You can find a Google Map of Things To See here.
Riccarton was an autonomous borough from 1913 until amalgamation with Christchurch City in 1989. The name comes from the parish in Ayrshire, Scotland where early settlers the Deans Brothers were born. Rimu, Rata, and Kauri Streets are each named for NZ trees, these and other similar street names in Riccarton were adopted to commemorate the Deans families’ efforts to conserve native trees in Riccarton. These streets and others north of Riccarton Road were not generally developed until after 1900. With its then designation as a state highway, by the late-1950s, Riccarton Road was the busiest in the South Island, and one of the busiest in New Zealand. Traffic densities of four million vehicles per year were alleviated with the widening and change of designation for Blenheim Road (which the trail subsequently crosses).
After crossing Riccarton Road, the trail heads down Matipo Street. Originally named Cutler’s Road, this is one of the oldest streets in Riccarton. With the adoption of streets named for native trees, Matipo was, for two months, named Ngaio Street, but its pronunciation proved too difficult for non-Maori. Entering Matipo Street, immediately on the left, is Westfield Mall. Opened in 1965, it is the oldest and largest retail shopping complex in Christchurch. Matipo Street crosses Peverell Street, named after Hatfield Peverell in Essex, England where an early landowner in this street, Edward Mulcock, was born. Compared with the streets north of Riccarton Road, housing along Matipo Street is, in general, less stately and more plain.
Wharenui Recreation Centre
The centre is on the left on the corner of Matipo Street and Elizabeth Street, visible by the colourful mural on its west wall. The mural was created by Dcypher in May 2016 to mark the re-opening of the centre which had sustained earthquake damage in February 2011. Swimming is the longest-resident recreation, the centre having commenced as the Coronation Pool in 1911 to commemorate King George V’s coronation. Since that time the Wharenui Amateur Swim Club has been one of the top 10 clubs at national competitions. In addition the club has produced many New Zealand representatives, including the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games gold medallists Jaynie Parkhouse and Mark Treffers. Today the centre is also home to basketball, badminton, netball and volleyball.
The school, also on the left is immediately past the recreation centre. Its entrance is marked with the ‘ANZAC gate’ made of stone in gothic style, a memorial to those who served in both the first (1914-18) and second (1939-45) world wars. The school was founded in 1907 and the first principal was Frederick Alley, whose son Rewi attended from 1907-11. Rewi Alley went on to achieve fame in China where he was a prolific western writer about 20th century China, and especially about the Communist revolution. He dedicated 60 years of his life to the cause of the Communist Party of China, and was a key figure in the establishment of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives and technical training schools. Today the school hall is the Rewi Alley Memorial Hall. Moreover, in further recognition of Alley, the school facilitated the establishment of the Rewi Alley Education & Cultural Centre, which can be seen adjacent to the school, but set back farther from the street closer to the Wharenui Recreation Centre. Operating as the Rewi Alley Academy, the centre is a New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) accredited private tertiary institution. It offers NZQA accredited English language courses to international students and immigrants to New Zealand.
Addington retention pond
After crossing Blenheim Road the trail passes, on the right, the first of several water retention ponds that can be seen on this section of the 360 trail, and which are part of a stormwater management system. This pond serves the local industrial area and is abundantly surrounded by native flora.
Main trunk line
Just before Matipo Street turns and becomes Wrights Road the 360 trail crosses the South Island’s main trunk rail line – the only occasion that it does. The railway south was commenced in 1865. Initially it was laid as broad gauge through to Rakaia, but to comply with the national narrow gauge standard it was converted in 1876. The complete line to Dunedin was not in place until 1878, and that to Invercargill not until January 1879. Since the junction to the West Coast is at Rolleston, the lines here also lead to Arthurs Pass and Greymouth. Known as the Midland line, construction did not reach Arthurs Pass until 1914 and the full link to Greymouth was not in place until the completion of the Otira Tunnel in 1923.
Davie Lovell Smith building On the left, at 116-118 Wrights Road, the Davie Lovell Smith building is an example of post 2011-earthquake design overtly displaying its structural elements.
Marylands Reserve, which is used by a Canine Obedience Club, is part of the Marylands Industrial Estate of 21.33 hectares, developed in the 1970s by the Waimairi County Council and the Nazareth House Trust Board.
Southern Motorway underpass
This section of the motorway was commenced in 2010 and opened in 2012. Despite being affected by the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes while under construction, the earthquakes caused no direct damage, although the alignment had to be resurveyed after each earthquake.
Before turning right off Annex Road into Mokihi Gardens one will see Hillmorton Hospital on the left. Operated by the Canterbury District Health Board, Hillmorton provides specialist mental health services. It is on the site of the former Sunnyside Hospital which, after more than 140 years of operation, closed in 1999. Indicative of the attitude to mental health of the times, Sunnyside Hospital was initially known as the Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum.
This housing development takes its names from the (now dry) stream on its southern border; a one-time tributary of the Opawaho.
From Mokihi Gardens subdivision the trail follows a track close to Mokihi Stream and then enters Seagar Park, named after Sunnyside Hospital’s first superintendent Edward Seagar. He was superintendent from 1863 to 1887 and had many progressive ideas for hospital inmates emphasising rehabilitation rather than incarceration. The park itself is bounded on the south by Jamiesons Bush
Leaving Seagar Park, the trail returns to Annex Road, immediately opposite is a memorial shelter. It has a steep slate roof with turret which was previously part of one of Sunnyside Hospital’s dormitories. Seagar and his wife were keen on gardening as a therapeutic exercise for inmates, and the memorial shelter is part of what remains of Sunnyside’s gardens.
Spreydon or West Spreydon School
After turning right into Halswell Road and crossing the Opawaho/Heathcote River, the site of what was Spreydon School (established 1872) is on your right. Intriguingly the school was not situated in what today is regarded as the suburb of Spreydon and was in fact 1.5 km north-west of West Spreydon school. Then in the post-earthquake rationalisation of Canterbury school resources, Spreydon School was re-sited to what had previously been Manning Intermediate and, in 2018, a full rebuild of West Spreydon School was commenced resulting, ironically, with West Spreydon shifting temporarily to the vacant site of Spreydon School where, as at November 2020, it currently resides.
After crossing Curletts Road and turning right, there is, on the left, the Carmelite monastery, bounded by a continuous high concrete wall. The Carmelite Nuns are an Order dedicated to contemplative prayer, founded in the 15th century.
The founding sisters of the Christchurch monastery arrived in New Zealand, from Australia in February, 1933. They decided to purchase “Homeleigh”, owned by Mr William Hayward. The old colonial-style house, which still forms the front of the monastery, situated some distance back from Halswell Road behind several towering cedars, had been built by Robert Pitcaithly, who had owned the Halswell Stone Quarries, in the 1880s. The sisters arranged for the construction of a small chapel before the canonical enclosure – an essential element of the cloistered contemplative life. Hence the surrounding high wall.
Since 1997 this park has been the site of Canterbury’s annual A&P Show. The area used by the Canterbury A&P Association is known as Canterbury Agricultural Park and was New Zealand’s first purpose-built show facility.
The park is also home to the Christchurch NZ Riding for the Disabled, Canterbury Saleyards, the Mainland Motorcycle School, Halswell Pony Club and the South Island German Shepherd League.
The park contains the Wigram retention pond that filters industrial run-off and, with its native plantings, attracts native wildlife.
Photo: Wigram retention pond
Approaching the southern end of the park, a grandstand can be seen on the right. This identifies the site of the Nga Puna Wai Sports Hub. Constructed since the earthquakes of 2010-11, this is a regional facility for, at present, four sports: athletics, hockey, tennis and rugby league, all of which needed new homes following the earthquakes. The hub has the added advantage of the sports involved being able to work together for broader goals.
Archive: St John of God Hospital / Remembrance Path
Upon leaving Canterbury Park, the trail follows a Remembrance path for former residents of the nearby St John of God hospital. The Opawaho beside the path, at this point, is not much more than a swale. The hospital is a residential care facility for people living with a disability.
Archive: Halswell Residential College
Upon completing the Remembrance path, one passes the entrance to Halswell College. The college provides special education within a residential setting for students ‘who need significant curriculum adaptation due to an underlying intellectual impairment and whose educational, social and emotional needs, including behaviour, cannot be met in their current environment’.
The trail skirts around the Nga Wai Puna complex and exits the park on its west into McMahon Drive. On the NE corner of McMahon Drive and Aidanfield Drive is McMahon Reserve including an open-sided shelter, which records some of the area’s local history focussing on Mount Magdala, a former pioneering social service institution. It was set up in 1888 to provide shelter for ‘wayward’ women and girls. It was run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd until 1966. A short path from the shelter to the left brings one to the Mount Magdala cemetery where there is an additional information board. Aidanfield is named after Mother Aidan (1858-1958), one of Mount Magdala’ founding sisters. Many of the street names in Aidanfield are those of former sisters and residents of Mount Magdala. The first Aidanfield sections were sold in 2000.
Before reaching the Aidanfield Drive bridge, the trail swings southward to follow dry swales. These are in effect the headwaters of the Opawaho. Spring-fed, the river’s sources have gradually moved eastward (downstream) over recent years.
Waterways in older Christchurch housing developments were often boxed in to speed the water away but with consequent downstream flooding in times of heavy rain. Today, as is the case with the retention ponds for managing industrial stormwater already seen on this section of the trail, more modern subdivisions have been developed with improved water management systems. The large pond and accompanying swales at Westlake Reserve is such an example.
Along this street one notices the many houses with walls built of summerhill stone. This was a popular brick-style cladding in the 1960s and the 1970s, when most of the houses in this suburb were built.
After turning into Nicholls Road, at number 38, just before crossing Nottingham Stream, one passes on the right the large home estate of Santa Rosa. This was the home of Robert Bunting McMillan (c 1864 – 1923). Originally from Canada, he established Santa Rosa Stud in what is now the suburb of Oaklands. At the time of McMillan’s death, it was the most important harness racing stud in New Zealand. Nearby Santa Rosa Avenue (passed when walking the trail in Wales Street) was named after the stud and first appeared in street directories in 1962.
This stream, which begins at Westlake, drains the area southwest of the Opawaho Divide. At this point the east bank is contained by a stone wall but the west bank is natural. It flows into the Halswell River.
Sts Peter & Paul church
The original church on the corner of Nicholls and Halswell Junction Roads, St Agnes, was established in 1878. A new church was built in 1899. In 1968 St Agnes became a parish and Fr Joe Kelly dedicated the church to Sts Peter and Paul. The 19th century wooden church was demolished in 1999, but the original church hall remains behind the current church, which was built at the turn of this century. Nicholls Road first appeared in directories in 1912 and is named for James Nicholls (1838-1917) who bought land at the southwestern end of the road.
Halswell Junction Road
The colonial-style house at number 76 was built in the 1880s for a Francis Carter. His French wife employed several maids, perhaps explaining the size of the house. At number 14, the house has been designed to incorporate an existing lancewood tree.
Halswell is named after Edmund Storr Halswell QC (1790–1874), a government officer and member of the management commission of the Canterbury Association. To begin with, Halswell was completely separated from the city geographically, but with the development of new subdivisions to the north creating the suburbs of Oaklands and Westlake, and finally Aidanfield, through which the 360 trail has already passed, Halswell has effectively been joined to the Christchurch urban area. Halswell was administered by its own council, Halswell County, from 1911 to 1962, when it merged with Paparua County.
Immediately after crossing Halswell Junction Road and starting along Kennedys Bush Road, the trail passes the Veterinary Centre, the site of one of Halswell’s early stores. Originally the post office occupied the site, and became Hamilton’s post office and shop in 1899. The store burnt down in February 1925 but had been replaced by a new store in September of the same year. Looking diagonally on the right across the front of the Veterinary Centre, the Halswell Hall can be seen on the far side of Halswell Road. This community hall, built in 1913, is today home to a drama group, indoor bowls, a school of music and the Halswell Resident’s Association.
Before settlement, the Halswell area was largely swamp criss-crossed by streams. By 1848, three families lived in the area but with the successful draining of some of the swampland a small village was in place by the early 1860s. By 1864, settlement at Halswell justified the establishment of a school, which is further along Kennedys Bush Road on the corner with School Road. An early pupil was Harry Ell, now best remembered as a dedicated proponent for the Port Hills Summit Road. The Halswell Library began in 1897 using a large cupboard at the school; a situation that lasted for fifty years. Halswell school suffered severe damage in the September 2010 earthquake and has since been completely rebuilt.
Halswell Quarry Park
The trail enters Halswell Quarry Park through the ‘horse gate’, where there is, inside the park, a dressage area. This section of the trail ends beside the Visitor’s Centre. The stone building, built in 1922 and known as ‘The Whare’, began life as the singlemen’s quarters for the quarry. It then became the family home for the Withers family of 11 when George Withers found work at the quarry in 1933. They lived here until 1955. In April 1950 the Withers sisters, Colleen and Monica, were married here in a joint wedding. The quarry commenced operating in the late 1850s and developed into one of the largest in New Zealand. Besides providing roading material, it was also the source of the fine blue-grey stone used in a number of prominent Christchurch buildings, including the Provincial Council building, The Robert McDougall Art Gallery, the Arts Centre and the Sign of the Takahe. Ownership changed hands on several occasions, the quarry becoming a public company in 1901 and being bought by the Christchurch City Council in 1925. It ceased operation in 1990 and, with impetus from the Kennedys Bush Road Neighbourhood Association, the city council has since converted it into a park incorporating water retention ponds, native flora, quarry heritage and general recreation. It also includes specific gardens featuring botanical collections of Christchurch’s sister cities: Adelaide (Australia), Christchurch (UK), Kurashiki (Japan), Seattle (USA), Songpa-Gu (South Korea), and Wuhan & Gansu Province (both China).
Thanks to Stuart Payne for text and photos.
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.
Black-backed Gull/Karoro Larus dominicanus dominicanus:
The black-backed gull is New Zealand’s largest gull. It has a white body with black upperparts, yellow legs and a yellow bill. Chicks peck at the red spot at the tip of the parent’s bill to stimulate regurgitation. Fledged offspring are mottled brown.
Black-backed gulls scavenge from human populations and are more aggressive than the red-billed gulls they are often seen with.
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.
Pukeko Porphyrio porphyria:
Pukeko are often seen alongside waterways and in paddocks. It has blue and black plumage, a red bill and shield and long red legs. Pukeko eat mostly vegetation, but will eat eggs, invertebrates and other small animals.
Pukeko chicks are black and fluffy, with their parents’ large feet.
Food & Refreshments
Visit metroinfo.co.nz for bus trip planning, route maps, and timetables.
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 bus that runs closest to the end of the leg at Halswell Quarry is the 100 bus, which terminates its run by looping around the Larsens Rd, School Rd, Kennedys Bush Rd, and Glovers Rd block. This bi-direction route runs west wide of the CBD, before swinging east to the north of the CBD and ending up at The Palms mall in Shirley. It could be used to get onto the Orange Line route, where you can change buses.
The Orange Line route runs between Halswell and Queenspark, bi-directionally, via the central bus exchange.
Nearby Points of Interest
Westfield Riccarton Mall
Hagley Park & Botanic Gardens
Halswell Domain model steam train rides