Nine Mile Valley’s Hidden Coal History

Nine Mile Valley coal mine relics

nine mile valley coal mine entrance

There’s gold in them there hills – black gold!

Nine Mile valley coal mines

Stephen had the pleasure of playing tour guide recently and taking a photographic artist into the hills behind Breakers to explore some of the fascinating coal mining history hidden away in the forest.

capturing the history nine mile valley

Chris Corson Scott is an artist based in Auckland and currently working on a project involving NZ history.  We met Chris and his partner Amanda on a recent walk up the 10 mile valley – turns out they found the 10 mile valley and its history thanks to our blog – now that puts a smile on my face.

Nine Mile Valley coal relics

There is much history in the Nine Mile Valley and loads of relics to photograph.  To top it off it would have to boast some of the most stunning West Coast native bush (yeah ok NZ native bush but we have the best here on the West….. no bias).

coal mine relics nine mile valley

The sense of history oozes out from all the various relics and mine entrances – trying their best to tell their own story.

nine mile valley coal mine relics and creek

The Nine Mile valley is also a great example of nature reigning supreme with the bush slowly but surely reclaiming her space.

coal mine relics in the bush nine mile valley

Mining relics Nine Mile Valley

So love having the wonder of the Nine Mile Valley right at our doorstep – one minute we’re by the seaside with the pounding surf and the next we’re immersed in lush green forest and discovering some of the secrets of our heritage. That’s the West Coast for you.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about exploring the region and sharing their discoveries for others to enjoy.

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West Coast Wilderness Trail – Camerons to Kapitea Reservoir

Oh it feels good to be back on the bike.  We’re not long back from an overseas holiday and while we did take our bikes with us we didn’t do a whole lot of biking – four days in total over three weeks. What we did do was a lot of walking, and feeling like we’d built up a good fitness base we wanted to continue on that theme now that we’re home.

biking in the forest west coast wilderness trailWell how is it, considering we exercised at least 3 hours EVERY DAY for three weeks, now we’re home we don’t feel any fitter.  We thought we’d get out on our bikes and the ride would be a breeze – let me tell you now Categorically NOPE.

biking kumara swingbridge west coast wilderness trail

In fairness the thing with this ride is it is actually a gentle incline the entire way from Camerons just north of Greymouth to the Kapitea Reservoir in behind Kumara.  Also and this one is important – we rode like cut cats.  Seriously I had to say to Stephen can we button back a bit on the pace.  He of course said he was just trying to keep up with me which was so incorrect cos I was just trying to keep up with him……..

biking along kumara tramline in the forest west coast wilderness trailMoaning aside this ride is gorgeous.  Crossing the clip-on attached to the Taramakau road/rail bridge reminded me of our ride across the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco – ok so maybe couple of slight differences – not as high, not as long and nowhere near as many people to negotiate with on the way across (make that none!).

biking West Coast Wilderness TrailThe Kumara tram-line was so green – I know we have lots of green but I’d almost…. almost forgotten just how green everything is here – all shades of green in all directions.  Just beautiful.

biking along West Coast wilderness trail

It was generally quite an overcast day making the skies a bit wishy/washy but the views of the snow-capped mountains and reflections in the Kapitea Reservoir were still spectacular.

biking kumara tramline west coast wilderness trail

Made the mistake of eating far too much for lunch at the Theatre Royal Hotel – but it was delicious.  That’s my excuse for feeling a bit sluggish on the ride back to town.  All in all though it was nice to be back on the West Coast Wilderness Trail – it’s a great asset for the district and a great way to see some diverse West Coast scenery.

biking out of kumara west coast wilderness trail

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and exploring the area.

 

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Lake Mahinapua by Star Light

Would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar…..

Lake Mahinapua in the star light

oh Frank I love you serenading me on this beautiful star lit night.

Lake Mahinapua with the stars

We have been blessed with some stunning winter days of late – clear sunny skies meaning fabulous star lit skies come evening.

Lake Mahinapua star lit skies

Making the most of the perfect conditions we took a drive south of Hokitika to the beautiful Lake Mahinapua to check out the skies.

Lake Mahinapua by the star lit skies

With snow-capped mountains and surrounded by native bush, Lake Mahinapua was an ideal place to just relax and make the most of night sky.

Lake Mahinapua in the stars

Playing the perfect model (as always I might add!) there was one final photo shoot before it was time to head home for the evening.  Thanks Lake Mahinapua – it was a pleasure swinging on your stars and now I’m taking moonbeams home in a jar – rather that than be a mule…….  See you again soon.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and making the most of this beautiful region they are lucky enough to call home.

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Lake Mahinapua Sunset Reflections

On a recent drive back from Franz Josef Stephen suggested calling into Lake Mahinapua just south of Hokitika.  It isn’t somewhere we visit often as not dog friendly and well it isn’t often the boys aren’t with us.  Not this time though – we’d just dropped them at their God Parents in Franz Josef for their annual holiday.

Lake Mahinapua reflections

It had been a typical winter’s day on the West Coast – lots of blue skies and sunshine and our stop at the lake was timed just on sunset.

lake mahinapua mountain reflections

With not a breath of wind the reflections were outstanding. Just a light dusting on the mountain tops emitting a pretty pink hue and reflecting over the native bush and into the lake – pure magic.

lake mahinapua reflections on sunset

lake mahinapua reflections of sunset

It was lovely to sit out on the wharf and enjoy the peace and tranquility – reflect on the reflections……

lake mahinapua reflectings

A young couple were arriving just as we were leaving and it was nice to see them sitting there and soaking up Mother’s Natures gift.  A wonderful memory of their holiday to New Zealand and their visit to the wonderful West Coast one winters evening.

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many wonders that help make up this beautiful region they are lucky enough to call home.

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Exploring the Blackball Coal Mine and Kings Knob Walk

Recently we headed to Blackball  to explore some of their well hidden history all within walking distance of the “local”.  We’d already done the River Gorge trail (see blog) and continued on a little further down the road to explore the original Blackball mine site.

blackball bathhouse site from first mine

First up is the old bathhouse sitting on the roadside.  Now just the concrete shell of what was once a huge complex and stated as a requirement by the union of the day.  The information board along side tells us the story of how rewarding a hot shower was after a hard day’s work down in the mine and children were sent to the bathhouse for their weekly clean – my how things have changed!

blackball mine site and brick chimney stack

From the roadside it is deceptive as to what is hidden further in from the huge brick chimney stack towering up from the bedrock.

historic blackball mine site

blackball original mine site fan house and fan

The Blackball Coal Mine was in fact one of the West Coast’s major producers in its day so there is much history to see from the mine entrance and return airway, fan-house remnants (and this thing is huge!), remains of an old dam and drainage lines.  The mine was in operation from 1890 through to its final closure in 1964 in some form or another.

blackball kings knob hike

Leading off from the mine site there is a basic trail heading into the mountains.  Known locally as Kings Knob track, the trail follows a cutting through the hillside and heads deep into the bush.  It is amazing how quickly you are surrounded by the native bush.  There is a small creek burbling along side and the bird song is gorgeous.  Why wouldn’t they be happy in these surroundings.

blackball forest walk kings knob

Following the trail we head up the fern and tree-clad hillside – surrounded by….. yes you guessed it a symphony of greenery.  It is steep in some places – basically clambering up tree roots.

blackball views of township

It is so worth the effort though as you pop out of the trees into a clearing – complete with picnic table to take in the surrounding views of the Grey Valley and over the Blackball township.

formally the blackball hilton

We take a few minutes to soak it all in and catch our breath before carefully negotiating our way down the other side – back into town.  Time for lunch and Formerly the Blackball Hilton is calling our name.  A great place to start and finish your Blackball explorations – with a delicious venison pie and pint of their best.

Now time to find the old gold mining tunnels that go beneath the township – where did that map have them starting from…….. so much history, so little time……

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about exploring and discovering and learning the history of this wonderful region – West Coast of the Southern Alps.

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Fat Biking Rapahoe Beach, Great Coast Road

There are lots of great mountain biking opportunities on the West Coast and with the right bike that includes mile after mile of pristine beaches.

What’s that song Freddy sings “fat bottom girls you make this rock’n world go round” – well in this case it is fat bikes!  Stephen and I both have fat bikes and we love them.  We take any excuse to go for a ride on them and they are ideal for exploring the numerous West Coast beaches.

biking great coast road Greymouth

biking rapahoe beach at 8 mile

Lucky for us is that many of the accessible beaches are really close to home – one being the Rapahoe beach just a little to the south.  With a quick ride down the main highway we’re soon pedaling along the water’s edge.  From the eight mile to Rapahoe is usually stony but once across the seven mile creek it’s a flat sandy beach into the corner of Point Elizabeth.

biking along rapahoe beach

A beautiful winter’s day cries out for a fat bike ride on the beach and who are we not to oblige…….

biking rapahoe beach as Tasman Sea comes in

Sun is shining and it feels more like a summer’s day than middle of winter.  The sea almost looking inviting enough to go for a swim – I did say almost.

biking rocky outcrop rapahoe beach

There are some fun rocky outcrops to muck about on and I want to say test your skill but with the fat bike you just roll over everything….. well just about everything.  Nicely captured hubby!  Actually no human was hurt in the making of this blog – I had actually stopped already and my foot slipped out from under me and… the rock was wet with a coating of slippery sand………. it did – it was!!!!!

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring this wonderful region they are lucky enough to call home.

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Blackball – Discovering Hidden Treasures

Totally felt like we should be in an Indiana Jones movie on our latest adventure of discovery “A Lost World Uncovered”…….

misty mountains above Blackball

We had headed to Blackball – little mining town inland from Greymouth at the base of the Paparoa mountains.  There was plenty of misty clouds hanging in the mountains helping give a real sense of atmosphere for exploration into some real West Coast history.

Blackball is ripe with coal mining history and the last time we were here on a walk of discovery around the town, we came across a map showing the various walking options and swore we’d be back to explore them.

blackball forest walk

Well our return visit may have taken longer than planned but explore we did.  Starting out with the River Gorge walk.  Without any proper signage to show us the way we weren’t 100% sure we were on the right track.  Shown on the outskirts of the township behind the Community Centre and described as a steep descent down through the forest into the river bed and then a walk up the river and gorge.  Well it was certainly a steep descent.  With only a very basic track down through the trees it was also a very slow and careful descent.  There was a slight reprieve in among a sea of green.  So green it was almost glistening and I was waiting for a fairy or two to come out and show us the way.  Unfortunately no fairies were forthcoming so it was onwards and downwards again with great caution.

River gorge Blackball

The river bed is safely reached and all I can say is – WOW!  Huge boulders covered in more of those unreal greens, steep mossy banks embedded with huge moss-covered trees erupting up into the skyline, and yes green, green, green – top that off with a couple of waterfalls and we really had landed in GodZone.

river gorge relics blackball

The water was flowing quite deep down through the gorge as we tiptoed our way around the edges as far as we could.  There were mining relics slowly rusting away on the river bank.  We truly felt like we were in another world – could all this really be right here at our doorstep.  Yep!

river gorge and waterfall blackball

We couldn’t see anyway through the gorge other than swimming and again with not really knowing if we were in the right place and what was up ahead, we felt it best to head back the way we came.  It was a fun hike back up the bank – clinging onto tree roots and hauling ourselves up – good full body workout, who needs to go to the gym.

historic blackball mine site

We were parked up at the Community Centre and knew there was another hike within walking distance that would loop back to the car – the Blackball Coal Mine and Kings Knob track.  I’m going to cover it in separate blog as it is another piece of significant West Coast history and a great exploration in its own right – deserved of a bit more blogging space……..

formally blackball hilton blackball

By the time we stumble back to the car after completion of the loop track we are well and truly ready for a late lunch and you can’t come to Blackball without a stop-in at the Formally the Blackball Hilton.  With tummy bugs rumbling noisily we ordered our lunch and had a nice chat with Cynthia the publican.  She informed us that the River Gorge hike is exactly what we suspected it might be – a hike/swim/hike and best left for a return summer visit.  Lunch arrived and I’m happy to say it would have satisfied Indiana Jones himself after a morning of exploring.

Our bellies may be full now but we weren’t done with our day of exploring Blackball just yet – we had one more area we wanted to explore – the old tunnels under the town. Yes I know – tunnels under the town.  Again – doing Indiana Jones proud we ventured down the obscure trail in the back of the footy field.  With our gummies on and armed with our flashlights two intrepid explorers headed into the undergrowth.

tunnel entrance blackball

After a short scramble down through the bush and tree roots we found what we were looking for.  Hidden nicely in the bank with hanging mosses and twigs, it would have been easy to overlook if not for the little stream emanating out from the tunnel.  It was a crouch down affair to start with – an ominous looking tunnel entrance with a very watery bottom.  Shining the torch in though we could see it was worthy of a little explore, we were guessing this was the tunnel mentioned.

tunnel exit blackball

Well only after about 10 metres it opened up so we could stand and then it just kept going.  Stephen was ahead of me (with a better flashlight I might add!) and all I could hear was wow, oh wow, wow, oh wow.  Ok wait for me will you.  We probably walked for about 100 metres or so and the tunnel just kept going.  There were lots of side tunnels that had been blocked off – I guess for safety reasons ensuring no-one gets lost down here.

exploring the tunnels beneath Blackball township

I may joke about being intrepid explorers but we’re not stupid (keep your comments to yourself please) so we didn’t want to venture too far since we hadn’t left our intentions with anyone to know to raise the alarm if we didn’t return by a reasonable time.  So out we headed again – back into the light of day.

What a day of discovery – so much wonderful West Coast history surrounded by some incredibly outstanding scenery.  I don’t think I’ve seen this much diverse beauty in one small area.  I probably say that all the time – we are just so blessed with all the things the West Coast has to offer.

We’re not done with Blackball yet though.  There are water race tracks still to explore – we need to get further into that river gorge and then of course there are those tunnels to explore deeper into too.

Thinking of coming to the West Coast – slow down and allow plenty of time.  There is so much to see and do.  Trust us we live here and we’re still discovering…….

Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth.  They enjoy getting out and about and exploring this wonderful region West Coast of the Southern Alps – Untamed Wonderland.

 

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