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