A walk to Lawrence HutBy Grandpamac
- 15th Apr, 2020 Apr 15, 2020, 10:09 AM
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Many Saturday nights ago, before we had the Internet, cell phones or even pocket calculators for that matter, one of my first independant trips to the Kaweka’s was to Lawrence Hut, some time about 1967.
My cobber Murray and I headed up the Taihape Road, which at that time was mostly gravel with generous servings of corrugations. There was a small plantation of young pine trees just past the old forest HQ but after that it was just Manuka with clay pans and the odd patch of Beech.
From Blowhard Bush a new clay road ran north east for about a km or two before it reverted to a track. We parked the Morris Minor at the end of the road and headed down the track. A short time later we arrived at the derelict Black Whare.
There is very little information about the Black Whare. Lester Masters describes the Black Whare as being constructed as a wild pig and dog hunters and shepherds hut in the pioneering days on Mangawhare Station. At this time the area was farmed right back to the crest of the Kaweka Range.
At another point in his book Lester talks of pit sawyers having constructed a pit sawn hut in the area. From Lester’s narrative this was likely in the 1890’s. Lester also called the hut Happy Valley Hut, the name used when Lester was shearing on the station around 1920.
The hut that Murray and I visited was constructed with sawn timber and weatherboard cladding so was probably this later hut. We may never know if there was an earlier hut.
“Lester Masters describes the Black Whare as being constructed as a wild pig and dog hunters and shepherds hut in the pioneering days on Mangawhare Station.”
Recently I had a bit of a hunt for the remains of the Black Whare but without success. You could still see the hut, quite close to Lawrence Road, amongst the pine trees in their first rotation. It is most likely located quite near Black Whare Road, probably under some undergrowth and likely squashed flat.
The name Black Whare is used by some. All the maps I have seen show Black Whare but due to the name change above we may never know what it was called originally.
From the Whare the track headed down to the Happy Valley Creek up over the shoulder of Boar Hill (called Mount Buster by some) and followed the spur down to Lawrence Hut. The track was on the spur opposite the current road and quite steep toward the bottom.
Lawrence Memorial Hut was built in 1955 by Morrie Robson assisted by his wife Coral. It was built as a memorial to Reg Lawrence, a local Forest Ranger. Built with a concrete floor, bush frame and Malthoid cladding, it was situated right next to the spur at the downstream end of the clearing.
Murray and I arrived when it was about 12 years old and other than a corrugated iron roof looked pretty much the same as the picture above. I remember thinking that the log cabin was a woodshed. Clearly it was a dog kennel.
I stayed at Lawrence Hut from time to time over the years. It was a comfortable hut, although often shared with rats and mice. The hut is long gone together with the Lawrence Shelter built to replace it, both burnt down if memory serves. Only the toilet remains.
HISTORY OF THE LAND
While those with rather less miles on the clock than I will only have seen this area covered in pine trees, 50 years ago it was quite different. The land on which both huts stood was part of Mangawhare Station which had been farmed, after a fashion, since 1861 when Samuel Begg acquired the lease of 8,750 hectares.
Changes of owner and acquisitions followed until 1874 when Mangawhare Station reached 35,150 hectares or a bit over half the size of the Kaweka Forest Park. This included most of the eastern face of the Kaweka Range. 1870 to 1900 was a warm erosion climate period known as the Tamaki Period, a bit like an El Nino but longer and more extreme.
“Changes of owner and acquisitions followed until 1874 when Mangawhare Station reached 35,150 hectares or a bit over half the size of the Kaweka Forest Park.”
This together with burning by the farmers and unsuitable land to start with, resulted in most of the land reverting to scrub by 1930. Starting in 1947 about 15,000 hectares was acquired by the crown.
Planting of pine forests commenced about 1964 and today the majority of Mangawhare Station is either part of the Kaweka SFP or planted in pines.
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