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October 2012 Issue
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Old cobber

Lynette on the Cobb
Turn off SH60 at Upper Takaka. Drive 35km past the power station to Cobb Reservoir. Car park is about 500m before Trilobite Hut
Myttons Hut, Kahurangi National Park

A full moon climbed over Cobb Ridge, illuminating the reservoir below. It was a windless autumn night; the darkened hillside of thick beech was now floodlit beneath a canopy of glittering stars.

Inside Myttons Hut, my wife Lynette was snuggled into her bag, reading. The dying embers of a flickering fire had warmed the cosy cottage. A solitary candle burned on the sill of the picture window. I sipped a second cup of tea, happy to have found this old timer. Fifty years on, it still provided shelter for wayfarers between the Mt Arthur Tablelands and Cobb Valley.

From his farm on the Motueka River, my great, great grandfather, John Park Salisbury, drove some 1000 sheep up the Graham Valley, over Balloon Hill, and into the lower Cobb Valley. The four-bunk shelter was originally built in 1883 from pit-sawn red beech by my forefathers as a musterer’s hut. It became known as Myttons Hut when Hugh Mytton took over the lease from the Salisburys in about 1920. During the period from 1935-1954, the Cobb Valley was dammed, and the government stopped all farming ventures.

In January 1958, George Lord built the latest version of Myttons Hut. He obtained timber from the dam site, cut it to length, and brought it on an NZFS clinker hull boat up the lake. He and his men carried the wood, cement and sand up to the present site, at an altitude of 910m.

Since 1994, the Department of Conversation stopped maintenance of the dwelling, so a group of four local hunters formed ‘Friends of Mytton Hut’ and have taken over as caretakers. Brian Barton and his colleagues were deer stalkers during the mid-1970s. In 2009 they upgraded the structure to comply with DOC’s building codes for backcountry huts, and gave the old cobber a fresh coat of paint.

Day excursions from this hut include walking along Cobb Ridge for a couple of hours to the reservoir lookout, or a visit to Lake Peel, en route to Balloon Hut (3hr), or further on to Salisbury Lodge (4.5hr) on the legendary Mt Arthur Tablelands.

We had sojourned here in search of solace, in preference to sharing Trilobite Hut with the crowds of Good Friday trampers. It was only 15 minutes climb from the valley floor, but we felt we were hours away, lost in a time warp. I was glad my grandfathers had left this legacy.