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February 2011 Issue
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A worthwhile workout in the north

View from the Mangawhai Walkway
Mangawhai Clifftop Walk, 2.5hr return from Mangawhai Surf Club; half to low- tide beach return; Mangawhai/Brynderwyn farm link 1hr return; Mangawhai Surf Club to Brynderwyn 297m trig via new farm link: 6hr return.
From the Surf Club at the end of Wintle Street, Mangawhai Heads
Mangawhai/Brynderwyn Link, Northland

Existing trails throughout New Zealand are currently being linked to form the long pathway of Te Araroa. These stand-alone trails are not to be underestimated and awareness of their existence has been heightened by the focus on the formation of Te Araroa.

Careful negotiation skills and astuteness have played a big part in securing passage through a particularly awkward area in the north, linking two portions of previously established paths, the Mangawhai and Brynderwyn Walkways, by establishing a track over 3km of private land.

The Brynderwyn Link crosses a working farm and a ‘no dogs’ sign means just that. It’s a small concession to pay. The landowners on this portion have invested deeply in the project, including improvement by extensive native tree plantings in the area.

Extraordinary views are a feature of this Mangawhai/Brynderwyn portion of Te Araroa. It makes for a good day’s workout, but can be walked in portions. A good starting place is the Mangawhai Surf Club. From here, a brief walk north along the pristine white sand of this beautiful surf beach leads to a wooden stairway which rises over farmland to the cliff-top portion, high above the bay.

Views back along the beach, down to the rocky shoreline far below, or beyond to Little Barrier and Mokohinau Islands are breathtaking, even when interrupted by fronds of nikau and branches of ancient totara trees. Crystal calls of tui ringing out above the gentle sounds of the sea far below, add further dimension to the delight of this walk.

The track leads on along the cliff-top, before dropping down a grand stairway to a small rocky cove. Provided the tide is half way out, a return along the rocky/sandy shoreline secures a varied return to the surf club.

But to take advantage of the new 3km link to Waipu Cove Road and on to the subsequent Brynderwyn Walkway, watch out for the orange DOC indicators where the Mangawhai Walkway runs parallel to a farm road, about 45-minutes from the surf club.

Stunning views of totara forest to your left disappear as a brief dip leads between young kauri trees before rising to cross rolling paddocks, restoring  the totara forest views in addition to opening out huge coastal views towards Bream Bay. The trail picks up a four-wheel drive farm track which in half an hour or so delivers you to Waipu Cove Road.

Crossing the road will have you at the start of the Brynderwyn Walkway. Orange DOC markers lead through a paddock and up the hill to the left, to a stile. Once over the stile, the track meanders through tall kanuka, cool and pretty on a hot Northland day, past a stony stream then up, up, up a steep teatree-covered ridge. This is the most challenging part of the day’s walk, yet once at the top and over a stile, views towards Mangawhai and The Hen and Chicken Islands from the grassy plateau are worth the effort.

A cell phone tower spotted half an hour earlier from the road entrance is now close by to the right. Following a four -wheel drive track leading right, round a bend, skirting round gullies and past regenerating bush and steeply over a spur, a trig will be spotted along the ridge. An hour or so from the road will have you at the 297m trig where magnificent views out towards Whangarei and Bream Bay add to the realisation that it may not be Milford Sound, but views in the north can be just as breathtaking!

Admittedly there is some more work to be done on this section of the Te Araroa Trail,  but it is designated a tramping track, with some rough and muddy parts, making it all the more interesting. A turn around at the trig, returning all the way back to Mangawhai Surf Club will make a 6hr walk, with shorter options available.

– Fiona Cameron