Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962
The occasion was a recent visit to Waihi, the home of my boyhood days. "They've tar-sealed Golden Valley road," said by brother. "Would you care to take a run round in the car?"
Minutes later we leisurely cruised eastward towards the Valley, sign-posted by yellow A.A. pointers. As we passed along Barry Road we spent most of the time reminiscing, seeking out residences connected with bygone days.
Leaving the borough environs and its nostalgic memories, we emerged from between two hillocks — how small they seem now — to suddenly gaze upon the farmlands of Golden Valley. And there, in the wide spread green basin were contented dairy herds grazing by neat homesteads, fence-lined and hedged, while tall trees, both grouped and spaced out, together with substantial outbuildings added to the air of prosperity.
We threaded our way through the Valley floor, taking in the rural scene and gradually climbed towards the coastal hills. A steeply winding metalled road led us to a modern smartly-styled farm house where my brother made a call. I sat waiting in the warm sunshine, admiring the splendid view. What a change! On all sides intensely vivid plush-green rolling hill country, thickly dotted with cattle and sheep with lambs at foot. Clean, healthy looking pastures, with small shelter clumps of native bush thoughtfully left in the steeper gullies, lent a golf-links appearance. The afternoon sun lit up the whole landscape and its contours, save for the shadows of trees and barns. "Golden sunlight," I mused and wondered if this was how the Valley got its name.
My reverie was broken by my brother's return. Laughing, he said his friends had asked him — when he enthused about the place — how long it had been since he last visited it. "When the Dury family lived here," he had replied. They thought that must have been a very long time. It was. I recalled taking a photo of members of our family sitting on a hugh tree stump near the Dury farmhouse — since destroyed by fire. "That must have been over 45 years ago," I said. And my thoughts turned to "yesterday".
Two youthful cyclists sped off the gravel footpath at the end of Barry Road, on to a frost-encrusted dirt track that breasted the twin hills by the Favona Mine. The nameless valley below was a wide expense of scrub-land — the home of scrub fires. Scarcely visible in the distance, were three farms, Tierney's and Dury's to the east and Leach's nestling in a more northerly steep valley. We crossed the coarsely metalled road that led to Queen's Bridge. At speed we swerved downhill, across the bridge, and then veered off the rough dirt road on to our favourite short-cut, a horse-track through a sea of tea-tree, wild heather and high fern.
Racing, head down, an explosive warning came from my friend in front "Look out! Stop! Stop ! !" Brakes squealed as we skidded awkwardly, accompanied by a strange scraping metallic sound. Stretched across our path was a taut single strand of new fencing wire. On the still morning air we heard a thump, thumping sound, and on investigating discovered a well known Barry Road resident and miner, hard at work ramming in a fencing post. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and with a determined and almost triumphant grin, said, "I've bought this block and I'm going to run a few cows. Sorry you won't be using this track again."
Noting our looks of amazement, he said, indicating with a wave of his arm, "The county council will be cutting a roadway down this side and it will lead to Leach's farm. There'll be a new bridge going up over Tierney's Creek."
We moved on, heading for the open country at Currant Loaf Hill, and so through the sparse growth to the hills. My friend, still thinking of the fence incident remarked, "That joker must be crazy. Fancy trying to make a farm out of this. It wouldn't feed a rabbit." "He must have a stout heart," I ventured. The thaw caught up on us, mud-clogged wheels forced us to dismount and push the bikes uphill. We'd be glad of them on the homeward trek.
Finally we leaned our machines against the wide wooden wheels of an obsolete old bullock wagon, that had been abandoned in a "cutting". Continuing on foot we were greeted by a chorus of barking dogs at "Dad" Leach's gate. Dad was busy throwing a young horse, but gave us a friendly wave. Soon we were climbing a water-torn snig track and paused to adjust our packs. A blackened 7lb. treacle tin — our tea-billy — hung from my friend's pikau bag. I felt my own to reassure myself that the Box Brownie (12/6) had not been forgotten. The flute-like notes of a tui echoed across the valley, and from deep within the bush came the clanging sound of a bullock bell. "Must be retired," I thought.
Plodding on, we reached the crest, and looked towards Mayor Island (our weather guide), standing there majestically. The atmosphere was crystal clear and calm, and we listened to the surf. Below, was the magnificent panorama of the Bay of Plenty — flat distant Motiti, Face Island, Mt. Edgecombe and the Whale (Whakatane) with Mt. Maunganui showing against the back-drop of the Kaimais; Matakana with its strip of pure white sand and nearer, Bowentown heads. An arrowhead of white foamed breakers pin-pointed the bar, while the inner estuary of Katikati and Athenree reflected prominent features.
We could see half of Waihi's five-mile beach, its white surf gleaming; the rest was cut off by the ridge of hills that enclose Orakawa Bay [Orokawa - E] — that little gem in its wonderful setting of pohutukawas. Wooded hills running seaward marked the locality of Jackson's, Stick Rock, Frazer's and numerous other rugged little bays. The only cloud was a high column of vapour on the horizon marking the spot where White Island's thermal vent was working full bore. It was one of those mornings when one felt it was good to be alive, and as we silently drank in the scene I've no doubt that in our boyish way we felt nearer the Creator — and part of something greater than ourselves.
"Well," said my companion at last, "We've come to fish and it's an hour and a-half to full tide!". So we turned to the bush track passing under a bower of flowering clematis. Our destination was "Wire Rock", a dangerous spot, but a good place to fish. We neared the old Fraser homestead — or what was left of it — mostly old orchard and flowering shrubs, and as we came out on the clearing shaggy bush-run cattle turned to stare us out of sight. Then came the tang of the sea, the frustrated cry of gulls and the crash of breakers on the rocks.
Later, homeward bound, laden with our catch and pleasantly tired we climbed again to the outlook. The sun was setting beyond Karangahake, the high hills on the north-west cast a lengthening shadow across Waihi. The brownish-green scrub on the valley floor caught the last sloping rays and took on a rich russet sheen.
"Fancy trying to make a farm out of that," I mused as we surged downhill, hastening to reach home before darkness descended.