Mar 06 2019

Wairongoa Springs and North Taieri Church.

Published by under Both Hikers & Trampers

No. 33 on old hardcopy list of 113 club tramps. “Wairongoa Springs area. Farm? Lambing”

Abt 10 km from car park.

Glen Lyon, McAlwee Cottage. Wairongoa Station and Springs. Farm walk.
Seek permission. Austen Banks has no problem with us tramping on his property. Sold: 8/3/2019.
Background History of the site – from “Taieri Buildings”, by Daphne Lemon, pub. 1970.
Account by a visitor to the site in 1895!

Directions: Wairongoa Spring. Cross small concrete bridge, take 2nd gravel drive on right.
Walk around front of house and veer right up hill to gate and find track to spring.

Background information on Salisbury property

9. 6/3/2019. All. Wairongoa Springs and Glen Lyon (McAlwee’s cottage) E. Leaders: Theresa and Jill R.


Route map Church to Spring return, courtesy Ian.

Park at North Taieri church on Wairongoa Road. Church to House 6 km return. Corner of lane up the drive to house and return, via the lane 2.5 km return approx. Church to restored cottage approx 1.5 km return.
287 Wairongoa road is a private property owned by Austen and Clare Banks, but is now sold.

K.A fantailIMG_1770c

A fantail graces us with a visit and sits upon the walking stick.(Kevin pic and caption.)

C.5) Gathered around the fountain from the South Seas exhibitionc

Gathered around the fountain from the South Seas exhibition. (Clive pic and caption.)

G.3rd-- An old FerneryP1050622c

An old Fernery. (Gordon pic and caption.)

G.5th photo-- Water from the Wairongoa Springc

Water from the Wairongoa Spring. (Gordon pic and caption.)

C.8) The gas plant shed from the Thompson bottling works erac

The gas plant shed from the Thompson bottling works era. (Clive pic and caption.)

The springs as well as the whole property is coved by a QE II  covenant. This was done at the time of Major Neill and his families’ ownership. The spring continues to flow as it has always done . The water is fizzy and has a distinctive taste. What that is, is up to each person’s own palate. Most tried it, some even took it home.
The water in the past was bottled and sold in NZ and Australia. The Thomson family were the original owners. It was marketed from Dunedin under the Thomson Company label, and later Lane Thomson.The bottling shed was built in 1894. After it  became  uneconomical it was closed in 1939.
Of interest on the property is an amazing  fountain. A relic of the past grandeur, that saw garden parties and train loads of people. The fountain is reputed to have originated from the NZ and SouthSeas Exhibition  held in Dunedin. Also of note are the extensive plantings of trees and ferns. Most notable are several Kauri trees, a species not especially known to grow in the south. This is the work of the unmarried brother Alec Thomson, who lived on site and was passionate about trees.
Lunch was held at the end of the lane, then we walked back to the cars. Some elected to finish while others walked up to  Glen Lyon, an 1864 restored cottage.

P.yearning for a more simple way of lifec

Yearning for a more simple way of life. (Phil pic and caption.)

Once again  private property, owned by the McAlwees and restored and furnished by Kevan. Back in the day the housekeeper from Wairongoa Springs lived in this cottage.
57  hot trampers and hikers enjoyed a remarkable part of the Taieri history. – Theresa.

8. 13/8/2014 Hikers – and a Tramper. Wairongoa Springs. Leaders: Peter and Wendy, Les and Margaret.

We parked the cars outside the North Taieri Presbyterian Church and Peter and Wendy led us up Tirohanga and Wairongoa Roads to where Austin was awaiting us at a turn-off at, what he told us, was Mill Creek. (At this point, Wendy and Peter left us for another appointment and handed leadership over to Les and Margaret.) A bit up the farm road we stopped at “The Major’s Playpen” where Major Neil was accustomed to practise dressage on his horse. We then turned right, passing several kauri trees, much studied by experts on such things, and proceeded on to the large old bottling house. A fascinating multi-purposed building in its day. Jim recalled as a young boy its original wooden roof.



Inside the original bottling plant.

Retired builder Doug told us the thick long-lasting corrugated iron on it and gasometer building had a high proportion of lead, leading it to be easily bent to any desired shape.

Octagonal Hut

Hexagonal Hut which housed the Gasometer where the natural carbon dioxide, collected from the spring water, was used to charge the soda syphons.

where the natural carbon dioxide, collected from the spring water, was used to charge the soda syphons.


The hexagon ceiling.

Our next visit was to the South Seas Exhibition fountain. Some remarked it was a pity such a wonderful artwork had to be so hidden away from public view.

South Seas

The remarkable fountain the Thomsons had brought back to the property from the South Seas Exhibition in the 1890s and placed in the garden.

We passed the following sight on the way.

Framed house

A bush-framed house

A further remarkable sight was the following:


A much-weathered Fountain

A ‘bivvy’:

Hobbit house

A whimsically titled Hobbit House as Austin told us someone had called it.

Further along the track Austin lifted a wooded panel to reveal a piped overflow from the nearby brick-enclad well. So heavy was the iron content, Austin had to wipe it away before the soda water would run clear.

The real thing

The real thing, which Austen shared with us in thoughtfully provided pottles. Some bottled it to take home as well.

On again we went, some faster than others, to the extent that this 26-year-experienced club failed to notice a division in the track so that fatally-separated stragglers  took a wrong turn. By dint of Judy’s searching and calling, they were located on a nearby ridge and called back down to eventually join the leading party. They were courteously treated to a second description by Austin of the Fernery as it would have been in its heyday.


‘Fernery’ ruins.

From here we climbed to reach a much better and wider track that led us on to Austin’s house.


A final address by Austin at his house outside which we lunched.

A cold wind that had us all wrapped up when we left the cars had abated for most the time at Wairongoa and was blowing only lightly as we lunched on the lawn slope in front of the house.

A leisurely lunch, a thank-you speech by the President to Austin for his generous escorting of us around his remarkable property, and we were down his drive to reach the end of Wairongoa Road. An option Peter and Wendy had offered us to at this point to  to return via School Road was

8. 2/7/2008. Hikers. Waironga Springs, and North Taieri church. Leaders: Arthur & Barbara. Directions: Waironga Spring. Cross small concrete bridge, take 2nd gravel drive on right.
Walk around front of house and veer right up hill to gate and find track to spring.

A very large gathering assembled in the paddock close to Austin Bank’s property at Wairongoa Springs at North Taieri.There were so many cars approaching along the road it looked like a funeral procession. Austin and his exuberant chocolate labrador welcomed us to his property and gave us an outline of his plans for the day.

Austin explains

Austin explains

We ambled our way through his garden and into a forest that was 100 years old. The main trees in this area were larches, many of which were starting to rot at the base and in danger of falling over. The area is under a conservation covenant so the trees can be dealt with only when they have fallen. We stopped at a delightful crossroads in the woods where some seats would be wonderful resting spots in the summer.
The next part of the forest was quite different and predominantly manuka with very little ground cover, unlike the previous part where the ground was covered in stag horn ferns.
The next contrast was the beech forest area where very large trees dominated the slope up and over the stream. Austin loved to come here in the early morning and watch the sunrise. century. Deep in the bush we came upon the natural spring. A tower has been erected to enclose the spring

Enlarged tower

Brick tower, closed in to prevent anyone falling into the spring and drowning.

and many of us partook of the waters from a pipe emerging just outside it.

They were slightly aerated and often called soda water. The whole property is steeped in history from the late 19th and early 20th.The house was built by the Thomson family who established a business here using the local natural resource of the spring which produces large quantities of aerated water every day. This was the highlight of our ramble .

Further on we came to an amazing fountain that the Thomsons had bought back to the property from the South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin in the 1890s and placed in the gardens,

Enlarged fountain

Enlarged fountain

The Amazing Fountain

The Amazing Fountain

where many visitors used to visit for picnics. Ponies and cart horses were bred and used for transporting the bottled water and the original cottage that the horse trainer lived in is still there.
Finally we came to to the original bottling plant and gas works. The buildings are in a very good state of repair and the original corrugated iron is still in place.

The building had an interesting history with the workers staying in this building during the week and being used by the operatic society at the weekends. Many of the original chalk signatures are still there on the wooden boards.

Enlarged chalk on wall

The chalk signatures on the wall

This is where we had morning tea, sitting on the hay bales.
We continued our walk around the rest of the grounds and came to the giant shed (that Priscilla Neil called the Major’s playpen)

The Major's Playpen

The Major’s Playpen

where Major Neil trained his horses. A fascinating insight was gained into the early history of some of the well known families in the North Taieri area.
It was then onto the North Taieri Church. Several cars did not arrive at the church so Austin returned, suspecting that they had got stuck in the mud and this had certainly turned out to be the case. The Es had been unable to get their car out of the mud.
Once rescued we walked up to the beautifully restored stone cottage in the valley at the back of the church.

The beautifully restored cottage

The restored stone cottage

This is where we had our lunch thoroughly admiring the handiwork of the restorers and being so grateful to the family who had “rescued” the cottage and been prepared to invest so much time and money in it. The link to Waironga springs was that the daughter of the lady who had lived in the cottage had worked for the Thomsons as their housekeeper. Tash
A big thank you to Austin for his time and interest but also to our leaders, Arthur and Barbara who did such a good job. – Tash

7. 19/7/2006. Hikers. Wairongoa Springs. Easy. Leaders: Joyce, Eleanor B, Nancy.

6. 22/8/2001. Alt. Wairongoa Springs. Leaders: Lance and Lois, Eleanor.

5. 28/10/1998. Salisbury from Wairongoa Springs. Leaders: Margaret S, Bev McI

4. 3/7/1996. Wairongoa Springs Salisbury. Average/Easy. Leaders: Frank, Lesley S, Shirley R.
3. 28/6/1995. Salisbury, Bowbyes, Waiarongoa, Hamiltons. Leaders: George, Johanna H, Rosemary and Jack.
2. 12/10/1994 Wairongoa, Salisbury, Bowbyes property. Medium Leaders: George, Chris, Joan H, v Heyden
1. 20/6/1990 Wairongoa Springs. Interesting history. Leaders: Doreen, Diana B, Norman, Hartmann8/6/1989 Wairongoa Springs. Bring bottles for mineral water. Interesting history. Leaders: Molly, June, Peg

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Wairongoa Springs and North Taieri Church.”

  1.   Mary Shoreson 10 Mar 2010 at 6:32 am

    I have enjoyed reading of your adventure to Wairongoa Springs. I visited the spring when my great uncle, Alec Thomson (correct spelling) was still alive and a resident of the property. My grandfather, George Thomson, ran the company until his early death (around 1948) and was an avid breeder of Clydesdale horses.

    I was priviledged to enjoy a drink from a bottle of raspberry flavoured Thomson’s Purity which Uncle Alec had kept for such an occasion. The bottle must have been at least 40 years old but had retained its flavour (and fizz).

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Kind regards,
    Mary Shores

  2.   Tash Hurston 11 Mar 2010 at 10:27 am

    Glad you enjoyed reading about our Tramping Club visit to Wairongoa Springs. I am very envious of your connections with such a fascinating place with so much history. We became totally engrossed in just the short time we had there. It seems to weave a magic around itself. I find the same feeling quite often happens in England when visiting historic properties, but rarely happens in NZ where the history is more recent.The location of the fountain reminded me in a minor way of “The Lost Gardens Of Heligan” in Cornwall. The thought of the picnic parties coming from Dunedin and enjoying themselves by the fountain is such a contrast to its quiet solitude now.

  3.   Teresaon 07 Jul 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Hello Mary and Tash

    wonderful to read your accounts and relationships with the property.
    Michael and I live at the cottage – our favourite place in this world.
    I agree that the feelings it evokes are of England – indeed when we first visited it was exactly that which attracted us. History – we are both from England and valued the history and impact this has on our lives – and so to be here is amazing.
    Austin is a fabulous neighbour and wonderful ambassador for the springs – we are always keen to have visitors that respect it as a home as well as a historic property and so your visits are always welcome.
    As for the clydesdales – clydie cross is the closest we get and he loves it!

  4.   jamieon 17 Aug 2011 at 3:42 pm

    me and my perants lived there for five years the arena always floods

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