A Wander to Wharfedale – Wharfedale Hut

“A Mish a Day” #205 Wharfedale Hut. Oxford Forest Conservation Area. 26.9.2017. Just before Ashley Gorge in the foothills of Canterbury is a fairly unassuming road climbing its way up out of the Canterbury Plains, and into the hidden gem that is the Lees Valley. There are many hiking opportunities to be had in the surprisingly large valley and, of these, the track up the Townshend River Valley into Oxford Forest Conservation Area is most popular…

A mix of a late start and heavy rain led to staying the first night of the mish in a very comfy cabin at the Ashley Gorge Camping Ground, while the rain pounded the cabin’s tin roof all night. Having been to the area before to climb up to Black Hill Hut, my first plan was to travel to the western side of Lees Valley to head up the Upper Ashley River on the Youngman Stream Track. Reports of track washouts from previous storms, mixed with the rain from the night before, meant the plan had to be altered, and a new plan was hatched to head to Wharfedale Hut. Wharfedale Hut is located at the base of Mt Oxford(1340m), and is popular in summer due to its easy access from multiple directions. Summer was still some time off yet, so I was hoping for an empty hut when I set off from the small road side car park in the Lees Valley. The track over Mount Pember Station was very muddy from the rain the night before, and the local cows had done an excellent job bogging up the paddock that needs to be crossed to get to the Townshend River. Once at the river the amount of rain that had fallen overnight was made obvious by the dark brown rushing waters, and there was no way to cross until the bridge at the top of the valley. This meant taking the flood detour track at the appropriately named Storm Creek, and this track proved to be trickier than first thought. After climbing high above the valley it really seemed like I was in the wrong place, so I back tracked to the creek, and after a search I found the track through the forest and was able to continue up the valley. The wild weather during the week before had left its mark on the area in the form of tree falls in the upper valley, which made for interesting clambering through the remains of some once mighty beech trees, now leveled by the heavy snow and high winds. Not only was the hut empty, but it was in immaculate condition. The night was spent collecting wood while dodging showers, and at one stage the rain turned to light snow. The clouds cleared on dusk, and through a gap in the trees I could see an orangie pink sky, as the sun dropped behind Black Hill(1335m).

An early-ish start was needed the next day as the rain was forecast to return in the afternoon, and I had had enough wet weather for now. The return trip was made quicker by being able to stick to the valley floor, and cross then re-cross the now calm and clear Townshend River. For a plan B Wharfedale Hut was excellent, and the cozy confines of the brilliant hut make the wander through the Oxford Forest well worth the effort.

Sunset at Wharfedale Hut

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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