Sunday 6 March 2022
The best part of our trip to Mount Alexander was meeting Andy Fox of Foxdown farm. The genial Andy not only gave us permission to access his farm—not so easily obtained nowadays—he also provided a route map and gave us a potted history of what was once his great grandfather's land.
Charles Dillworth Fox established Foxdown in 1877 as a sheep and beef farm. The farm, which ranges across 2000 hectares of erosion-prone Waipara hill country, was originally part of the much larger Glenmark Station.
Our group of eight had a head-start to our 748m high-point because we began our walk 200 metres above sea level. We followed an easy up and down 4WD track, which begins and ends in a pine plantation near the farm buildings and car park.
We passed many empty paddocks, which, on Andy's map, have colourful names: Wags, Adam's Camp, Shark's Tooth, and Old Dip. The walk meanders gradually uphill and is mostly through tussock and matagouri with remnants of prickly shield and other ferns. The forecast temperature of 28°C was easily reached by late morning. However, the wind was worse than the heat and played havoc with our hats.
The Culverden Valley started to open up near our halfway mark; from our wilderness perspective it looked immaculate. Beyond the valley lies the Inland Kaikouras and the vast sweep of Pegasus Bay. Stopping often to enjoy the views, one gets a sense of our place in the world.
Just past Foxdown Hut, built for self-catering holidays, the road forks unexpectedly. After a brief conflab, we decided to follow the higher road, which took us almost to the summit. 748m Mt Alexander is approached along a fence that isn't worth the name. We ditched our packs beside it and Graeme helped us across. The communications tower and buildings around the summit are large and unsightly. The wind made standing difficult and Neil, an airline pilot, gave a comic demonstration on how to take off. We clung to the trig point long enough for a few photos, before enjoying lunch in the lee of the hill.
The return journey was not all downhill, but by this time we've got our second wind. We were disappointed not to see the Foxdown falcons (karearea). However, Kathy and others found mushrooms the size of dinner plates. Kathy reckons the old ones have more flavour, but they're all good sauteed with garlic and butter.
We began walking about 10.15am and finished at 4.30pm—too early for Waikari's End of the Line Cafe on the drive there, and too late for Fossil Point Café, Greta Valley (Andy's recommendation) on the way back, we vowed to plan it better next time. We happily donated $5 each to the local church restoration fund.
On the trip were: Graeme Nicholas (trip leader), Lissa Toscano, Dan Pryce, Di Mellish, Kathy and Neil Ramsay, Sha and Hilaire Campbell. (HC)
Five of our team of seven