Wellington Independent 3 November 1866
A TRAMP THROUGH THE HUTT,
Your correspondent having a roving commission, has commenced a ramble up the Hutt and Wairarapa, and intends now to offer to your readers a few notes jotted down during a walk through a district, towards which, the attention of the settlers of the province has been drawn by unpleasant rumors, which, if well founded, cannot but have the most disastrous effects on the prosperity of what has hitherto been a most flourishing settlement.
A more lovely morning than that on which I started from the Empire City can scarcely be imagined. The sun was shining brightly, light clouds were lazily floating across the heavens, and a gentle breeze was blowing, just sufficiently to prevent the heat from being oppressive.
Passing by Kai Warra Warra, Ngahaurauga is quickly reached, and a few miles further on the Hutt – that garden of Wellington. Here a glass of sparkling cool ale at the old house (Whitewood”s), and a pleasant chat with its cheery proprietor, made me feel that I had just begun to get into walking trim. The Hutt reminds one of many an English country village, before the ruthless days of steam and “alarming sacrifices” There is an air of quiet, homely comfort and prosperity about it, perfectly refreshing. No bustling is to be seen in the streets – street, I should have said the noisiest thing in the neighborhood being the bubbling river, and it seemed this day infected with the almost solemn stillness round.” Three or four times a day, the peaceful Huttites allow themselves to be roused into something remotely approaching to excitement, when the coaches arrive and depart. Then may be seen mine Host at Whitewood”s, standing before his door, with a pleasant word and a genial smile for the passengers, as he “welcomes the coming, speeds the parting guest;” and the honest shopkeepers looking out, and perchance, calculating on the increase of business about to flow to them. A little higher up the road is Mr. Valentine”s new hotel, which is one of the finest in the province.
After a walk about the town, and a cosy tea with mine Host of Whitewood”s, I passed the night there. In the morning, I started on to Mungaroa, where a steady downpour of rain, which has now lasted, without intermission, for thirty-six hours, kept me a guest of Widow Collins but I could not desire a better retreat during that proverbial time of misery – a wet Sunday in the country.
I started from the Lower Hutt, or as it is called, the Bridge, on Saturday morning. The clouds were lowering, and the prospect of a wet jacket was not very cheering, but the rain held off. I passed through the Taita, where I was sorry to learn that illness is fearfully prevalent, and that some deaths had only within a few hours previously occurred from Diptheria. In this district I first met with many signs of warlike preparations; there I saw several volunteers carrying rifles and accoutrements, proceeding to drill. The volunteers, I learnt, of this district number about fifty men, and from the specimens which I saw, will doubtless give a good account of themselves, should they be called out for active service. The company some time ago numbered seventy men, but a few have retired, having served their term; others have withdrawn, I was told, not liking the new regulations. Should they be required though, the full strength, under the old roll would be sure to turn out, as Englishmen always may be trusted to do. A traveller coming up here, and being asked what were the principal products of the country, would unhesitantly reply Churches and Public Houses – a curious mixture – and might indulge in a hope that the good precepts taught in the one, would counteract the evils which otherwise might be caused by the other. Certainly the number of hotels, public houses, and accommodation houses is extraordinary, there being between Mungaroa and Wellington, a distance of twenty-five miles, no less than twelve; and it speaks volumes in favor of the way in which these are conducted, and for the sobriety of the settlers, that the whole way up I have not seen one person in the slightest degree intoxicated. After leaving the Taita, the Upper Hutt is the next township readied. The most conspicuous building here, which I noticed, is a saw mill the largest and most substantially built erection for the purpose which I have seen in this province. It is 240 feet long, and fifty feet wide, and built entirely of corrugated iron. It belongs to Messrs. Harris and Sons, who are making extensive alterations and improvements. When these are completed, the mill will be capable of turning out 30,000 feet of sawn timber a week and will contain three complete circular saw benches, one upright saw pit, a travelling bench sixty feet long, and a turning department. The whole is driven by a thirty horse power horizontal steam engine, the fly wheel of which is sixteen feet in circumference. A more complete mill I do not think there will be in the colony, than Messrs. Harris and Sons will possess when all the improvements in progress are finished.
Leaving this mill on the left, I passed several well stocked stores, at which boots, butter, crinolines, mantles, leaves, bacon, needles, and in fact almost every requisite could be obtained, and reached the “Highland Home,” an excellent specimen of a roadside inn, kept by Host Wilkin, who with a small degree of pardonable pride showed me over his house with its seventeen rooms, including one of the most comfortable sitting rooms which I have seen out of Wellington, and the Lodge Room of the Rose of Sharon Lodge of the Ancient Order of Odd Fellows” which Lodge I was told numbered fifty members.
Leaving this house behind me, I proceeded up the road, which winds along beside the Hutt River, now on a level with the bubbling water, now cut some distance up the hill side, down which an almost perpendicular bank – you can see the river flowing along. An easy walk of about a mile brought me to Host Brown”s Criterion. Here I was sorry to see that Mr. Brown is still suffering from the effects of his accident at the Hutt races last March, though he is now, I hope, in a fair way to a permanent recovery. From this, the best house I have yet met this side of the Lower Hutt, a pleasant walk of six miles through the clearing along a good road by the dusky twilight, brought me to Mungaroa. If anyone wants to understand how Gray felt when writing his elegy, let him come along that walk at eventide. A better description of that walk I cannot give than by using the following words:-
The lowing herd wind slowly o”er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
The “glimmering landscape” was fading from the sight, all around bore a solemn stillness, broken only by the tinkling bell which told of the herds slow wanderings, the murmering of the neighboring stream, and the occasional screech of the wood hens in the bush. Just before reaching Mrs. Collins Mungaroa Inn, I passed over a bridge thrown across the Mungaroa river, a little above where it falls into the Hutt river. The view up and down the stream is the prettiest I have seen for a long time. Millais would rejoice to paint it. Above, the stream rushing down a narrow gorge, over boulders and rocks, forms a thousand sparkling white cascades, the sides of the gorge being a mass of luxuriant vegetation, presenting a great contrast with the waters beneath. Below the bridge the scene is changed. The gorge widens and the river runs smoothly on, scarcely a ripple agitating its calm surface.
Further than Mungaroa, I have been been unable to reach, in consequence of the heavy and incessant rain. The land on each side of the road is flooded, the rivers have risen several feet, and I fear that the mails from up the road will be stopped. So far up, I have been pleased with the appearance of the country. The fields look green and fertile, while evidences are not wanting, in the shape of new houses built and fencing done, of a state of gradual but steady advancement.