The Coal Mine Track near Broken River in Canterbury has been cleared over several months by members of the Over Forties Tramping Club.
Eleven months, 30 pairs of hands and near 1100 hours of hard labour.
Members of the enthusiastic Over Forties Tramping Club (OFTC) have put that amount of work to get an old Canterbury mining track reinstated as an official Department of Conservation (DOC) track.
The Coal Mine Track near Broken River on the Craigeburn Range follows the route of the railway line into the Broken River Coal mine from the site of the Avoca Railway Station. It runs on a DOC easement on a high country station.
“It was a mammoth task … probably a bit bigger than we initially realised it was going to be,” OFTC committee member Paul Knox said.
The plan to clear and reinstate it as a 9.5km tramping trail started after club member Charlie Ledbrook visited the site with a representative from DOC in August last year.
Close to 30 members of the club volunteered to help and work started in September.
Most of the work was done with hand loppers, big brush cutters and an electric lopper, Knox said.
“It was hard work during very hot and very cold weather, and sometimes rain and wind. Progress was sometimes less than 100m a day through dense gorse, matagouri, rose hip and bush lawyer.”
The work was interrupted a number of times, first by the Christmas break and then by Covid-19 and lambing season. There was no public funding for the project.
Knox said the youngest member who helped with the project was “probably about 60 years old”, with the average age of the volunteers closer to 70.
The work was finally completed by mid-August and the track will be officially opened by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage on Wednesday.
Three tramps of differing difficulty levels will also be done to celebrate the opening.
“We are all keen trampers, so to us it seemed like an opportunity to put something back into the world and especially into a little bit of forgotten Canterbury history. We think it is a great thing and a positive project to be involved in by establishing something that others can use,” said Knox.
The OFTC has agreed to maintain the track for the next five years, with the possibility of renewing the community agreement after that.
The club already has plans for possible future extension of the track. “We would like to extend the track to the mine itself, but, as yet, we haven’t explored the mine site and need to be very aware of possible dangers such as hidden mine shafts,” Knox said.