Sunday, 23 August 2015

Morning Glory Spillway & Cambrian

Ten kilometres east of St Bathans is the Falls Dam, a rock-fill dam that was built in 1934 (another Depression era irrigation scheme) by damming the Manuherikia River at the top of a narrow gorge, the river’s headwaters start high up in the snow covered Hawkdun & St Bathans Ranges and flow through the Manuherikia Valley before its confluence with the mighty Clutha River at ‘the bend’ in Alexandra.

We turn off the road and head up a gravel track alongside the river for 5-6 kms…. 

…entering the bottom end of the dammed gorge. We pass four old chimneys on the banks of the gorge not too far from the dam wall. We check them out and decide that there were two identical houses on the site at some time in the past, possibly construction workers houses. Looking over the edge of the narrow track on our way down to the dam wall we can see a tiny power house tucked in under the wall.

But what makes this dam more interesting than most is it’s unique spillway, this is a morning glory spillway. I am assuming it’s name comes from the morning glory flower that looks very similar, the flower’s white veins mirrored in the fins of the spillway. Unfortunately there was no spill happening, I guess we’d have to come back when the spring snow melt happens to see water pouring over the edge and down the hole.

There was locked gate with a “No Entry” sign which would have been easy to climb, but frankly deep dark holes like that scare the bejesus out of me so I quite happily stayed on the right side of the fence. Unlike a family who arrived not long after us, they climbed the gate, walked to the edge and peered in. And I’ve seen photos of people standing on the concrete leaning over the railing right on the edge of the hole. No thank you!

On our way back to camp, we stopped at the top of the hill overlooking the St Bathans settlement, the snow covered Mt St Bathans and the Blue Lake, on this day looking very grey and uninviting.

We had a few hours left in the day so we carried on past the Domain Campground and down the road to check out one more tiny village before we headed off to Ranfurly. You might remember in my St Bathans post I mentioned the rivalry known locally as “The War of the Roses”, between the Irish settlers (Catholic) at St Bathans and the Welsh settlers (Protestant) here at Cambrian.

Known as Welshmans Gully during the 1860s Otago gold rush, it was later renamed Cambrian, the Latin name for Wales. It would seem that some call it Cambrians and others Cambrian, I couldn’t find out which is correct or if in fact both are OK to use, as the old wooden school, built in 1873, was closed. History and information boards on the settlement are displayed inside.

Cambrian is now a tiny creative community, sculptures and other artistic works of art are dotted along the short main street (the only street). And not too many people know, but Cambrian is also the home of Graham Sydney, the well known NZ artist who made the Maniototo famous with his paintings of the vast dry plains, tiny abandoned buildings & the surrounding mountains and ranges.

The locals love their old homes and especially the restored mud-bricked cottages. There are a few newer homes and cribs(holiday cottages) and some still to restore.

I thought the sign on the gate of this cottage said ‘Beware of the Dog’ and I was thinking that’s a bit weird there are no fences to keep it in. Until I moved closer to see that it said ‘Beware of a Hug!’

A lovely rest area has been developed at Cambrian Common Forest. There are dozens of trees, including Redwoods which will be here for many years, a sign encourages visitors to wander amongst the  snowdrops and emerging bluebells.

I found this lovely cottage which I’d be happy to live in, it's my kind of house. I’m not so sure I’d like to live in Cambrian though. It’s a sleepy little settlement off the beaten track at the base of the Dunstan Mountains where I’m pretty sure the winters would be fierce.

There’s a stone cairn at the entrance to the village, commemorating 150 years settlement of the area and the original cemetery beside it, with just the one enclosed gravesite and an old marker post all that is left.

We had one last stop on the way home so I could take a photo of this very old and unusual shaped woolshed.

And then back to the Domain to see if the next day brought better weather…I don’t think so.

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