The Belgrove to Norris Gully section of Tasman’s Great Taste Trail features the historic Spooners Railway Tunnel, which was once used on the Nelson-Glenhope Railway. The 1.35 km-long tunnel was completed in 1893 and was open up until 1955, when the railway was decommissioned. The tunnel lay mostly unused for 60 years until it was re-opened in 2016 to become part of the Great Taste Trail. The tunnel is the focal-point of this section, which extends from Quail Valley Road in Belgrove to Norris Gully Reserve.
The Great Taste Trail between Belgrove and Spooners Tunnel is a stand-alone section at present. South of Wakefield the trail follows 88 Valley Road and rejoins State Highway 6 via Quail Valley Road. This is not the intended final alignment and as it is on-road it may not be suitable for all users.
|Length: 10.2 km one way||Time Required: 30 min-1 hr by bike; 1 hr 30 min on foot|
|Trail Type: Unsealed pathway||Physical Difficulty: Easy|
|Uses: Walking, running and MTB||Primary Direction: Either|
Belgrove is located 22 km southwest of Richmond along State Highway 6. The best starting place is the car park next to The Belgrove Tavern on State Highway 6, where there is free parking. The trail passes directly past here.
The southern tunnel portal is located just off State Highway 6 on the southern side of Spooners Saddle. Turn left onto Spooners Bush Road at the bottom of the downhill straight after the saddle. This is the best place to get picked up from if you are doing the trail one way.
Beginning at Belgrove Tavern, the trail follows the northbound lane of State Highway 6 for a few hundred metres before crossing to the other side. Take great care at this crossing as the highway is a 100 kmph zone. The trail continues alongside the southbound lane, crossing Wai-iti Valley Road (the main road to Nelson Lakes) and joins the former rail alignment at Tunnel Road.
Tunnel Road deviates from the highway and heads up Railway Gully. The road has a very gentle uphill gradient as it heads up the gully. The northern tunnel portal is reached 4.5 km up Tunnel Road.
The tunnel slopes upward from north to south. There is no lighting so you will need a torch or headlight to see where you’re going. The temperature in the tunnel can also be much cooler than outside, so pack an extra layer. The tunnel can be drafty as the cool air drains toward the northern end.
At the southern portal the trail continues to State Highway 6, crosses it (be very careful), and ends at Norris Gully Reserve. The remaining distance between here and Kohatu is currently at concept stage.
The Nelson Railway…to Nowhere –
The Prow article
Nelson Section – Wikipedia article