Marsden Valley and Barnicoat Range

Marsden Valley and Barnicoat Range

 

Barnicoat Range forms the impressive backdrop behind Stoke and Richmond, rising steeply to more than 500 m elevation for most of its length. It is a popular recreational area given its challenging topography, mix of native bush and pine forest, and ease of access from the city. There are a range of tracks to suit most abilities, some of which connect to other trail areas (Dun Mountain Trail and Richmond Hills) creating opportunity for longer and more varied routes.


 Trails

Barnicoat Walkway – Walking track to the top of Barnicoat Range. Glider Road – Forestry road to the top of Barnicoat Range.
Old Weir Track – Walking track to the historic Ngawhatu Hospital water supply weir. Scout Track – Walking track to the top of Barnicoat Range.
Widdershins – MTB single track along the top of Barnicoat Range. Involution – MTB single track descending from the top of Barnicoat Range.
Jenkins Hill Road – 4WD road connecting Glider Road to Jenkins Hill and beyond. Barnicoat Road (Barnicoat Range) – 4WD road along the top of Barnicoat Range connecting Glider Road to Richmond Hill.
Roding Road – 4WD road connecting Barnicoat Range with Roding Valley and Aniseed Valley

 

 Access

The primary access point is Marsden Valley Road, at the end of which there is a small car park and plenty of roadside parking (see Access tab above). There is an operational quarry at the end of the road, so be wary of the trucks that head to and from it. All walking and MTB trails are on public land (Marsden Valley Conservation Reserve). There is a locked gate at the bottom of Glider Road preventing vehicle access, though permission can be obtained from Nelson City Council.

Dun Mountain Trail can be reached at Third House by following the road alongside the Brook-Waimarama Sanctuary fence from the top of Jenkins Hill. Heading south on Barnicoat Range Road along the top of the range will take you to Richmond Hill and the upper tracks of Silvan and Kingsland Forests. You can also access to the top of the range from Aniseed Valley via Roding Road, which is 5 km further up the valley from Hacket car park.

 

 Background

Barnicoat Range is named after James Wallis Barnicoat (1814-1905), an early Nelson surveyor. Marsden Valley is named after the Marsden family, who established a farm in the valley in the 19th century. It was originally known as Poorman Valley, due to the lower class immigrants who settled on cheap land there in the 1840s. Only the stream that flows through the valley has retained this name.

Most of the western side of the range between Stoke and Richmond is used for plantation forestry, though a large part of Jenkins Hill and upper Marsden Valley remains original native bush, comprised of broadleaf podocarp in the lower half of the valley and beech toward the top of the range. The latter is protected within the Marsden Valley Conservation Reserve, whilst the beech forest on the eastern side of Jenkins Hill is protected by the Roding Water Reserve.

Biodiversity and conservation have been a focal point in Marsden Valley for several decades. Beyond the road end, the valley floor alongside Poorman Stream has been planted with native trees by primary school students since the 1980s. Since 2007 the area has been the site of a predator trapping programme by Marsden Valley Trapping Group. The predator control area includes the whole upper Marsden Valley, which borders Brook-Waimarama Sanctuary, as well as a few pockets in neighbouring valleys. The comprehensive map of the pest control areas can be viewed here. Trapping efforts have seen a noticeable increase in the presence of bird species such as kererū, weka, fantail and grey warbler. There have even been reported South Island Kōkako encounters near the top of the range, around the intersection of Involution and Jenkins Hill Road. Experts have identified probable sign of their presence, though their characteristic elusiveness means there is no concrete evidence to confirm the possibility that there is indeed a small local population surviving somewhere in the depths of the bush.

An interesting piece of history in the valley is the weir that used to supply Ngawhatu Hospital with water, which can be found at the end of the Old Weir Track. Another feature worthy of quick observation is the Roding water pipeline, which emerges from a 2.7 km long tunnel beneath the Barnicoat Range. The tunnel and pipeline were built in 1941 to supply Nelson with water from the Roding Dam, and today it still supplies around one third of Nelson’s water. There were also small coal mining operations on the lower slopes of Jenkins Hill in the later half of the 19th century, though no evidence of their existence remains today.

 

 Further Reading

Notes on Early History of Stoke, Nelson Historical Society Journal, Vol. 1, Issue 5, December 1961

Returning Nature to the ValleyThe Prow article

James Marsden and his Isel FarmThe Prow article

In search of the Grey GhostNew Zealand Geographic article

M.R. Johnston, Historic coal mining on Jenkins Hill, Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Vol 1, Issue 5, October 1985

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