Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gully Intrigue

Hamilton doesn't really have hills, but instead is riven with many gullies, like hills in reverse. One of these is near my present home and across the road from my old primary school. When I was little, my friends and I used to play on the edges of its impenetrable wild, weedy, scrub. More recent walks along Grey Street have allowed me tantalising glimpses of the gully transformed into an impeccably groomed lawn, cut by crisp, white concrete paths on which I've occasionally seen people walking.

Curious, I've wandered all the nearby streets trying to find an obvious way into this half-hidden park but with no success. In yesterday evening's sultry heat I was determined to solve the mystery for once and for all. On Beale St I found a path leading down to a small, scruffy, clearing smelling of sewage or dead things, between Boys High and Marian School. Not the right place or the right ambiance, so I retraced my steps and then entered the grounds of Boys High.

I've avoided that Beale St shortcut to Boys High for my whole life, even though it was the obvious short cut to my intermediate school. Back then I was too self-conscious and scared to walk through teenage boy territory, so for two years took the long way round. I wonder if something unpleasant did ever happen to me there, because I continued to avoid it even as an adult. Yesterday I told myself I am too old to care what anyone, let alone unknown teenage boys, think of me and finally used that track alone.

Once on the school grounds I followed the border between Boys High and the NZTC, seeing the elusive park more clearly than ever through the high barbed wire fence. My desired destination was obviously part of the NZTC grounds, and when the Boys High track petered out in a over-grown swamp I turned back. This time as I passed the NZTC the entrance was swarming with people, and I could hear choruses of amens coming from the windows.

Wondering if I would fail in my objective to enter the gully that evening, I walked back along Grey Street looking hard for any other access points. Suddenly, I spotted an open gate half way along a private right of way. I quickly ducked through the gate and down a steep gravel path and lo! I was in the park. A great expanse of velvety lawn stretched in front of me, broken only by lush flower beds, and beyond a beautiful orchard and vegetable garden.

I had the whole large area to myself, except for a few ducks behind a dam. In it's silent emptiness it reminded me of the description in Robert O'Brien's The Silver Crown (one of my favourite children's books) of the grounds of the black castle where Ellen rescued Otto from brain washing. The black footpaths in the book were one of the mechanisms of mind control for kidnapped children. That creepy association, and my fear of being told off for trespassing, somewhat spoiled my walk in the park. And now, with my curiosity sated, I'm not sure I want to go back again.


Sandy said...

Love it - intrepid explorer! Nick and Ingrid had a gully and walkway behind their house when they lived in Hamilton. I want to know more now about the access. Urban wildspaces are cool and scary at the same time. The people who designed the Town Belt into Dunedin were geniuses. Here in Binghamton I have to drive to get to the woods, unless I want to walk in the cemetery. Money ran out for the RiverWalk.

Carol said...

Lovely, slightly spooky post.The thought of the black footpaths in O'Brien's book (which I must find and read) would have been enough to make me feel nervous in the beautiful garden. The photo of the flowers is very pretty. Do visit me to put your name in the draw for one of my journals - which I actually assembled in NZ, down in Marlborough at The Portage.

Jane in Dunedin said...

Hi Meliors
I understand from my Dad, that our old neighbour in Armagh STreet, Mr Seeley, may be responsible for the Gully. During my childhoold growing up at 5 Armagh Street ( a no exit street off Argyle STreet just before another entrance to Boys High), Mr Seeley owned half the gully in which he kept 4 beloved donkeys. Once the donkeys died he and his wife have worked to transform it into garden and has had articles about him I think. They owned the 2 sections next to us - their 2 storey house on one with the pool we were able to use to shelter from the summer heat.
You conjure up lots of childhood memories of donkeys, and rambles in the gully, and the daily trip to Ham East Primary and the daily trip to Peachgrove intermediate, and avoiding the Boys High bully boys! Jane now in Dunedin

Campervan Christchurch said...

Very nice to have clean and green walkway. Would you rather have a gray cemented road full of speeding cars as your track? Consider yourself very fortunate.