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In the mid-1860s the Otago Daily Times published a lively series of articles titled ‘‘Rambles Round Dunedin’’.
The correspondent, writing under the pseudonym ‘‘Pakeha’’, braved bush, bogs and vicious stinging nettles to provide a remarkably prescient picture of the Dunedin district and its rapid development in the boom years of the gold rush.
These stories are reproduced with the original variations of now accepted spellings.
Portobello - Harbour Cone - Peninsula lime works
Taking advantage of the pleasure trip the other day, the writer paid another visit to this beautiful locality.
In this opinion of the place he is not singular, as was abundantly evidenced by the large number of people who landed there, all of whom seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly in wandering over the district.
It is a wonder Portobello is not much more visited than it is, for it contains within a moderate radius from the jetty some of the finest scenery to be found within a day's ride of Dunedin.
It was the intention of the writer to travel up the Dunedin road as far as M'Donald's Lime Works, and prospect some of the gullies for ferns, etc, on his way.
For this purpose he turned to the right up the road, leaving the crowd of excursionists behind.
The country here is covered with heavy timber, comprising totara and all the pines, and some of the trees are very large.
The undergrowth is very dense, the supplejack being particularly plentiful, rendering progress through the bush at times very tedious.
There are some very pretty shrubs scattered about, particularly an Olearia, with long light green leaves, which looked as if it would bear transplanting well, and would look pretty in a garden.
Some of the pines in a young state look very well, but they are difficult to get to grow out of the bush.
Ferns were plentiful enough, but only the ordinary sorts were present, at least none were met with that at all are rare.
In one gully the Hymenophyllum dilatatum was found in great plenty, some of the fronds being about a foot long.
In this way, working along, sometimes on one side of the road and sometimes on the other, the writer had got as far up the road as the southern side of Harbour Cone, when it occurred to him that he might as well go to the top.
Harbour Cone is that beautiful hill which forms so prominent an object in sailing up or down the harbour, standing a little way back from the water above Portobello.
Till within the last couple of years or so, it was one unbroken forest from base to summit, but the march of settlement has somewhat marred its beauty on the harbour side, as some large clearings have been made on it, reaching from the road to a short distance from the top.
On the southern side, however, there has been much less clearing, although there too, it has begun, and the axe and fire are busy at work destroying the natural beauties of the locality.
It was from the south side the ascent was made, and passing across a small bit of cleared land, the bush was reached, and the shade of the trees was found a great relief from the hot glare of the noontide sun.
Once in the bush, and civilisation seemed as far away as if there were none within a hundred miles.
Everything was very quiet at first, but then a mokomoko began to warble its rich full notes, which made the hillside seem quite lively.
The ascent, though not very steep, was difficult on account of the supplejacks; but a cattle track was found which made matters easier, and by its means a point was reached where a number of voices were heard.
Pushing through a thicket of veronica, panax, and stunted totara, the top of the hill came into view, and there were found the Portobello schoolmaster and a number of his pupils, who had come up here to spend their holiday in a picnic, and have a look round at the charming prospect.
And a charming prospect it is indeed, as the hill forms the centre of a district having a very diversified surface.
It is not so very high, only 1028 feet up, but if some of our local photographers could manage to get their instrument placed on the summit, a series of eight magnificent views could be taken, which would form quite a unique panorama.
The first might comprise the Lower Harbour, the Heads, etc; then turning to the right, Papanui Inlet, Wycliffe Bay, with the black funnel of the wrecked steamer Victory visible over the sandhills, and the coast on to the Rocky Head, would form a capital picture; turning still further, there lie Hooper's Inlet, Mount Charles, and the long line of rocks out to Cape Saunders; then there is Sandymount, and the beautiful wooded gorge up to the Lime Works.
Looking up the harbour, a portion of Dunedin comes into view, with Saddle Hill, Maungatua, and other hills beyond in the distance; then to the west, Signal Hill and Flagstaff, with the other hills around; across the harbour Mount Cargill seems to rise up from the water at Sawyer's Bay, with its attendant Mihiwaka; and, to finish the round, we have the islands, the shipping at Port Chalmers, the wooded hills above, with Mopanui peeping over them, while far away can be seen Mount Watkin and other eminences to the north and west of Waikouaiti.
Altogether the view from
the summit of Harbour Cone is one which must be seen to be appreciated properly.
After exchanging a few words with the Dominie, and another glance around at the prospect, the writer dived again into the bush and soon emerged on the road below.
There is a quartz reef in this neighbourhood, but not being aware of the exact locality, and not having time to search for it, preference was given to the Lime Works, which were seen from the top of the hill.
A smart walk of about a couple of miles along a fine road, and the vicinity of the lime was reached, and after a little search found on the side of a picturesque gully.
There is a good deal of clearing going on on both sides of the road at this point, and the beautiful bush is fast disappearing, to be laid down in grass or cereals.
The lime crops out from the side of a bluff or spur coming down from the high ground to the south, and the bed is of considerable thickness.
The stone is hard, dense, and of a greyish blue colour, containing very few fossils - an occasional mussel or oyster, of large size, being met with.
However, in a stratum of stone of a slaty texture, which underlies the lime, fossil shells are frequently got.
The kiln was charged, and men were busy at work breaking out stone from the quarry.
This has to be done by blasting in the usual way, and then the stone is broken small enough by hammers, so as to assist the process of calcining.
The enterprising proprietor Mr M'Donald, was present, and he obligingly showed all the operations, and explained the action of the kiln, which has some peculiarities about it.
The kiln is about 30 feet in height, and seven feet in diameter at the upper end, built of limestone, but lined throughout with firebrick.
It answers its purpose thoroughly, being able to turn out 150 bags a day, or even double that if necessary.
There is a peculiar arrangement of shoots at the bottom of the kiln, by which the draught is very easily regulated, and the stone can be drawn from any part of it that may be necessary.
Instead of the mouth of the kiln being exposed to the air it is covered in by a substantial house, which serves as a store for the lime, and also preserves it from the weather.
There is abundance of firewood close to the works, and with a good road to Dunedin, Mr M'Donald ought to be able to supply very readily all the demands of the trade.
After spending a short time searching for fossils, which, however, were very scarce just at the time, none of the blocks split open revealing any, a retrograde course was taken and the Lime Works left behind.
On the way down to Portobello, some very good building stone, of a sort similar to that now being quarried so extensively at Port Chalmers, was observed in the side cuttings, and very well placed for purposes of utility.
Some pretty nodules of iron pyrites are sometimes got in this rock.
From the Lime Works to Coney's Hotel at Portobello took rather less than an hour of easy walking, and on arrival there found the excursionists gathering, the steamer being in sight on her way over from Port Chalmers.
All were soon on board, and a pleasant run up to Dunedin brought to a close a very pleasantly spent holiday.
- Pakeha, March 26,1870.