Making the acquaintance of a charming Glen

On the rugged slopes of Opoho sits Dunedin’s most secret spot: Tannock Glen. David Loughrey takes a lonely 20c coin to the little-known facility.

There are street signs that lead you to Tannock Glen.

You may have been walking your dog at Opoho Park, perhaps you were playing footy there, or maybe you had been sitting among the daffodils in the upper Botanic Garden thinking about clouds or shoelaces or email chains or other preposterous things.

Maybe you had been pondering the concept of caged birds while marvelling at the kaka in the aviary or cackling along with the Sid the sulphur crested cockatoo as he asks you if you want a cup of tea.

He's hilarious.

And as you complete your reverie, finish your recreational task and motor along Lovelock Ave to negotiate the confusing intersection at Signal Hill Rd, there it is; the tantalising sign pointing to Tannock Glen.

What is a glen?

Is it a valley, typically long, and bounded by gently sloped concave sides?

Could one compare it to a ravine, but then note a ravine is different, as it is more likely to be deep and bounded by steep slopes?

Is it narrower than a strath?

What is a strath?

Why are people behind you leaning on their horns?

Is it because you are lost in contemplation of these matters at the intersection of Lovelock Ave, Signal Hill Rd, Opoho Rd and the Opoho Loop Rd, and that little lane from Opoho Rd to Lovelock Ave, and you've been there maybe half an hour?

Getting to Tannock Glen requires dealing with that poorly organised intersection, a bewildering conglomeration of stop and give way signs, road paint and an oddly-shaped traffic island.

All those aspects are enough to keep a driver's attention, and it is perhaps that reason that the small brown sign that points alluringly to Tannock Glen, and has the words "Tannock Glen" written neatly on it, is sometimes overlooked.

I saw it on a lamppost just the other day and I wondered what it was; and that's a true story.

I could have driven on, made a weak promise to myself to come back another time and find out what Tannock Glen was, or I could have just accepted that I may never know, despite the strange attraction engendered by its name, and the compelling, darkening mystery that it was fast becoming.

Tannock Glen; the hard edges of its sharp articulations batter the tongue as you try to spit them out.

They get stuck in your throat and threaten to choke you, or at the very least paralyse your unsuspecting glottis.

What to do?

Perhaps it was the car that made the final decision, powering up Warden and taking a hard left into Torridon St, parking beside a wooden fence next to a solid brick house.

I'll never know.

That was what happened, anyway.

And there it was, finally we were there; we'd made it to Tannock Glen.

Let's take a moment to take in what was later discovered, in a factual sense, about Tannock Glen.

Tannock Glen is the domain of the Dunedin Rhododendron Group.

The group maintains the glen, where it has a large number of rare species collected from the wild, plus superlative local hybrids that can be seen from the gravelled paths through the three-acre site.

Mature trees and unusual shrubs complement this magical woodland garden overlooking Otago Harbour.

That's what the group's website says.

The entrance to this enchanting botanical fantasy is sublime.

Flanked and framed by the solid trunks of vast mature trees, its fence is an almost uncanny blue, with a shapely little latch on its gate that responds willingly to the lightest touch, eager and giving, perhaps almost a little wanton, perhaps too unrestrained, but offering itself to you so obligingly in such a tender moment as it opens and the gate finally gives way and swings inward.

It's all too divine.

And then you notice it.

A charming sign in various shades of green, offset by pink and orange, welcoming you to Tannock Glen, the rhododendron collection of the Dunedin Rhododendron Group, asking only that you provide a small and very reasonable donation of $3 upon entry, not to gather revenue, but to assist with further planting.

And who wouldn't want to help such a decent little group in its efforts to beautify the city as it provides a place of such green peace, of such respite, of renewal and growth for a tired citizen in need of such things.

And oh, but how I would have liked to donate!

I would have!

But I only had a lonely 20c piece, that thin silver specimen so clearly unable to make the grade.

I mean, who carries change nowadays?

I slid it in the slot, I did, that meagre coin, that slap in the face of generosity, that shameful demonstration of my own cruel parsimony, I slid it in and I stood shamefaced and $2.80 in moral debt.

And I carried that debt across that beautiful secret garden with its magnolia iolanthe, its rhododendron macabeanum, their astonishing blossoms filling the space with such suggestive fecundity.

I walked its neat gravel paths strewn with pink petals and I crossed its neat little bridges as it dipped into native bush on its lower slopes.

And one day, perhaps as summer comes and moods lighten, I'll come back with $5.80 and visit again, pay up and assuage my nagging sense of guilt.

Or perhaps I'll put $2.80 in an envelope and send it to the PO Box of the Dunedin Rhododendron Group.

That only seems reasonable for a organisation that has a secret garden.


Strath. Island
Strathspey. Island hooley.

Glen. Valley in Highlands, into which steal men of Orange Wulliam, to slaughter families of trueking Stuart.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter