Walk to White’s Beach and More…


CoastCare walkers at the site of the old ‘Varsity Hut’.

On an a recent sunny mid-November Sunday, fourteen Coastcare supporters walked from Piha to White’s Beach, and then to the site of the former University Hut on the Fisherman’s ridge overlooking the Keyhole and back to Piha via Anawhata Road and White’s Track.

The first area of note was the considerable build-up of sand that has accumulated in recent years at the far north end of North Piha beach. Not too long ago the conveniently low spreading branches of the Pohutukawa trees were a natural playground for children to swing and bounce on. Those same branches are now well buried under the new dune that has accumulated there.

Following a talk by ranger Dan Real about the stoat and rat trapping programme on Te Waha Point to protect the bird life that abounds there the group split into two, some taking their chances with the high tide on the direct route to White’s Beach, while others took the longer way via the land originally owned by the Rose and Thompson families.

About two years ago, a storm event washed out the foredunes on White’s Beach leaving bare steep scarps most the length of the beach. Now, with sparse foot traffic and plentiful healthy Spinifex plants sending runners down the bare sand face, the dune system is well on the way back to its pre-storm condition.

The track to the old hut site was more challenging, with a recent slip event to negotiate, but the group was rewarded with great views up towards Muriwai, and a chance to engage with the history of the ‘Varsity Hut’ as it was known in its early days. The hut was built on land acquired by a group of five friends from the University Field Club, with materials delivered by horse and cart from Henderson, and then dragged to the site with the help of a flying fox which featured number 8 fencing wire and staples designed to give way when the load hit the end of the run. The energetic and enterprising young owners and their friends walked the fifteen miles to the site from Swanson. Stories about the building of the hut and the gatherings of students, including budding scientists and writers who later became well known in their respective fields, is recounted in the Auckland University Publication Hut and Headland by Lucy Cranwell and John La Roche. The old hut was destroyed by arson in 1998 and a large rock with a descriptive brass plaque now marks the site.

Our group was safely back in Piha by mid-afternoon after a very satisfying outing with good company, great views and lots of storytelling.

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