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South Wairarapa Tramping Club

October 15, 2020 October 2020 No Comments

Early last century Albert Winzenberg was Masterton’s leading photographer, with a studio in Queen Street. His output was prolific, and he took some of it from the 729 metre hill near the end of Mt Holdsworth Road that now bears his name. Winzenberg Hill commands panoramic views of the eastern Tararuas and Wairarapa valley.

When Winzenberg arrived in Wairarapa the hill was covered in dense bush, but during the exceptionally dry summer of 1907-08 a fire in the Waingawa valley got away and swept over the ridge to the Atiwhakatu. Settler Hans Thomsen lost his house, which was insured.

Thomsen had been laboriously clearing the forest, but the fire meant that he needed only to scatter grass seed to pasture an increased flock. After he sold the farm in 1933 it passed through several hands until 1970 when it was added to the Tararua Forest Park. 

Through these years it was possible to walk easily up Winzenberg Hill, as parties from our club occasionally did. Sometimes (including once in the dark) a Winzenberg crossing was used to retrieve a car from the Holdsworth road end after a trip that finished at the Waingawa.

When grazing ended, the rich seed source of adjacent Mt. Holdsworth began the slow recovery of the bush on Winzenberg Hill. Today the formerly open grassy slopes are in scrub, with a remnant of original beech forest.

Our walk on 30 August took what purports to be the least scrubby approach, using a dimly discernible track on a spur from the south-west to gain most of the altitude before hooking around in a feint to surprise Winzenberg from the north-west. 

But the wily old photographer heard us coming and was ready. Only a couple of hundred metres from our goal, he erected a thicket of branches that only a saw and loppers (which we lacked) could penetrate. 

Foiled, we retreated to a rocky knob and lunched in sunshine enjoying the spectacular views that our host recorded on glass plates more than a century ago.

Kohe Habberfield, Stuart Hammond, Rachel Horwell and John Rhodes


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