A few days ago, after our guests had finished breakfast and had left for the day,
we drove up Dyers Pass Road, passing the Sign of the Takahe and Victoria Park on our left and onwards to the Sign of the Kiwi where the inner bays of Lyttelton Harbour below spread out before us. Driving downhill to Governor’s Bay we quickly reached Ohinetahi valley, situated at the southern end of Governors Bay and the innermost point of Lyttelton Harbour.
Ohinetahi Gardens is the brainchild of Sir Miles Warren, his sister Pauline Trengrove and her husband John Trengrove. With such renowned architects and Pauline a well known artist its no surprise that their professional skills can be seen throughout the gardens. Although the original gardens were started in 1865, very little remained when Sir Miles and the Trengroves started work on restoring the old cottage in 1977.
The gardens are laid out in the most colourful and intricately designed outdoor ‘rooms’ each distinctive in character, each with avenues leading off in different directions. So many paths, so many surprises, classical, heritage, secluded, spacious, puzzling, hidden, panoramic.
Together with a native plant sanctuary, a stream running into the harbour through a woodland setting and a parkland of trees, Ohinetahi occupies over 3 acres, about 1.25 hectares. It is a must-see if you’re on holiday in Christchurch during the summer.
Such is the importance of Ohinetahi that it was made a World Heritage Site in 1990.
The setting is home to native wildlife including many native wood pigeons - the kereru.
Central to the gardens is Ohinetahi homestead and in this photo you see the Rose Garden at its front, ahead is the cute Tea House.
Damaged in the earthquake 9 years ago, the second story of the house was removed and its stonework stored. Now that the grounds have been extended further along the foreshore the stone finds new purpose as feature walls, towers and follies. One of the latest additions in the new area is the amphitheatre:
The homestead’s structural elements otherwise remain intact as are the other buildings within the grounds that include an exhibition of photos and architectural models of Sir Miles' work, here you can also see an overview of Ohinetahi as it was pre-quake.
There are so many features to take in that sometimes the flowers and shrubs have to compete with sculptures for attention. All the display pieces are by renowned artists and seem made for their setting.
It takes about 2 hours to meander throughout the gardens, the gardeners are happy to talk and will encourage you stay longer, in our case suggesting that next time we bring along a picnic lunch. It is a tempting prospect, there are plenty of ornate benches and wooden seats everywhere, quiet spots where you can take in the panoramic views of Lyttelton harbour. Still so much more for us to see and to reflect upon.
The walk along the foreshore we shall reserve for next time.