Friday, July 21, 2023

Baton Valley - Tasman: From Gold Mining History to Tourist Destination

Baton Valley Tasman

 Take Care in the Back Country as Tourists and Locals visit unfamiliar territory

The back country of Tasman, New Zealand, offers a captivating haven for outdoor enthusiasts, drawing in trampers, hunters, and cyclists with its untamed beauty and rich history. One of the significant historical sites in this region is the Baton Valley, nestled at the base of the majestic Mount Arthur. In the 19th century, this valley was a bustling centre of gold mining activity, triggered by the discovery of gold traces by the adventurous sailor, Batteyn Norton, in 1855. The news of gold brought around 100 diggers to the area by 1859, creating a vibrant community.

The Baton gold, although less valuable due to its sandy composition, coexisted with the highly sought-after Wangapeka gold, leading to the establishment of a store, hotel, and annual grand dances organised by the Taylor family in 1859. J.W. Sutcliffe also managed another hotel in the valley, adding to the growing community.

The initial gold diggings were concentrated near the Skeet and Ellis Rivers, making the field easily accessible. However, as time passed, the initial excitement waned, resulting in a decrease in the number of diggers, with only around 50 remaining. Some diggers transitioned into settlers and contributed to the establishment of a local school, while hack meetings at the Baton racecourse brought participants from distant districts.

Although the Baton Valley was not considered a wealthy gold field, it served as a fallback option for farmers and diggers facing difficulties elsewhere. Notable gold discoveries occasionally occurred, such as Arthur Needham's find, which enabled him to purchase a farm. In the late 1800s, visitors reported finding gold along the Motueka and Baton Rivers, with some individuals earning substantial amounts, up to £12 per week.

However, by 1902, the Baton workings were largely abandoned, except for the 1930s Depression period when men were subsidised to search for gold in the riverbed, resulting in new discoveries. The construction of the Baton Bridge in 1907 greatly benefited settlers by improving access to the area, contributing to its ongoing development.

In the present day, the Baton Valley proudly preserves its agricultural heritage while enticing tourists with the allure of the Tasman's Great Taste Cycle Trail. This back and beyond section of the cycle trail offers a thrilling 4 to 6-hour biking experience from Tapawera to Riwaka. The trail treats visitors to awe-inspiring vistas of mountains, farmlands, rivers, and vast skies, fostering a deep connection with nature.

However, as enticing as the backcountry may be, caution is essential. Once traveler's leave the towns at each end of the trail, options for restocking supplies become limited. It is vital to ensure sufficient provisions for the journey ahead. The trail comprises rural gravel roads, which are shared with vehicles, including logging trucks and milk tankers. Cyclists must exercise caution and remain mindful of loose gravel. For e-bike users, carrying enough battery charge is crucial, as no charging facilities exist in the backcountry, and cellular coverage is sparse.

Recent events in Baton Valley serve as a stark reminder of the potential dangers faced by those venturing into the backcountry. A cyclist was found after being lost for ten days, surviving without food, last week. He apparently went for a bush walk and became lost. Thanks to the vigilant efforts of the Police, search teams and a member of the public who reported an abandoned tent cycle and other items, the man was located and safely transported to the hospital. This incident underscores the importance of early reporting and preparedness when participating in outdoor activities in remote areas.

Sergeant Jonny Evans of Nelson Bays Search and Rescue expressed gratitude to the individual who initially alerted the authorities and acknowledged the efforts of the search teams and LandSAR volunteers involved in the rescue operation.

Authorities strongly advise individuals engaging in tramping, hunting, and cyclists who intend to some tramping as well, in the backcountry to carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). PLBs are invaluable tools that enable rescue teams to respond quickly by pinpointing the location of distress signals. Registering the PLB with the Rescue Coordination Centre NZ before embarking on any outdoor excursion ensures a rapid and efficient emergency response.

In conclusion, the Baton Valley, steeped in historical significance and coupled with the allure of the Great Taste Cycle Trail, has transformed into a thriving tourist destination. Adventurers seeking an unforgettable experience are drawn to this untamed paradise. However, undertaking such ventures requires a blend of adventurous spirit and responsible preparedness. By approaching the backcountry with caution, foresight, and respect for its wilderness, visitors can fully immerse themselves in its enchanting beauty while minimising risks and preserving its charm for generations to come.


Nelson Provincial Museum Pupuri Taonga o Te Tai Ao

Tasman’s Great Taste Cycle Trail - Tasman District Council

NZ Police Media Centre


Pigeon Post News, Richmond, Tasman.

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