Heading out of Christchurch to the north, we soon divert off to the west and head overland across the lush Canterbury Plains via the small settlements of Mandeville and Oxford before arriving at the Ashley Gorge Recreation Reserve for our first stop to stretch our legs and enjoy the views of this scenic location with its adjacent river.
From here we backtrack a couple of kilometres before turning off onto the unsealed Lees Valley Rd for the next spectacularly wild 19 kilometres of twisting turning road that clings tenuously to the hillside before it drops into the valley floor and straightens out for another 6 km before arriving at our eventual destination of a picnic area deep in the heart of the Lees Valley community. Needless to say we make numerous stops along the way to enjoy the ever changing scenery
A highlight of the ever changing scenery is the swooping descent to the narrow Ashley/Rakahura River bridge which crosses the river near some deep green pools, before soaring back up the hill on the other side and once again making its snake-like way along the hillside – we’ll stop here on the way back to enjoy the views of the river!
Be prepared for delays along the way as farmers often move stock around on the roads between paddocks, creating a classic scene not often witnessed elsewhere these days known as a “kiwi roadblock”. When we do arrive at the picnic area it’s time to break out drinks and snacks for us to enjoy while listening to the farming activities around us.
Very few people outside the community get to enjoy the splendid isolation of the valley, and we make the most of it before we have to return all too soon to civilisation and Christchurch city. We do however manage a few more stops on the way back. The more time we have the more stops we can manage!
Please note that this is our longest half day tour at around five hours long so please plan your day accordingly as unexpected delays can pop up from time to time – especially on this tour!
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