Between Avonside Drive and Lockley Ave lays a certain part of the Avon known as ‘Kerrs Reach’. The moment you see it, you can tell it’s man made as the Reach is wide, straight and now the home to a few of the rowing clubs of Christchurch.
But the Reach did not begin in this kind of grandeur. It began as drainage for the surrounding properties, one belonging to Peter Kerr (1814 – 1877) of the ‘Sand Hills Run’ – an 6000 acre lease hold that stretched from the Styx River to the Estuary. He had leased the land with partner Dr. Moore in 1853 and became primary leaseholder in 1864.
A member of the Heathcote Road Board, Peter wasn’t shy in arguing over the best way to improve Christchurch and he was popular with all he met. He loved to take part in any festivities that were happening in the city.
So you can imagine the shock when this A & P Show judge, New Brighton School Board Member and horse racing enthusiast was discovered face down dead on Sandhill Road (Woodend) after his spooked, riderless horse was stopped by the young Rudd brothers. Upon the discovery of Kerr, shocked neighbours sat with the body while others sought a doctor. It appeared that he had been on his way home from the Golden Age Hotel (Warners, Cathedral Square) where he had been drinking with friends. There were no reports that he had been drunk. It was just a tragic accident.
What would become Kerrs Reach, as we know it today, began during the preparations for the Canterbury Centennial Games. In 1949/50, the Reach was widened and straightened so celebration races could take place.
Beside Kerrs Reach is the bendy original flow of the Avon, known in Kerrs’ time as ‘the cutting’. Today, it surrounds 75% of Porritt Park.
* Map courtesy of Wises Maps – wises.co.nz*
* Photos of Kerrs Reach taken by Annette Bulovic*