The Rhodes Spring

Harry Ell – a Cantab lad, visionary and lover of the Port Hills – had visions of walkers and travellers enjoying a network of scenic reserves along the Port Hills connected by a road with rest-houses along the way – right through to Akaroa.He planned just under 20 rest-houses along what would start off as Summit Road, these would be places where people could stop and rest. Of course, only 4 of these buildings came to fruition –
The Sign of the Kiwi, The Sign of the Bellbird, The Sign of the Packhorse and the Sign of the Takahe.

Always interested in conservation and recreation, Harry’s greatest achievement in his lifetime was being a huge part of the Scenery Preservation Bill that was passed in government in 1903. In the face of an expanding settlement, Harry wanted Christchurch to keep its scenic beauty – especially the Port Hills.

In 1914 as the construction of the Summit Road crept along towards Akaroa, close to Kennedy’s Bush, it reached land that belonged to Sir Heaton Rhodes. The Otahuna Estate stretched up over the hills from Tai Tapu and permission to continue the road would have been approved.

Heaton not only approved but also donated this memorial to the project. Using a natural spring on his property, Heaton had this wall built around it so those on their travels could stop for a rest and have a drink. Believe it or not, many would choose to walk in those days over other expensive transport options.

I know the thought of walking to Akaroa is enough to make us 21st century people’s toes curl but it was not an unheard of thing. William Deans would walk to Akaroa from Riccarton to get mail in the 1840’s. Using the Maori trails etc, he would make it there within a day.

Situated in a lovely spot, close to The Sign of the Bellbird and the Summit Road just a few feet away, Rhodes Spring remains with us, still offering a place of rest and reflection.

For those wondering, the spring water was cold and delicious!

*photo taken by Annette Bulovic*

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