Friday, February 28, 2014


During our recent South Island holiday one of the reasons we stayed in the Westport area was to visit the Denniston Plateau.   Denniston has an interesting history and is pretty much abandoned.  

After reading Jenny Pattrick's two books; 'The Denniston Rose' and its sequel 'Heart of Coal' I was keen to visit.  While these books are novels they are based on the actual area and the coal industry in the 1880s.

This is part of the blurb from the backcover of 'The Denniston Rose'
The bleak coal-mining settlement of Denniston, isolated high on a plateau above New Zealand's West Coast, is a place that makes or breaks those who live there. At the time of this novel - the 1880s - the only way to reach the makeshift collection of huts, tents and saloons is to climb aboard an empty coal-wagon to be hauled 2000 feet up the terrifingly steep Incline - the cable-haulage system that brings the coal down to the railway line. All sorts arrive here to work the mines and bring down the coal: ex-goldminers down on their luck, others running from the law or from a woman or worse. They work alongside recruited English miners, solid and skilled, who scorn these disorganised misfits and want them off the Hill.

The Denniston Rose is about isolation and survival. It is the story of a spirited child, who, in appalling conditions, remains a survivor. 

View towards Westport
The day we went there was abit overcast and quite cold.  A bit odd in summer to be wearing a woollen top, fleece jacket and ski jacket!  At least it wasn't raining or foggy.

parts of the incline looking towards Waimangaroa on the coast
DOC and the 'Friends of the Hill Society' have done a great job with the signage and promoting the area.  

top of incline track
As we wandered around the collection of abandoned rusty objects was quite impressive. 

There was some evidence of where people lived with brick chimney remains, steps between various areas.

We ventured further up the plateau and explored the areas around Burnetts Face and the other settlements.  We gained some understanding of how bleak it must have been and it wasn't even winter.

high on the plateau
abandoned mine shaft

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it's a fascinating place - but it must been very difficult living there that's for sure.
I enjoy seeing your photos of it - I took lots of 'rusty thing' photos too :)