By NEIL CLARKSON
The Christmas holidays provide an ideal chance for people to explore the riverside playground right on Rangiora’s doorstep.
Most of the activity in the Ashley Rakahuri Regional Park centres around the Cones Road bridge, where walkers, runners and mountainbikers can be seen setting off, but the park stretches much further than many people imagine.
It encompasses the Ashley River and berm area from the Okuku River confluence downstream to the Ashley Estuary, covering about 21km. The park covers some 1500 hectares, with multiple access points along its length.
The park comprises pine-forest blocks, mixed stands of exotic trees, including willows and poplar, and pockets of native vegetation that are gradually being restored and enhanced.
It offers many recreational opportunities, including fishing, swimming, gamebird hunting, walking, cycling and picnicking.
For walkers, runners and cyclists, there is the shared Rakahuri Trail, which runs from Groyne 1, behind the racecourse, downstream to East Belt. Shorter mountainbike tracks can be found in the pine forest downstream from East Belt.
The Mike Kean Walkway is an easy track of just under a kilometre from the Ashley Picnic Ground, east of the Cones Road bridge, to the car park at the rail bridge.
Picnickers can enjoy a day out in the open spaces, or perhaps find some shade near the riverbank to enjoy a swim – at least until the summer flows subside.
The Environment Canterbury (ECan) website has a lot of information about the park and the zones within it, with the key links found off this page: https://www.ecan.govt.nz/your-region/living-here/regional-parks/ashley-rakahuri-regional-park/.
Visitors intent on exploring parts of the park are well-advised to check the website. There is a link on this page to the management plan, which describes the various park zones and the activities permitted in each.
There’s important information on camping, cycling, four-wheel-drive access, the exercising of dogs, and horse riding.
The aim is to cater to all recreational users with the minimum of conflict, while also protecting the park’s environment and biodiversity.
Why not make a point these holidays of venturing into a part of the park you’ve yet to explore? Trails are generally well marked and ECan’s website provides all the information you need to plan a safe and enjoyable day out.