The Great Taste Trail has connected to Tapawera. The official opening of the trail segment between Tapawera and Kohatu was held on the 1st November 2020.
The village of Tapawera is situated South West of Nelson city in the Motueka valley. It has a population of 300 (2018). The Great Taste Trail now extends from Nelson, through Richmond, Brightwater and Wakefield to the village. The cycle trail distance is approximately 70kms from the centre of Nelson to Tapawera. Most of this is flat and if you go from Tapawera, there is a long gradual downhill segment of trail exiting Spooners tunnel ( 303m above sea level) and making it’s way to the lower lying village of Wakefield (149m above sea level).
Tapawera has a rich history dating back to the discovery of gold in the 1860’s. Small quantities of gold combined with the depression brought that industry to a halt. Tobacco was grown in the area from the 1840s for over 70 years until demand reduced. This was replaced with other crops such as fruit. Fields of blackcurrants and other berries as well as dairy, beef and sheep can be seen in todays modern farming landscape. However, the biggest and most visible use of the fertile valley soils around Tapawera today, are the Hop gardens.
This area has had a long history of growing hops as the soils, climate and valley floors provide the perfect environment. Many people we bring to the area don’t really know what a hop is even if they know it has something to do with making beer. The commercially valuable part of a hop plant is its unfertilised flowers. These are harvested as green seed cones that are referred to as hops or hop cones. Hop cones contain different oils that impart flavour and aroma to beer. Hop cones are grown on vines called bines, which are trained to grow up strings suspended from overhead trellis structures. In late summer the bines and string are cut at the top of the trellis and at ground level and taken to be dried and baled, most of which are exported. Local breweries seize the chance to get fresh hops at harvest time and create world class craft beer using the freshest hops available. Some brewers are even known to fly in from other regions, on the day of harvest, to collect and take back the hops to their breweries so they too can use them when just harvested.
Tapawera is also known for being part of the Nelson ‘railway to nowhere’, which did get as far as Glenhope, but never managed to get through to the West coast. With decreasing rail usage (as roads were developed and more freight and people used the highways), it closed in 1955. Tapawera made national news when a group of local women had a sit-in on the track, which lasted a week. Their protest was an attempt to save the railway from being dismantled at the ‘Kiwi’ station, close to Tapawera. The small station building is now located in the centre of the village and is home to the local museum. It is worth having a browse at the well documented history of the area and its community.
As you follow the cycle trail between Nelson and Tapawera, much of the route uses or comes close to the old railway route. Not least of all Spooners tunnel that allowed the track to go under Spooner’s range. At 1352m in length and 303m above sea level, it is a tribute to the hard work and determination needed to get the railway further inland. It is the longest decommissioned tunnel in the southern hemisphere and the 5th longest in the world to be currently used by cyclists and pedestrians. The cycle trail passes a railway windmill at Belgrove, that was built in 1898 and was used to pump water from a stream to a water vat, for the railway. It was restored and sits on Dept. of Conservation land. Other railway relics can also be seen along the way.