William Hall Arboretum and Walk - Thames

William Hall Arboretum is New Zealand's oldest arboretum, established in 1872. It is a lovely spot to walk among the trees along a series of paths.

John William Hall was a Thames chemist who began planting his three-acre property in Parawai in 1872 - initially to control erosion. He had become alarmed at the effect rainfall had on the area's deforested hillsides - the trees having been cut to make pit props for the gold mines. However, he also planted for habitat provision and research. Mr Hall was an amateur naturalist in the best tradition of the Victorian era.

About 180 of his plantings survive today and form an eclectic collection of plants from around the world. Some of the plantings were of New Zealand natives and he recorded their progress fastidiously. Hall's Totara is named in his honour.

The arboretum has four entrances: Brunton Crescent, Korokoro Crescent, Currie St and Mount Sea Road. A small car park is at the top of Mount Sea Rd.

If arriving at Mount Sea Rd the arboretum is best viewed in two halves. A full circuit of the arboretum is best done by first heading downhill from the car park. The full circuit of both halves of the arboretum can be completed in 40-60 minutes.

The track heading downhill from the car park links directly to Currie St. This track was built in 2015 thanks to a grant from the Thames branch of Forest and Bird. It links the lower and upper sections of the arboretum.

Descending downhill, not the slight swale the track crosses, just within the bush edge. This is a remnant of the old Thames water race which brought water into the township from the Kauaeranga Valley via a series of tunnels and viaducts. The water was used for domestic as well as industrial and mining purposes.

At the end of this short section of the track is the Currie St entrance to the arboretum. The track heading directly to the right leads off to the Korokoro Cres entrance. The track leading downhill at this point leads to the Brunton Cres entrance. Take this track to continue the journety through the arboretem.

Continue over the bridge if you want to exit via Brunton Cres. To complete a circuit of the lower arboretum, veer left and head uphill via the switchback and steps. When Currie St is reached, veer left to the turning head of the road, and return on the track uphill to the Mount Sea Ave car park.

At this point, the upper arboretum is reached by continuing on via the alternative track out of the car park. The track climbs past recent school plantings to a viewpoint marked by a seat underneath an old pine tree. Fine views of Thames, the Firth of Thames, the Waihou River and the Hauraki Plains can be seen from this point.

Retrace your steps to return to the Mount Sea Rd car park.