Location: Waihi town
Access: End of Clarke Street, off Kenny Street, Waihi
Length: 4 km
Grade: Flat to gently undulating (with option of steep section to top of hill)
Cafes and restaurants: Ti Tree cafe, Haszard Street, Waihi
More information: http://www.marthamine.co.nz/assets/pdfs/waihi-walkway-map-feb-2009.pdf
Walks don't have to be spectacular to capture the heart. As often as not it's just variety and a sense of escape that's needed to make a walk special, and worth returning to. The Black Hill Reserve walk is a case in point. In less than an hour, it serves up a mixture of ambling riverside walks, grassy glades, resinous forest, and views of an active mine - and all of it on the very doorstep of Waihi.
The starting point is the small car park at the end of Clarke Street. From here, we follow a well-made gravel track alongside the Ohinemuri River, which offers plenty of scope for the dogs to scramble down to the water and tank up for the walk ahead. Soon we are walking below large oak trees, which are festooned with ferns. Within fifteen minutes, however, the track curves to the left and we exit through a gate near a farm at the foot of Winner Hill. It's worth taking note of this spot, for half an hour from now we'll see it again - though from the other direction.
Now, we bear right along a farm track, keeping the river to our right. A few minutes later, we enter a grassy glade. Here we have a choice, for while the main track runs on along the grass, to our tight there's a fisherman's (or perhaps that should be fisherperson's) track that follows the river bank, beyond a wall of tall flaxes. We can take which we will, for in another ten minutes they'll converge again at the halfway point of the walk, where the track curves north and at last leaves the river.
From there, we follow a narrower and somewhat rougher path beside a motor-cross track, winding across the toes of Black Hill. Beyond the MTX circuit the lumps and bumps and conveyors of one of the working goldmines that give Waihi its purpose in life can be seen. To our left, we can trace the track to the top of Black Hill, marked with orange posts. Our own route, however, curls west and then, with a twist one way then another, lands us back at the farm beside Winner's Hill. We could if we wanted to, retrace our opening steps here, alongside the river. To complete the circuit, though, we have to bear right, and follow the path through pine block for a few hundred metres, until we exit next to another group of farm buildings. Now, it's left along Domain Road for a few hundred metres, and back to where we started.