Dannevirke: Milestone walks raise $294,000

By Christine McKay -
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Penny Poutin (kneeling front) with staff from Mana Tamariki Kohanga Reo walking the line on Sunday.
Penny Poutin (kneeling front) with staff from Mana Tamariki Kohanga Reo walking the line on Sunday.

Woodville's Clive Boyden had his best sleep in a long time on Sunday night - because gone was the worry of the logistical nightmare of the track and tunnel walk.

For 20 years, Mr Boyden and his wife, Shirley, have been heading the team organising the Woodville Lions Manawatu Gorge track and tunnel walk.

In its 20th year more than 20,000 people have now walked the 8km track for charity, helping to raise $294,000.

"Sunday was an absolutely brilliant day, it all went like clockwork," Mr Boyden said. "I certainly slept well on Sunday night with the worry gone - until next year."

With 11 buses making three trips each - 33 bus loads - ferrying walkers from Ashhurst to the lime works at the Woodville end of the gorge, strangers could be forgiven for thinking there was a mass evacuation happening.

"To shift 1500 people in a short time frame is a military operation," Mr Boyden said.

And the army of volunteers is huge. Assisted by the Pahiatua Lions Club and six members of the Woodville Fire Brigade in full uniform, 28 volunteers man the line, five park cars at Ashhurst, five load the buses and others man the information tent.

"It works because everyone knows what to do, they're well-drilled," Mr Boyden said.

This year, the sound of the pipes and drums of the Dannevirke Highland Pipe Band added to the atmosphere.

"The eight pipers and four drummers and their drum major played while we were loading the buses and then they stood on the top of the hill leading back to the Ashhurst Domain, welcoming home the walkers," Mr Boyden said.

"The sound of the pipes echoing across the valley was amazing. The band then played while people tucked into their barbecue. It was so good, I'm keen to have them return next year."

With 15 bridges and two tunnels, this is the only walk in New Zealand along live lines and, on Sunday, Palmerston North's Mike West did just what he did 20 years ago, led the first wave of walkers.

"Twenty years ago Mike told us if we could get this walk off the ground, he'd back us through advertising on his radio station and he's lived up to that promise," Mr Boyden said.

People take on the walk for various reasons, on Sunday John and Rachel Popplestone from Hastings were first timers, as were Tom and Chris Hattie from Palmerston North.

"This is my Mother's Day present from my daughter," Mrs Hattie said. "I've been wanting to do this walk for years and it's a real novelty."

Penny Poutin of Mana Tamariki Kohanga Reo was part of an outing for Kura Kaupapa Maori staff.

"It can be hard to find something everyone wants to do," she said.

And the publicity for the event and the Tararua is huge, as this year the event was covered for a feature in the New Zealand Motorhome and Caravan magazine.

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