Ponsonby conceals a chain of pretty parks to stroll through, writes Cate Foster

Ponsonby may be the most popular kid in class for real estate, shopping or cafe life, but it has to be said: it's seldom thought of as particularly green and spacious. I decided to discover if it was possible to walk a green and leafy route to the east and west of the Ponsonby ridge without too many digressions on to tarmac.

So, on a Sunday morning, I gather my walking friends and we set off from the Ponsonby Rd edge of Western Park.

We make quick time down the central path under the boughs of the gracious trees planted back in the 1880s. The children want to play on the swings near the exit point on to Beresford St West but we bribe them with promises of pleasures in store.

Along Beresford and over into Anglesea St, the entrance to Harry Dansey Park is easy to see, although a steep flight of stairs means the baby buggy has to be carried down. That's easy with lots of us. Back when I lived in Anglesea St this pretty, tree-lined reserve was a jungle of morning glory and kudzu vines, but no longer. A rolling stretch of grass now leads up to two separate exits on to Collingwood and Wellington streets.


We take the eastern one - Wellington St - and cross into Grattan Place opposite. Here we head into an area reworked in the 1970s to replace decaying inner city with higher-quality government housing. Good design and an intimate scale means this small enclave of retro-cool concrete block homes is now so desirable that an open home at one of them had queues outside.

Down a grassy path from Grattan on to Gwilliam Place and from here we detour briefly into a nameless little reserve, chiefly because the entrance between Numbers 12 and 14 under the silver birches looks so enticing. We're not disappointed. The children escape and run races up and down the slope. We stand under the sweeping willow at the foot and marvel that such hidden treasures exist so deep in the inner city.

Returning up the slope into Gwilliam, we turn left into Napier St and cross Franklin Rd into the tiny hillside streets that contain some of the most picturesque remnants of old Freemans Bay. Past Queenies Lunchroom in Spring St (no time for coffee yet), we wend through narrow roads to Costley Reserve, where once again the children race ahead to the playground. We join them more slowly and drag them away with promises of more delights to come.

Up on to the Ponsonby ridge via Russell St, we cross Ponsonby Rd and walk 100m down it until we reach Tole St.

A cul-de-sac, this pretty street culminates in Tole Reserve, another of this area's hidden delights, with skate bowl and mini-amphitheatre. Another playground also beckons, and the kids race each other to be the first on the slide. More cajoling and we exit on to Clarence St and turn left for the final section of the loop.

A zig and a zag and we are in Vermont St and crossing the narrow reaches of Vermont Reserve towards Norfolk St.

Bribes of fluffies at my favourite local, Coffee Supreme in Douglas St, keep the young ones moving. Too bad it turns out to be closed on Sundays, but we turn back up towards Ponsonby Rd and content ourselves with a seat in the sun on the pavement outside Williamson Cafe, in a cute little building that was once - long ago - the Ponsonby Fire Station.

Hikers' reward

Coffee Supreme: 42 Douglas St, Ponsonby

The Williamson Cafe: 1 Williamson Ave, Ponsonby