13. Hampton Park (Church Cone)

Visited on January 28

An oasis of green amidst a sea of industry.

An oasis of green amidst a sea of industry.

Ok, I’ll be honest, this is my favourite so far. I can’t quite tell why but maybe because it’s a gorgeous, miniature, well-preserved cone, obviously steeped in so much history yet completely surrounded by industrialization. It was enormously pleasant to explore, somehow stepping back in time in a time-warp of isolation. Or maybe I’m still buzzing from the adrenalin of being chased by cows (steers?).

Buildings on the Southern side of Lady Ruby Drive, where the multi-coned Otara volcano once stood, back onto Hampton Park and with such close proximity it’s easy to see why geologists in the 1800’s thought the Hampton Park cone was a part of that volcanic event. We at least know that Hampton Park erupted first as lava from Te Puke o Tara flowed around the West side of this cone.

Crater in cone (upper left), sunken garden in moat (centre), tuff ridge has old stables (right) and historic church (lower centre). (Thanks Google Maps)

Crater in cone (upper left), sunken garden in moat (centre), tuff ridge has old stables (right) and historic church (lower centre). (Thanks Google Maps)

We pulled up at the first available stopping place on East Tamaki road and entered by the gate shown below. The ground may look smooth and flat but I was surprised to find it rather rubblely and unstable underfoot. I wondered if it was just discarded bricks/stones or did buildings once stand here?

View from East Tamaki Road where we started our journey (thanks Google Streetview)

View from East Tamaki Road where we started our journey (thanks Google Streetview)

Our destination, the cone beyond the restored drystone wall.

Our destination, the cone beyond the restored drystone wall.

Approaching Hampton Park Crater

Approaching Hampton Park Crater

We came to a nice new gate and followed the wall to that tree in the distance under which we found the first evidence that “cows” had been here.

Will the real cow-pat please stand up?

Will the real cow-pat please stand up?

We found a low place in the wall where it was possible to virtually just step over into the cone paddock. We made sure we didn’t dislodge any more stones though.

Partially collapsed wall

Partially collapsed wall

Made it!

Made it!

It’s a dinky wee thing. Only 35 metres above sea level.

Looking into Hampton Park Crater

Looking East into Hampton Park Crater and to the garden beyond

Looking across Hampton Park crater to

Looking across Hampton Park crater to “Green”mount beyond, unfortunately showing it’s true colours as a landfill.

Some skinny looking

Some skinny looking “cows”

At this point the cattle must’ve caught wind of us because before we knew what was happening there was one right in the crater blocking my path to the garden and looking pretty menacing/inquisitive. I turned and raced back down the slope and we made a run for it to the “safety” of the broken wall, not even stopping to check if they were following us. We skirted that paddock and got to the old garden by the cover of some trees and when we eventually turned around we saw a whole line of them trotting/galloping along the fence line to see us off. I’d never been so thankful for a little bit of electric fence and miniature stonewall in my life.

All was fairly tranquil in the old garden. We found remnants of a few small plants but mostly everything had either died or grown to massive proportions. I was fascinated with a certain holly tree which I’m more used to seeing as a bush or hedge but it had shot up nice and straight to some 20 metres tall.

Remnants of a well-planned, tranquil sunken garden.

Remnants of a well-planned, sunken garden.

This area in particular has potential to be revitalised to give a window back into the past of how special gardens used to be. Yes, there is definitely something special about this place.

Ripples in a lava rock

Ripples in a lava rock

Sweeping view along the moat from the sunken garden (left) to the stables (right)

Sweeping view along the moat from the sunken garden (left) to the stables (right)

Closer view of the old stables

Closer view of the old stables

Hordes of hungry cattle busily grazing right where we had been 10 minutes prior

Hordes of hungry cattle busily grazing right where we had been 10 minutes prior

Now we turned our attention to the stone church, which was built using basalt rock from the lava flows, and to the cemetery on the ridge. Many members of the Reverend Gideon Smales’ family were laid to rest in this tiny cemetery.

Beginning of a short walk along the tuff ridge from the church garden to (almost) the stables.

Beginning of a short walk along the tuff ridge from the church garden to (almost) the stables.

An underutilised public toilet frequented by the local arachnids. Great view from sitting here -you can watch all the traffic driving along East Tamaki Road

An underutilised public toilet frequented by the local arachnids. Great view from sitting here -you can watch all the traffic driving along East Tamaki Road

Found a bird's nest that had fallen out of a tree in high winds

Found a bird’s nest that had fallen out of a tree

The path back to the church

The path back to the church

Historic St John's church completed in 1862

Historic St John’s church completed in 1862

The historic stone church on the property was built between 1859 and 1862 by the Rev Gideon Smales, a Wesleyan missionary and pioneer Auckland farmer. It is one of the oldest buildings in New Zealand still in regular use. Church services are conducted at 9am on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month.

See more photos here and the inside here.

Part of Rev Gideon Smales’ death notice provides some history to the church “…Soon after his removal to the East Tamaki, Mr. Smales erected a small stone church on his property at his own cost and placed it at the disposal of the Anglican and Wesleyan church authorities. For a number of years this was the only church in the district and was attended regularly by members of all sections of the Christian church…”

And some history to the farm “…All through his life, it has been manifest to those who knew him, that Mr. Smales possessed a considerable amount of energy and perseverance. After purchasing the land at the East Tamaki, he was told that being so rough and covered with stones, it was not worth clearing. He however, was not easily deterred but set to work cleared and cultivated 100 acres each year for a period of three years, so that the rough run is now a good farm- the best in the district…”

And some measure of his character “…Mr. Smales was a man of broad views and laboured under the conviction that Christianity, with its universal principle of love, should predominate… He possessed superior mental gifts, had a well-cultivated mind, an easy and fluid style and always expressed himself in a lucid manner; his addresses were usually both [uplifting] and instructive…”

Shady, flowering-tree-lined drive from the church down to the road.

Shady, flowering-tree-lined drive from the church back down to the road.

According to this Scoop article, in the millennial year, a call was put out interested parties to discuss the restoration of Hampton Park. “Public input is needed to discuss such aspects as: areas for grazing, conserving and interpreting archaeological sites, redeveloping the sunken garden as a semi natural glade, replacing the historic plants, and the creation of a visitors/education centre where stories of the wider area can be told. Restoration of the reserve has begun with the rebuilding of stone walls, removal of weeds and rubbish, tree care and fencing however more work is needed to conserve and enhance the area as a quality historic park.”

2 thoughts on “13. Hampton Park (Church Cone)

  1. […] Resting on tiny Pukeiti is quite an experience and with such a commanding view it feels more grand than Hampton Park […]

  2. William McCabe says:

    Excellent article and description of a short waik in the area however, an ancient farm quarry and Maori occupation terraces etc. Were not explored. These exist on the property and give great character to the site.

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