|View looking westwards from the Wither Hills |
The barren terrain is clearly evident, although at the lower right,
the results of revegetation efforts are visible..
The Wither Hills run between the Dashwood and Taylor passes and are situated directly to the south of Blenheim. Formed by tectonic movement, the underlying rocks are gravel conglomerates and wind blown Wairau loess greywacke. They are named after C.B.Withers who took up a sheep run on them in 1848.
In pre-colonial times the hills were extensively covered in manuka, kanuka and totora forest supporting a large population of moa and other bird species. The arrival of fire with Polynesian explorers resulted in large fires raging across most of eastern Marlborough in the tinder dry conditions. After this deforestation a tall tussock grassland established building a layer of humus and sustaining the loess of which much of them are made.
On European settlement the hills were once again burnt and sown with exotic grasses more palatable to sheep. This started a long period of erosion which scoured out long underground tunnels and left scars visible for some distance. After World War 2 a soil conservation project was begun at the western end through extensive tree planting and improved stock management.
The Wither Hills are now completely owned and managed by the Marlborough District Council who has constructed a network of recreational walking tracks and implemented a conservation and restoration programme for the remaining bush remnants.
On December 26, 2000, a devastating fire swept through the Wither Hills, destroying farmland, and most of the efforts at reforestation. Some estimates suggest that it will take at least ten years to recover from the damage.
|The farming legacy of the Wither Hills is reflected |
by the numerous stock water tanks scattered about the dry hillsides.