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Sutherland Stream

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Last Modified: 14-8-2022 11:01

Sutherland Stream
Sutherland Stream
Night view north from within Wither Hills Farm Park
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

One of Blenheim's not so secret treasures

On the eastern side of Blenheim, there’s a small stream bed, that more often than not is dry, running from Hospital Road south to the Redwood Street entrance to the Wither Hills Farm Park. From there it continues south to its source as a trickle of water in wet seasons, coming out of the hillside below Split Apple Peak. Being an ephemeral stream, much of the year it’s dry along it’s entire length, although after heavy rain, it can rise to the point that it’s a caramel coloured torrent filled with the fine loess clay of the Wither Hills and too dangerous to cross.

Sutherland Stream in flood
Sutherland Stream in flood
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

Once upon a time it would have been a natural stream along its entire length, however now, only the section within the Wither Hills Farm Park retains its natural character, particularly within the 41 hectare Queen Elizabeth II covenant area protected since 1995 after the land was acquired by Marlborough District Council in 1993, where numerous native plants including kānuka, mānuka, harakeke (NZ flax), kōwhai, prostrate kōwhai, tauhinu, scrambling pohuehue, matagouri, koromiko, poroporo, karamū, tī kōuka (cabbage tree), māhoe and a wide variety of ferns including a couple of stray mamaku tree ferns, more commonly associated with the Sounds, can be found.

Amongst the trees piwakawaka, riroriro, and korimako can be heard and often seen.

Fungi beside Sutherland Stream
Fungi beside Sutherland Stream
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

The steep vertical shingle and clay banks, glacial deposits from the last ice age rise in places to over five metres above the stream, and in their shade, numerous varieties of mosses and fungi can be found.

Sutherland Stream within the QE II Covenant area
Sutherland Stream within the QE II Covenant area
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

In places the stream cascades over tree roots in miniature waterfalls, and there’s a place where there’s a permanent putrid sulphurous smell that could be microbial action on deeply buried organic matter.

Sutherland Stream mini-waterfall
Sutherland Stream mini-waterfall
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

Although many trees were destroyed by the 2000 Boxing Day fire, the area continues to recover, and Blenheim’s own ‘hundred acre wood’, is a wonderful place to get away from the world, although Sutherland Stream is a bit small to play pooh sticks.

North of the farm park, the stream bed has been notably shaped by artificial means, with rocks placed to stabilise erosion of the natural clay rich soil, and large stepping stones strategically located to enable crossing the stream when there’s water in it.

Stepping Stones across Sutherland Stream
Stepping Stones across Sutherland Stream
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

In summer, when there’s more dust than water, bright wildflowers line the banks of the stream bed, commonly California poppies and viper’s bugloss.

As the stream outside the farm park is an off-leash dog exercise area, it’s common to meet all kinds of dogs and their owners walking, or as in the case of dogs, often running, alongside, or sometimes in the stream itself.

Mountain bikers and walkers also share this space, but once the stream enters the farm park, the track alongside is for human pedestrian traffic only.

Sutherland Stream
Sutherland Stream
View north from entrance to Wither Hills Farm Park
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

At Hospital Road, the stream unceremoniously disappears into a concrete culvert to complete its journey as a totally artificial drainage channel, however, surprisingly part of this channel plays home to a colony of native short finned eels, and occasionally galaxiid fish, the adult form of whitebait, have been observed in this drainage channel.

At only about three and a half kilometres long, Sutherland Stream is both short in length and in the period of the year that water flows in it, but is very much a special part of Blenheim.

Cite this page

Cookson, C. (2022). Sutherland Stream. Retrieved April, 24, 2024, from https://www.marlboroughonline.co.nz/marlborough/information/commentary/sutherland-stream/

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