The Marsden Valley and Barnicoat Range – Nelson

Marker on the Scout Track Barnicoat Range

The Scout Track, Jenkins Hill, Widdershins and Barnicoat Walkway

Today I ventured out on a local mission from Stoke in Nelson, exploring some tracks around Marsden Valley and Barnicoat walkway. As I will be living in Stoke on a long house-sit, I wanted to have a wander round and find out about the trails on my doorstep. I started with the Scout track and headed to the top of the Barnicoat range, detoured to Jenkins Hill and made a loop route coming back down the Widdershins track and Barnicoat walkway.

I wanted to head up the mountain via the Scout track – the most steep and difficult trail and a great little little burner. It starts the top end of Marsden Valley Road, and ends on the top of the Barnicoat range. The trail is approximately 2.5Kms long begining at around 150m elevation and ending at around 720m. That’s a LOT of up in a very short distance! This area is popular for all it’s mountain bike trails, so it was nice to find a more rugged and natural trail amongst the gravel tracks and forestry blocks.

Getting There and Getting Lost

I walked up the Marsden Valley Road from Stoke itself. It was a pretty road walk past the cemetery and a few picnic spots. The walk gently climbed until I reached the car park near the road end. Just by the car park was a lovely information board which had all the details of the mountain bike trails in the area, but not the Scout track (which is a walking track).

Signage for the Barnicoat Range - everything but the Scout Track
Signage for the Barnicoat Range – everything but the Scout Track

Before I left home had checked out the wonderful Nelson Trails website which had a detailed description of how to get to the Scout track. I remembered it being close to the start of the Involution mountain bike track, but as I was on a mini-adventure I decided to wing it rather than check the website again. I checked my topo map, which unfortunately was pretty useless. It had me heading left over a bridge from the car park/information board then taking a track on the South/East side of Poorman Valley Stream. After 45 minutes of attempting various trails, much consulting of the gps and asking everyone I met (none of whom had even heard of the Scout track) I headed back to the car park to start again.

Gravel track towards the Involution track
Random track… no idea if this was the right way or not! 🙂

This time I headed straight up past the information board on the gravel road and after several 100m took a left at the fork in the road. I crossed Poorman Valley Stream, met a mountain bike track, headed left, crossed back over the stream (twice) then found myself on the trail according to the topo map. Yay! Then I remembered the Nelson Trails instructions mentioning a weir section with rope for climbing that I had been looking forward to. I had completeley missed it… Anyway, I was on the trail, that was the main thing.

The Scout Track

The track was a very steep climb up the rocky ridge through the native bush. There were no markers but the trail was well-worn. It was thirsty work, and I paused for numerous micro-breaks.

The Scout Track, Barnicoat range
An easy start to the Scout Track
Getting steep on the Scout Track
Getting steep on the Scout Track
Marker on the Scout Track Barnicoat Range
Finally finding a marker on the Scout Track

After 40 minutes I came out of the bush and crossed the Involution mountaun bike track at around 580m elevation. I looked back and saw the first marker here. From this point the trail continued straight up, intersecting with the Involution track here and there.

The last 500m of the track was through a lovely section of beech forest with a much gentler gradient. Again, it was officially unmarked, but someone had taken the time to use branches and sticks to indicate where you should/shouldn’t go. At 680m I saw a lone orange marker.

A more gentle gradient at the top of the Scout track
A more gentle gradient at the top of the Scout track
Unofficial markers at the top of the Scout Track
Unofficial markers at the top of the Scout Track

At 2.30pm, an hour after starting from the car park again I came out onto the 4-wheel drive track at the top of the Barnicoat range. I sat on the bench for a rest and chatted with a couple of mountain bikers.

Jenkins Hill

There are minimal views heading up the Scout track, so I went in search of some by heading to Jenkins Hill abround 1.5Kms away to the North (left as I came out of the Scout track). The wide 4-wheel drive track was wide, easy to follow and undulated up and down with a few steeper sections.

Heading to Jenkins Hill
Heading to Jenkins Hill

I crossed through a gate after a short time and continued on for 20 minutes until I came to a junction and the predator fence of the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary (a pest-free wildlife sanctuary).

Reaching the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary
Reaching the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary
Following the fence line of the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary
Following the fence line of the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary

I headed left towards Jenkins Hill and walked on for another 10 minutes to the ‘summit’ of Jenkins Hill where the track descended steeply in front of me. There were some nice views down along the fence line towards Nelson.

As soon as I reached the sanctuary the loud chorus of birdsong started ringing out all around me. It really makes it apparent how these wildlife havens free from introduced pests like mice, rats and stoats, allow the native birds to flourish. I stopped to listen and watched for the birds.

I retraced my steps back to the benches at the top of the Involution track. There were some great views across the ranges as I returned. I was back at 3.30pm, an hour after I’d headed off to Jenkins Hill.

Back towards Involution track from Jenkins Hill
Back towards Involution track from Jenkins Hill

Widdershins Track

This was unexpectedly turning into an exploration day! Next, I took what I later found out to be the Widdershins mountain bike track heading gently downhill for a couple of Kms to the Barnicoat Walkway. I met a few mountain bikers who were taking the Widdershins uphill so they could meet the Involution for the downhill. They all seemed keen to stop for a chat!

The Widdershins track heading from Involution to Barnicoat Walkway
The Widdershins track heading from Involution to Barnicoat Walkway

I really enjoyed this section of the track. It was reasonably narrow (so be careful of the mountain bike traffic if you’re walking/running it). It came out of the forest and into an open section of gorse and bushes. There were some great views across the Waimea inlet and Tasman Bay coast.

Amazing views from Widdershins track heading towards Barnicoat Walkway
Amazing views from Widdershins track heading towards Barnicoat Walkway
Widdershins to the Barnicoat Walkway
Widdershins to the Barnicoat Walkway

The Barnicoat Walkway

Tewnty minutes later I was at a rough open patch of land and the junction with the Barnicoat walkway. I continued more or less straight on. The walkway follows a rough, mostly open track down a steep ridge. To the left was a forestry section and to the right the land had been cleared. It offered marvellous views across Nelson and the Tasman Bay. The track starts at a 600m elevation from the top down to 150m at the bottom. If you’re lucky you will see paragliders catching the thermals around you.

Great views from the Barnicoat Walkway heading down to Glider Road
Great views from the Barnicoat Walkway heading down to Glider Road

I met a lovely lady walking her dogs, and we walked down together. After 1.5Kms or so, the track entered the pine forest, and met with Glider Road. This headed off to the right, and I headed left back to the car park. Shortly afterwards I began to recognise the trails I got lost on this morning!

I arrived back at the car park around 4.45pm. At a rough guestimate I had probably walked around 13Kms in my little adventure in just over 3 hours. It makes for a great day out and there are lots of possibilities for different loops. Once you’re up on the top of the Barnicoat range you can head South West to Richmond, or North East to connect with the beautiful Dun Mountain trails.

 

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