Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hidden valley

One of the advantages of a compact inner city is that it's possible to walk to quirky neighbourhoods on the outskirts of town. One of the most fascinating is these is the Aro Valley, and in particular the famously offbeat Holloway Road.

While there have been signs of the inevitable gentrification (such as a marketably quaint B&B), in most ways this tucked-away valley has hardly changed since the 19th century. At one stage it was so run-down and forgotten that Victoria University considered it a suitable site for dangerous experiments. For a while it was dominated by cheap student flats, which could be notoriously cold in winter (as a story by Samara McDowell points out). While there are no longer as many mad hippies with goats as there were even ten years ago, there are plenty of odd little artworks in gardens and on the street, such as this transformation of a gas meter into an alien creature.

Holloway St gas creature
There's also a real sense of shared responsibility for the public realm, and various residents have provided public amenities that combine practicality with humour. Why lobby the council for a public bench when you can just put out an old car seat?

There's a lot of history in the area, as the archived Mitchelltown history page and Aro valley heritage trail show. The bottom of the valley has a notable War Memorial, and just around the corner are the remains of the toilet that saw the infamous Sutch incident. At the top of the valley there's the Waimapihi reserve and the spooky Waimapihi stream, but that's a completely different journey.


At 11:09 pm, February 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember that guy Fletch who died. I am the same age and knew him when I was a teenager. I'm pretty sure he came from Brooklyn, he certainly hung out with a bunch of guys from there. They were generally into heavy metal (like ACDC), cars, hooning around etc. He was in a relationship for years with a girl I was at school with. I heard he suicided years later. I'm sure it must be the same person as there can't have been that many 'Fletches' around. I don't know of any connection he had with Holloway Road, perhaps he lived there at some stage.

Freaky reading about that as I was just walking in that area the other day, up at the little park at the end of the street. I was on my own and saw a few windchimes etc. I was going to head up to the turbine but had a nasty feeling about doing that alone at that stage, so listened to my intuition and turned back to walk down Holloway again.

I used to live at no 200 Aro St, an old cottage that is now completely dilapidated. When I lived there with the boyfriend du jour many moons ago, our cat was run over and we carried her dead body to Waimaphihi park as we'd heard there was a pet cemetery there. I think that's what a lot of those windchimes etc mark, because we were told to look for them all those years ago. Unfortunately we couldn't find them at that stage, so we ended up returning to Aro St still carrying the dead cat. I think we ended up burying her at the back of no 200. Strange that 15 years later or so I finally found the sanctuary.

After not having walked up there for a long time I was amazed at how little Holloway Road had changed. When I flatted in Aro St I used to know a lot of people flatting around the valley. Back then I thought it was an incredibly cool area, I was a bit of a hippie! I still think it's amazing though. It's so old and some places are so untouched they retain that history and original spirit so perfectly. Holloway Road is more like a tiny West Coast town than a slick city street which is refreshing. It's a real time capsule. I am surprised more people haven't bought up there and 'developed' it as it's so close to town.

After walking around there the other day I'm experiencing a renewed fascination in the area and history, so your site was a really great find as it's so informative.

At 11:44 pm, November 19, 2006, Blogger Br3nda of coffee.geek.nz said...

You post lead me to take a walk through spirit hill

I'm posted some photos of the area here:

At 2:50 pm, July 11, 2015, Blogger Unknown said...

Q:What do Holloway Road & drug addiction have in common?
A: They're both dead-ends.

Just a joke


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