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Taylors Mistake

A spectacular coastal clifftop walk with a captivating history.

Words and photography Carolyn Enting

The name Taylors Mistake is worthy of a headline and immediately begs the question, ‘how did it get such a name’?

It turns out historians can’t really say, though coincidentally this beautiful bay near seaside Sumner is remembered for three men who shared the name Taylor. Captain Taylor who beached his ship Volga in the bay in 1858; Captain Taylor who ran his schooner Catherine aground here in 1864; and Mr Taylor, chief officer of barque Gwalior who took command after its Captain Davidson threw himself overboard on 16 April 1853 and brought the barque to Lyttelton where it’s believed he may have been anchored off Taylors Mistake.

What is unmistakable is that this popular clifftop loop up to/or from Godley Head (depending on which end you begin from) is truly spectacular. It’s also easy going with a wide undulating path that hugs the coastline through honey-coloured tussock and dusky pink succulents while affording expansive views out to the ocean and Taylors Mistake Beach.

We began the walk from the Taylors Mistake carpark, which first takes you past a row of quintessential Kiwi baches before taking a gentle climb up onto the track, which follows a coastline eaten out into bays including historic Boulder Bay where several historic baches – including Rosy Morn and Stone End (constructed using stone and clay from the area) – still remain, for now. The baches of Boulder Bay, Hobsons Bay and Taylors Mistake are recognised for their heritage and cultural value. After a recent period of public consultation the future of the “low risk” baches looks assured for at least another 35 years following a recent Council panel recommendation. The baches are on public land with some identified as at risk from natural hazards.

Stone End was one of the first baches built in the bay in about 1908 by Hugh (Hughie) Yardley, a lighthouse keeper. He’s said to have lived in the bach for about 35 years, walking up the hill to tend the lighthouse, accompanied by his black fluffy cat.

There also used to be cave dwellings in the area (homes built into natural sea cave entrances), and at Hobson Bay. One still remains at Hobson Bay (one bay over from Taylors Mistake beach).

Climbing back up the hill from Boulder Bay the track takes you to the concrete remains of Taylor Battery. Thirty gunners were stationed here during WWII. This battery served until the completion of nearby Godley Battery with its longer-range guns, which gave more effective cover for Lyttelton Port.

Before reaching Godley Head, however, it is worth visiting Scott’s Hut (the cabin), a short stroll from the main track. It sits alone among the tussock with a panoramic view out over Christchurch.

The hut was relocated here in 2013 after surviving the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. It was one of four huts constructed for Scott’s second British Antarctic expedition (1910-1913) and was planned to be used as a polar meteorological observation and research station at Granite Harbour. However, no one from the party could be spared for these observations and the hut returned to Lyttelton on the deck of the SS Terra Nova. It was later erected in Joseph Kinsey’s (Scott’s expedition agent) garden next to his summerhouse. Since then, the hut has changed hands several times before being gifted to the city by Valerie and David Crichton who appreciated its historical significance.

Huts, baches and batteries aside, the walk is a wonder for nature lovers. Nesting sites for spotted shags and blue penguin are found along this coast. There are also plenty of stopping points along the way; and at one such stop we were rewarded by seeing dolphins.

The juxtaposition of this dryland peninsula offset by the brilliant blue of the ocean and sky on a clear summer’s day is breathtaking. It also offers no shade, so remember to wear a hat, bring a bottle of water and lather on the sunblock.

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