Friday, April 12, 2013

Undiscovered Dunedin

My wife and I went for an hour and a half walk yesterday, using one of those Intriguing Dunedin Street Walks books as a guide.  They were written by Paul Hayward in the nineties, and there are either four or five or them.  A number of things have changed since the booklets were first published, but fortunately none of the streets have moved, so this is a plus! 

The other plus is discovering bits of Dunedin that have existed longer than I have and yet I've never realised they were there before.  Yesterday's big surprise was finding Braeview Crescent.  Now, to those who live in the street, or know people who live there, the Crescent will come as no surprise, but, as Hayward notes, it's not a street you find easily: one end is only accessible by a pathway. 

The more interesting thing is that as you come down the pathway you walk into what Hayward calls the equivalent of an English country lane, complete with (very high) hedgerows, and blackberries growing wild (and not sprayed with poison either, as far as we could tell).  But the next surprise is that once you get past the hedgerows you discover that you're walking along the edge of a cliff, one that drops some hundred metres or more down into the lower Leith Valley area.  You get a marvellous view over the North end of the City, but you also take your life in your hands if you go too close to the edge.  Fortunately the dog wasn't interested in doing so, though I imagine if we'd taken my youngest son there when he was a child, we would have had our hearts in our mouths.  I can remember my brother-in-law, years ago, being shocked at how casual my son was in regard to danger: at that point he was on top of the cliffs at Tomahawk. 

Anyway, after the cliff-top excitement you find that there are houses built on plateaus at the edge of the cliff.  Great views, but I'm not sure if they would be my ideal location. 

The Hayward books are great for helping you discover lanes that you've never noticed before, little pathways that run between streets.  I'm sure most cities have these, but they're easily missed.  We went down one this morning that had the rather over-the-top name of Mentone Avenue.  It was barely wide enough to walk down with your arms stretched out.  It apparently has some connections with Menton, in France, where there is a villa that writers can go and live in for a year, courtesy of the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship.  Most lanes are unnamed: they're just a way to get from A to B.  They serve their purpose and good on them!

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