Morrisons Burn Track and the Elusive Fernbird

After a disappointing driving test (spoiler: I failed) I needed a good walk to pick me up. Something with a decent hill to take out my frustrations on. The perfect place turned out to be Morrisons Burn Track in Leith Valley, north of Nichols Falls where the notorious feud between the Finnertys and Mr Rossbotham played out.


So we headed up Malvern St past the fat ducks of Woodhaugh and once again on to the winding Leith Valley Rd. We passed our konini-collecting spot and continued until we found a parking spot just before a bridge over the Leith which precedes the logging road which we were to walk up.

It was a very different atmosphere walking up the road than it had been last time we’d come this way – the trees uphill had all been logged, flooding the track with unaccustomed light. A half-moon hung above us in the pale winter sky.

Farewell trees!

Higher up fallen branches were littered across the road, forcing us to clamber over the tangled mess. Hopefully they plan to clean this up at some point. Just ahead of a pair of railway irons flanking the road we veered off up into the forest before breaking out into the grass along a fence line.

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A quick break before more bush

Then it was back into the tangled forest, up a steep and muddy trail that we shared with a small rivulet of last night’s rain taking the path of least resistance into the valley.

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Up we go!

It was a slippery scramble up through the forest until we broke out into the clearing that marked the end of a maintenance road. Out here the bush gave way to the flax and tussock of the alpine plateau.

Thank you, helpful sign!

The grass was soaking wet. I can’t stand wet grass, I’d rather walk directly through a river and be done with it (just kidding, no I wouldn’t). Despite my allegedly waterproof shoes, I soon squelched at every step.

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So, my old enemy! We meet again!

We continued up the road alongside a row of power pylons. Behind us the morning mist was clearing from Mount Cargill and the city below. Who needs to drive when you can walk to places like this…right?

An entirely satisfactory view

We continued up the gently sloping road until we noticed some ominous cloud coming in from the south. Having learned about the notorious fogs the early settlers travelling over Swampy and Flagstaff had sometimes encountered, we weren’t keen to experience one first hand. So we began our retreat.

Hey man, we don’t want no trouble

On the way down our attention was drawn to a persistent “twit! twit!” call. A tawny little bird was keeping pace with us, weaving in and out of the undergrowth. I tried to sneak up for a closer look but it seemed happiest when hiding in the middle of whatever bush it was perched in. I did however manage to get a long enough glimpse to confirm that we had sighted a fernbird (matata), a rarely-seen swamp dweller that I’d never encountered before.

Spot the fernbird

Such a little thing, but it raised my spirits and helped me forget my earlier failure. With new energy I slid and scrambled back down the muddy bush track, no longer minding my soggy feet or the tangle of branches we needed to negotiate to get back down the hill. Then we headed for home as the hills behind us were slowly enveloped by thick grey cloud.

One thought on “Morrisons Burn Track and the Elusive Fernbird

  1. Sue Nunn

    Great yarn as usual

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