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Ellis Hut is the oldest hut in the Ruahines and was recently restored. Unfortunately it has been severely graffitied. It still makes a good walk to get to.
3 km south of Tikokino and 11 km north of Ongaonga, turn into Makaroro Road. After 15 km turn right into Wakarara Road and at the junction with North Block Road (6 km ) head right. Yeoman’s Track is signposted and starts on the opposite side of the Makaroro River from the carpark. Wet feet are unavoidable on the river crossing.
The rough forestry track climbs to pine plantations (15 minutes) heads left at the T-junction (15 minutes) and continues to another junction. Yeoman’s Track is signposted to the right and Craig’s Hut is visible a few hundred metres to the left. This is the boundary of the Ruahine Forest Park.
Pass the junction to Parks Peak Hut and follow Yeoman’s Track proper, which follows the route of an old forestry track, originally excavated when the areas was logged from the 1920s. It’s a wide track on an even gradient and passes through mature and regenerating beech/podocarp forest, an unusual combination highlighted by the information panels provided by DoC at strategic locations.
The pleasant forest is notable for the mixture of mature trees (those left by loggers) and the scars of the industry. ‘Stags Heads’ poking hauntingly skywards are the remains of damaged trees, usually red beech.
After approximately 1½ hours a small clearing is notable for a chimney structure and the covered over remnants of a saw pit. A pit like this would have been used to slice the planks needed for the construction of Ellis Hut, 15 minutes further on at the perimeter of the forest park.
This quaint timber pailing structure was also known as Murderer’s Hut and is the best place for a rest stop. The adjacent Whitnell Lodge was named after Bill Whitnell, who lived in the area as a shepherd and wild dog hunter in the late 1800s. It is more spacious, but lacks the charm of Ellis Hut.
You can either return via the same track or continue via forestry roads to the carpark at Makaroro River. Continue down Ellis Road (25 minutes), turn right and follow Wakarara Road (1½ hours) then turn left into Makaroro Road to join the initial track 15 minutes above the river and carpark. Unless you have a particular aversion to returning by the same route, don’t bother with the forestry roads as the monotony of the pines is tedious. There is no real time saving.
Ellis Hut is the oldest hut in the Ruahines and was recently restored. Unfortunately it has been severely graffitied. The hut was built in 1884 by Jack Curtis and Bill March, local shepherds who worked for Jock Anderson of Poporangi Station. The iron roof was transported 27 km over the Wakarara Track on the back of pack horses. The rip sawing, planing, moulding, hand worked tongue and groove and hand dressed timber are fine examples of pre-mechanisation workmanship and the interior lining was probably a means to keeping warm in the colder winter moths.
The name Murderer’s Hut is also used by locals to echo the story of Ellis, who killed his companion Leonard Collinson in the Wairarapa. Apparently Collinson had mocked Ellis for the flogging scars on his back then dobbed him to the boss for shooting a protected stag. Ellis stole a rifle and shot Collinson while they were clearing scrub together one day.
Police traced a series of robberies through the Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay until, nearly 9 months later, smoke was seen rising from the chimney of the hut. Detective Brobury entered the hut and immediately recognised Ellis. With quick reactions and steely composure, he seized Ellis’s rifle and arrested him. He was tried and hung in Wellington, proclaiming his innocence to the end.
The abandoned log hauler at the carpark was formerly used in the Gardner and Yeoman Mill, which was established in 1926. Charles Gardner and Thomas Yeoman employed 18 men at the peak of production, who lived in a small settlement around the mill. Over 40 children frequented the local school. Electric power was supplied by a generator run by the mill steam engine. When the pressure dropped at around midnight, this signified ‘lights out time’.
Production continued into the late 1950s, after which 2140 acres had been felled. The mill closed because there were no more trees to log.
DOC Hawkes Bay
Central government organisation
North Island ▷ Hawkes Bay ▷ Waipukurau
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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍