A pathway linking two Marlborough communities is set for an auspicious opening.
Marlborough’s Link Pathway stretches 42km, took 15 years to create and was only possible with the aid of 3000 volunteers. Now, after 30,000 hours of back-breaking work, what Edmonds refers to as an artform is at last ready to be enjoyed.
Its official opening on 16 January has been perfectly timed for Tuia 250, to coincide with the day Captain James Cook dropped anchor at Ship Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound 250 years ago.
Edmonds was driven by a desire to connect the communities between Picton and Havelock, near where he lives. And while an engineer would likely have found the most direct, easily cut route, in the hands of an artist the path became a creative work, lovingly crafted to maximise aesthetic and design values.
“I know every single inch intimately,” says Edmonds, whose tireless bush-bashing has revealed more than just a hidden talent for civil engineering.
An ancient, long-forgotten bridle path was uncovered with the sweeps of his scythe, access created to an abandoned and overgrown World War II battlement, and countless other hidden treasures unearthed.
“I feel like Indiana Jones,” he adds.
The top-class walking and cycling track has stellar views across Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds, with 35 strategically positioned benches along the way to capture what Edmonds, a keen tramper and climber, reckons would have been called “Kodak moments” back in the day.
The ambitious venture arose out of a casual conversation among six mates, who decided to up tools and set to work at weekends, carving a 1km track in a random, flat area between Moenui and Linkwater. A father of three, Edmonds had many years ago helped his own dad build the Moenui home in which he now lives, so he took great pleasure from crafting again with bigger tools than his paintbrush. The following year, the group created a further 2km of path, with another 3km added the year after that.
As others burnt out, Edmonds battled on, despite the impact on his art career. It’s taken stoicism simply to tackle the weighty burden of bureaucracy, although support from the Marlborough District Council and Rātā Foundation have helped cover costs. “We made a vow to create something at least 1.5m wide, away from the road, with a gradient that never exceeded 1 in 10, and all on public land,” he says.
Given the dense bush and forest, solid rock and steep bluffs they encountered, the project was a major feat. At one point, the army was called in to assess a particularly challenging section of steep and rocky shorefront. “They said it couldn’t be done,” recalls Edmonds. He and his volunteers solved the conundrum by building a costly and time-consuming bridge.
With the pathway completed, each community en route is taking responsibility for the maintenance of its local section. Now, Edmonds is turning his attention to a further extension of the path, linking beyond Havelock to Nelson.
“Someone once told me it feels like the path has been made with love – and it really has. That’s the greatest accolade anyone could give.”
This article was first published in the January 2020 issue of North & South. Follow North & South on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to the fortnightly email for more stories about New Zealand.