A place to relax, just under the hills

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The War Memorial Hall.
The Musterers’ Hut in the domain.
A view across the domain to Mt Somers.

There is little room to move here at Christmas.

Or New Year.

Visitors love the peace and quiet, the easy access to the Ashburton Gorge, a pub across the road, village life.

The domain is a big piece of ground.

It is 15ha between the Mt Somers Holiday Park and the cemetery – the new cemetery, not the old disused cemetery up the road – and includes the camping ground and the memorial hall.

Included is a rural run-off on the southern side of Tramway Road. It is leased but held as a reserve and managed by the reserve board.

The domain as we know it was born in 1874 when a Mr Walker, chairman of the Mt Somers Roads Board, wrote to the secretary of Public Works requesting a reserve.

In 1878 the recreation ground was bought.

The leasehold land was once referred to as the Racecourse Reserve, and a paper of 1889 reported on the Mt Somers and Springburn Sports and Races Club and that “a gathering will be held for the first time this year on the racecourse reserve”.

It said all stones had been picked, and that it would be ploughed, harrowed and rolled and sown in grass “so that by next gathering (Boxing Day) the residents of Mt Somers will possess a recreation ground with a course, of which any country district can be proud”.

The programme included eight horse races and athletic events.

It appears the Sports Club lost its permit and the domain board took over the land in 1904, however a 1911 report refers to a racecourse with buildings and railings.

Alford Forest Racing Club used the ground from 1905 to 1912 for its St Patrick’s Day races and the last recorded meeting was in 1914.

A report to Parliament by the Land Department in 1907 outlined that fences had been repaired and gorse grubbed with improvements being fences, a plantation, a swimming pool.

The domain was used for cricket, rugby, tennis, bathing, races – and more, with records mentioning pillow fighting and “guess the weight of sheep” competitions.

In Easter 1909 Volunteer Forces Canterbury Battalion used the area for a regional training weekend and more than 1600 men stayed and practised military attack and defence drills over two days before catching a train home.

As with other domains, tennis was the first sport played. A grass court was laid in 1894 and the first hard courts put down in 1913. The Mt Somers Tennis Club opened in 1933.

Concrete courts were laid in 1963.

The first rugby game was recorded as the Married Men and the Springburn Football Club. That was in 1907.

The Mt Somers Rugby Club began in 1953.

The existing pool was dug in 1932. In 1968 the baths were remodelled, and this remains the pool used today.

Records also show the domain associated with rifle shooting, hockey and basketball. The miniature rifle club was formed in 1923 and a range built in 1935 and enclosed in 1965.

The netball club opened in 1953.

After WW1 the community decided to build a soldiers’ memorial hall at an estimated cost of 1400 pounds.

The domain board of the day pledged 700 pounds. The hall was opened in 1922.

From 1922 to the mid 1950s the original Mt Somers School building was moved to the domain as a supper room.

A community and supper room was added to the hall in 1954.

The addition led to indoor sports and the hall was popular for dances and balls, and in the 1960s there were gala events including running races, maypole dancing and limestone cutting.

The building of the ablution block in the 1970s was the driver for the camping ground.

The domain also hosts the Mt Somers Museum, with an excellent collection of memorabilia – and an old musterer’s hut has been relocated to the domain.

The hut was built on the south bank of Woolshed Creek around 1910, had an iron roof and weatherboard walls.