Ross transforming river trail

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PEACEFUL: Ross Hawthorne has planted thousands of natives along the Ashburton River track.
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Ross Hawthorne’s project to establish a flourishing native forest alongside the Ashburton River has seen thousands of seedlings planted.

One year ago, The Ashburton Courier reported on his one-man crusade to tidy up and transform a section of the Ashburton/Hakatere River Trail.

At the time he had planted about 600 natives.

This number has now climbed to 2650.

‘‘I have got a bit of a love for natives, and Ashburton really has a lack of them,’’ Hawthorne said.

‘‘I love it down here. My wife complains about me spending too much time down here!’’ he said.

‘‘It’s quite peaceful listening to the sound of the river, and people stop to talk.’’

He has also now installed three picnic tables and two bench seats, enhancing the trail for its many walkers and cyclists.

As a meatworker who lives nearby, he is himself a keen walker of the trail, which meanders for 19km along the northern bank of the river from State Highway 1 to the sea.

The section he is focusing on is about 750m between Chalmers Avenue and Trevors Rd.

It was when walking in the area about two years ago, he was first inspired to clear out weeds.

Struck by the sad sight of a large pittosporum tree being smothered by old man’s beard, he went and got his hedge clippers and cut the climbing weed down.

‘‘Then I couldn’t stop,’’ he said.

He just kept on clearing more weeds, rescuing more trees.

Then he started planting.

PLANTING OASIS: Hundreds of native seedlings have been planted along the river trail.

Seedlings include broadleaf, totara, comprosma, cabbage tree, flaxes, pittosporum, kowhai, hebes, lancewoods and ribbonwoods.

His ultimate goal is to see the seedlings and surrounding trees thriving, attracting native species such as kereru, tui and bellbirds, alongside the many fantails already in the area.

Hawthorne said after he started his crusade, the district council was ‘‘quite rapt’’.

It had since helped out with a grant of $7500.

He had also had three fellow volunteers come on board, and was keen to get even more.

He said more volunteers could enable the project to extend further down the trail.

Hawthorne said donations of plants for his project had come from individuals and organisations, including the district council and Trees for Canterbury.

Some of the seedlings had been self-sown from the area itself.

Hawthorne uplifts these if they are in an area where they will not thrive, before taking them home to grow, then replanting them with fertiliser tablets and plant guards.

His employer , ANZCO, has been a supporter, donating one of the picnic tables, and plant guards.

The remaining picnic tables and bench seats were either his own, from home, or donated by friends and relatives.

– If you want to help Ross Hawthorne with his project to plant natives along the Ashburton River, please phone him on 0284098185.