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An enchanting garden . . .

Julie Haines broke the monotony of State Highway 5 with a spellbinding visit to Trelinnoe Park . . .

Tucked away off the Napier-Taupo Road is an enchanting garden to rejuvenate travel-weary souls.

Trelinnoe Park is a 12 hectare woodland on the Napier side of Te Pohue that has been charming visitors for decades, but is overlooked by many rushing along State Highway 5.

As teenagers my friends and I promenaded around the sprawling lawns, fantasising that we were the owners of a stately British country manor, and Trelinnoe its garden. We sashayed down the formal steps and picnicked beside the springtime azaleas and rhododendrons, vowing to return regularly.

But time is a strange thing, and some 30 years later I finally returned for the first time, bringing my own daughter so she could fall in love with the magical gardens as I had done three decades before.

The gardens were in the early throes of autumn when we visited, with bursts of colour in the treetops and the track carpeted in places in red and gold.

We collected a map at the entrance and set off in search of the labyrinth. We expected a maze, but instead found something more spiritual and meditative. A seven ring pathway wound its way between tall grasses to the centre. The intention is that you reflect on something that is troubling you while you walk, and with luck you will come to a resolution when you reach the centre, or at least a sense of calm. Nine-year-old India confessed afterwards it was her favourite part of Trelinnoe. She stood with her eyes closed in the centre, feeling at peace, and then bounded out with renewed vigour.

A fanciful spot

For me, the best part of the garden was a pond that reflected the riot of colour around it. Dragonflies hovered over lily pads (though much to India's disappointment, there were no frogs to be seen at this time of year).

Clusters of Fly agaric also sparked our imaginations. These white-spotted red fungi look like something from a fairy garden, but if you value your health you definitely shouldn't eat them. In an enchanted garden, however, they fit the part perfectly.

With whimsical names like “Vale of Xanadu”, “Dell of Giants” and “Walk of the South Wind”, Trelinnoe Park's gardens are a fanciful spot to break up a journey.

No matter what the season, the trees, shrubs, perennials and natives put on a spectacular show. Even in winter there are early magnolias and camellias blooming. Many of the trees and shrubs are rare or unusual varieties from other countries, such as the Mexican Hand Flower, Chiranthodendron pentadactylon (also known as Devil's or Monkey's Hand Tree), which has red flowers that resemble a hand.

On the edges of the park there are picturesque views across stands of toi toi and farmland to the ranges beyond.

The park is located 5.5km along the Old Coach Road, approximately 45 minutes from Napier or 75 minutes from Taupo, and signposted from SH 5.

• For more information see www.trelinnoepark.co.nz.

© Julie Haines 2021

CHILDHOOD DREAMS: The grand staircase at Trelinnoe Park, covered now in autumn leaves, where 30 years ago a group of teenage friends enjoyed the pretence of being in the grounds of a stately British manor house. Grand staircases at Trelinnoe Park. All pictures by Julie Haines
EARLY: Camellias are showing at Trelinnoe Park in autumn.
STONE WORK: A sculpture by Owen Yeomans at Trelinnoe Park
MEDITATIVE: The labyrinth at Trelinnoe Park encourages contemplative thoughts.
LOOK BUT DON'T TOUCH: Or eat . . . This Fly agaric fungi at Trelinnoe Park looks like something from a fairytale.
REFLECTIONS: Reflections on the lily pond at Trelinnoe Park.
LOOKING OUT: The view from Trelinnoe Park across neighbouring farmland to the ranges beyond.
Trelinnoe Park in autumn.
DECORATIVE: This stone figure of a boy playing a mandolin is among the delights at Trelinnoe Park.