Eskdale Park is a 12.5 hectare rural community park (about 8ha accessible to the public) just a hop, skip and a jump past the picturesque Eskdale War Memorial Church on SH5 heading towards Taupo.
Originally part of Hedgeley Station, the land was gifted by the current landowner’s great-great-grandfather Thomas Clark. Mr Clark was a philanthropist who supported the local community in many ways.
He and his daughter Annie built the attractive church, designed by architect James Chapman-Taylor, as a memorial to Annie’s husband, Lieutenant Percival Moore Beattie, who had been killed in action at Le Quesnoy in 1918. It was dedicated on 3rd December 1920.
When I visited the park with a local who had enjoyed its spacious and peaceful setting beside the Esk River for some seventy-odd years, my first impression was of just how many mature trees there were and the amount of unspoilt space there was … lots of it. At the end of our walk, we both agreed that this lovely reserve might just be one of Hawke’s Bay’s best-kept secrets.
Many years ago, equestrian events were held there, but those days are long gone. Showjumps and riding arenas have been replaced with a community cricket pitch and children’s playgrounds. The park is used extensively by local schools for social activities, athletics and sports. It is a cycle-free area and, as such, is a favourite destination for around eighty, mostly older, dog walkers, who can relax and enjoy exercising their pets off-leash.
Clearly, it is a very family-friendly park with the two basic playgrounds set well apart and plenty of room in between for children to safely run about in and explore. For this reason, many clubs and businesses, such as Higgins, use the park for their family-outing days.
Disability service provider, Hohepa Homes, is one of the most regular users of the park. Staff escort their special needs children and adults, who have an intellectual disability, to walk in the reserve. Their residents feel safe as it is a quiet, tranquil spot, a factor which is helpful to those who suffer from autism and other syndromes, where too much noise or stimulation can cause distress. Experiencing Nature up close and personal is soothing for the soul.
Next door is the recently relocated Hukarere Girls’ College and its 120 students use the park almost every day. Without a swimming pool on the school grounds, the girls regularly swim in the scenic river which separates the reserve from Pan Pac’s Tangoio Forest. Eskdale Primary School, along with the community, has been busy growing and planting natives, and their efforts are acknowledged with a little plaque.
There are picnic tables and loos on site so, if you fancy a stroll and some al fresco dining in the country with your dog, whanau or friends, the easy 18 km drive from Napier makes Eskdale Park a great choice.
[Editor’s note: The Hastings District Council is reviewing the future of Eskdale Park and a consultation process is underway. More information here. On Thursday 24 Sep, 6-8pm (this is an updated date given Covid constraints), a community meeting will be conducted by HDC at Hukarere Girls’ College Gymnasium. All welcome.]