Our winter’s day started with a frost and a little bit of sunshine, though the day only reached 9C, and we were sheltering from a cold southerly wind at times. The day was all about Harry Ell, a Christchurch city councillor, parliamentarian and conservationist who planned a network of four teahouses for travellers on the Port Hills. We passed by three of these historic buildings on our 18km trek. As well, we walked on the Harry Ell Track, named after him.
Our walk began at the Sign of the Takahe. Built in the style of an English Manor House, it is the grandest of Harry Ell’s teahouses, begun in 1918 and completed in 1948 after his death. Work to strengthen and renovate it after the Christchurch earthquakes is almost complete. Prior to the earthquakes it had been operating as a restaurant, wedding and function centre.
We headed up the Harry Ell Track and were looking across to the Christchurch Adventure Bike Park, which was severely damaged by the Port Hills fire in February 2017. It is still closed.
Another of Harry Ell’s teahouses, built in 1916-17. Currently operating as a cafe, it re-opened in January 2017 after strengthening and refurbishment following the 2010-2011 earthquakes.
Our lunch break was at the Sign of the Bellbird, the third of Harry Ell’s teahouses that we saw. It was built in 1914. The remnants of the original building are in the foreground. The reconstructed building below is being repaired after a suspicious fire in 2015.