The Serpentine goldmine, with its still-intact waterwheel and quartz crusher, and the historic Serpentine Union Church are about halfway along Long Valley Ridge Road, which turns off the Old Dunstan Road and heads southwest into a no-man’s land of wind-blasted tussock hills and swamps.
The remains of stone huts mark the mine complex. From the huts you can walk down a gully to the mine entrance, which is blocked after about 20m by a rockfall.
A tramline took the mine’s gold-laden quartz to the top of the incline and down to the 10-head stamper or crusher, which was driven by a 7m-diameter overshot waterwheel. The track down to the wheel and crusher is steep, rutted, and tricky: it drops 300m over 1.5km. Do not drive down if you are alone or if it has been raining, because you may not get back up.
Further along the road is the Serpentine Union Church, built of stone in the middle of nowhere by miners perhaps made more God-fearing by the stark, forlorn landscape in which they sweated. Here is an account of the church’s grog-marred consecration service, told on a wooden plaque on the end wall of the building.
The minister came late. The congregation of miners, after waiting for some time, went down to the hotel for refreshments and drank deeply to keep out the keen July air, keener than ever at this altitude. The service opened with a well-known psalm and an encore was demanded by the congregation. The preacher, after expressing very strong disapproval, went on with the service which was however abbreviated.‘ See the Serpentine Route in Volume 2 for the full story.
HOW TO GET THERE
From the junction with Webster Lane, travel 19.2km along Old Dunstan Road to the double gates and AA sign. Turn right into Long Valley Ridge Road. Or turn left off Old Dunstan Road 2 (Route 90) at the 15.9km mark.
H42 (Waipiata), H43 (Middtemarch)
N > S. Start at H42 589368
DISTANCE: 30.2km including side-trip to the Serpentine stamper
The track had been graded at the time of survey (April 2000) and was in fair condition to the Serpentine Union Church. It is not recommended to be used when wet. The section down to the Serpentine stamper is especially steep and rutted – do not try this in the wet. After the church the track is rough and rutted for about I km and then improves to be slightly rutted and gravel.
4WD South Island Volume 1 (Ken Sibly & Mark Wilson)