There isn’t a New Zealander that I know who doesn’t like a bit of adventure and anything that involves swimming. So I thought I would share with you one of the “secret swimming holes” as listed on The Urban List many times that we frequently visit over summer.
Travel just 45 minutes north from Auckland towards Warkworth and you will come across the The Mahurangi Cement Works aka “Old Cement Works”. But first, a little history lesson about the place.
The founder of New Zealand’s cement industry, Nathaniel Wilson (1836-1919), emigrated from Glasgow with his family when he was 6 years old. Nathaniel initially trained as a shoemaker, but in 1864 he purchased a small piece of land adjacent to his parents block south of Warkworth village.
Close by, John Southgate had been making lime since 1851 by burning local limestone in a kiln. With limestone deposits on his land Nathaniel decided to give it a go too, building his own lime kiln in 1866. With this he started manufacturing Roche lime, used in plaster and mortar. After many experiments, by 1885 Nathaniel and his brothers, John and James, began trading as J Wilson and Company. Theirs was the first enterprise to commercially manufacture Portland cement in the Southern Hemisphere.
However, early production was challenging because of the variability of the local limestone. This was eventually overcome, with advice from Mr Pond, by adding pipi shells from the Mahurangi River, and later from Clevedon, to increase the lime content.
Although Wilson’s invested heavily in new machinery and processes, by 1918 the company was voluntarily wound up and amalgamated with the New Zealand Portland Cement Company, whose works were at Limestone Island. It was there that most of the cement was then produced, while the Mahurangi works focused on hydrated lime. By 1926 the closure of the works was imminent and machinery was transferred to Portland (near Whangarei) before the Mahurangi works were closed in 1929. Source: Google
There you go, now history is not for everyone but places like this I love researching into what it was before and then looking at what’s left behind.
The swimming hole is filled naturally with fresh water. The surrounding edges of the swimming hole are lime stone so you will need to be careful as it is slippery. It gets very deep very quickly, so if you are not a confident swimmer I would suggest taking a flotation device.
The water is pretty cold but perfect on a hot summer’s day. At first it does look like something you would find in a horror movie, like something is lurking under the water (hope I didn’t scare you) but just jump in, I did! The place does fill up with lots of other families so it pays to go a little early. After enjoying a swim, walk around the grounds and have a look at the ruins of the cement works. Some areas of the ruins are fenced off due to it being dangerous with falling rocks. There are toilets on site and plenty of car parking space.
Hopefully you will visit this amazing place soon, and even if you don’t swim head on down and go for a wander around the grounds.