Balsom Park - Highlands Park, New Plymouth
Walk status: On-Lead (due to sheep grazing)
Balsom Park is a rural delight, hidden in suburbia. Driving down the no exit road of William Street, Highlands Park, all that gives it away is a small sign at the end of the cul-de-sac.
A rural farm gate and a sty marks the entrance to the park. George is getting more familiar with using a sty, but if your dog isn't keen on leaping over, or you're not keen on picking them up to lift them over, on the right side of the gate is a small flap that allows dogs access.
I'd read before hand that sheep grazed here, so I kept George on a lead. Being spring, I wasn't wanting to surprise any little lambs that might have been hiding around the corner.
A wide grass path guides you through this park, giving you great views from up hill of the river below. Another gate is shortly after the entrance, but it wasn't locked so just needs to be unlatched to walk through and ensure you close it again so the sheep don't go where they're not meant to. It can be a little muddy on this first section so be prepared with your footwear choice. The path continues down hill until it opens up into a wide array of paddocks alongside the river.
We discovered the sheep grazing down this end, and while some were cautious of us, most went about their business and the little lambs kept close to mum. George has been around sheep before, and was more interesting in sniffing what they left behind than being interested in what they were up to. They did all stay in one area, so the paddocks are big enough that the sheep could be at one end, and you could be at the other without disturbing them. I would have let George off the lead once we moved away from them, but as this was our first time visiting, I thought it was best to keep him on in case there were any sheep hiding in the other areas.
We wandered alongside the river for a bit, then around the paddocks until circling back to where we came from and investigating alongside the river and taking in the view of the small waterfall at the far end of the paddock. The sheep had resettled here, but all of a sudden they took off running. This was a bit of a surprise to me, as George and I were still a fair distance from them at the waters edge and he was on lead so not reacting to them in anyway.
Unfortunately what had spooked them was another dog who had entered the park off-lead and decided to chase them around. Dog owners like this are unfortunately the ones that ruin it for everyone. The owner only took control of the dog once they spotted that I was there too. This sort of behaviour from dog owners is irresponsible, especially in Spring when there are young babies in the paddocks. If your dog has a high prey drive, or is a herding breed then please be responsible down here and keep them on a lead. This dog was a herding breed, so wasn't out to hurt them but it caused unnecessary stress to the sheep, especially the lambs who have made their home here.
Balsom Park isn't setup for a long walk, as we covered it in around 30mins and that was a slow meander to explore and take photos. But its a great option for a quiet walk, and especially good if your dog can't be off-lead and you want to try something different. Being only 2 mins down the road from Merrilands Domain (Audrey Gale Reserve), after finishing up at Balsom Park, we headed down there to allow George to burn off some steam off-lead so you can combine the two like we did if you need a little extra.
Balsom Park would be the perfect option for a off-lead dog park. It has plenty of space to run around away from any roads, access to water for summer swimming and even small patches of beach to get a bit of sand under the toes. A perfect haven for doggies, with just one unfortunate temptation....the sheep!
Location: End of William Street, Highlands Park
Carparking is very limited here, the street isn't very wide either so could be an issue for multiple people to visit at the same time
Things to know:
There are no toilets here, but toilets are available at Merrilands Domain (Audrey Gale Reserve) just up the road
Dogs shouldn't be off lead due to the sheep grazing in the park