The Barr-Brown Bush Reserve in Underhill Road is conveniently on the path of the Tauwherenikau Trail in Featherston.

The two hectare block is entrancing in spite of its tiny size. It’s one of the last examples of bushland that once was common on drier alluvial soils in the Wairarapa Basin.

These forests, principally of matai, totara, titoki and tawa, were cleared for farming and timber production. While including some of the same species that are in the neighboring Remutaka Range, the Barr-Brown bush reserve forest is drier and more open, with many large mature trees and thriving bird and insect life.  

The reserve dates back to the Second World War when a Wellington-based woodworking and construction company, Barr-Brown Ltd, bought 30 acres of land on the western outskirts of Featherston. In 1946, Allan John Barr-Brown had the foresight to declare ten acres of the property as a wildlife sanctuary. This was later designated a wildlife refuge and then, in the 1970s, a private scenic reserve. 

Access to the reserve, from 79 Underhill Street, is easy unless you’re in a wheelchair. It is flat, with well-formed tracks.