7 February 2021

The Twisted Trees of Slope Point

This is Slope Point. It is the southernmost tip on New Zealand's South Island. The airstreams loop the vast circumpolar Southern Ocean unobstructed for 2000 miles and then they smash into land. Here. They are so persistent and so violent that the trees are perpetually warped and twisted into these crooked, windswept shapes.

Unsurprisingly, no-one lives at Slope Point.  Yet like virtually everywhere else in New Zealand you will find sheep in abundance.  Even these hardy creatures need some shelter from the elements and so, decades ago, local farmers planted saplings which they hoped would afford their animals some respite from the often savagely inclement weather.

Windswept trees at Slope Point
As they grew the trees were so bombarded by the wind coming in from the Southern Ocean. Their branches became twisted in a northerly direction in order to offer the least resistance to the gales blasting in from the South Pole.

Image Credit Flickr User Seth Mazow
Writer Trevor Cree puts it beautifully. "It is not a wind that will necessarily break and snap at will, although clearly it can, it is its sheer relentlessness, like a gnawing toothache, that never ceases until total submission from the victim is achieved. Slope Point was not a place for kingly kauri or totara but for fawning species that lay bent and beaten by the westerly wind."

Image Credit Flickr User dandownunder
Image Credit Flickr User dandownunder
Spectacularly steep cliffs descend to the sea which means that there is no slope forming a natural break for the winds despite the place’s name.

Image Credit Flickr User fiverlocker
Image Credit Flickr User Martin and Jane
The approximate human population in a five mile radius around Slope Point is 58.  Little wonder so few wish to live here- it would be like being perpetually blown by a hair drier set to cold.  In fact, there is no road to Slope Point at all.  The nearest is a brisk twenty minute walk away.

Image Credit Flickr User Robert Thomson
Image Credit Flickr User Zach Henry
There are places for the adventurous backpacker to stay, albeit at a distance from Slope Point (and definitely not in the shack above).  Yet for the brave-hearted this would not prove any great barrier to a visit.  However, once the day turns to evening it is better to leave this desolate but beautiful place to the sheep and their contorted company of twisted trees.

Slope Point Trees
It is perhaps difficult to believe this unforgiving micro-climate is only a few hours’ drive from the fiords and rain forests of Milford Sound. As such Slope Point contributes to the exceptional and distinctive beauty of New Zealand - the broad diversity of landscapes in the vicinity each other.

Slope Point
Slope Point
Image Credit Flickr User CorinneStanley

First Image Credit Flickr User Anita363