The thought of running into a real weta is an added thrill for 11-year-old Chloe Boyt of Matua as she tries out the new Aongatete Forest Nature Trail.

A walk in the Kamais is about to become even more enjoyable with the opening of a Nature Trail at Aongatete Forest.

Thirty beautiful interactive panels make up the trail, including panels on forest ecology, tree, insect and bird identification, geology, and pest control. A separate trail covers plants associated with rongoa, or traditional Maori medicine.

The Nature Trail is a joint project between the Aongatete Outdoor Education Centre and the Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust. The biggest users of the trail are expected to be the hundreds of children and young people who attend camps at the Edcuation Centre each year, but Forest Restoration Trust chair Barbara Mcgillivray said the trail should be popular with the public as it follows forest tracks that are open to everyone.

“The trail gives people a greater knowledge of forest interactions,” said its project manager, Keith Pyle, from the Education Centre. “Walking the trail you get a deeper understanding of the forest, and the incredible biodiversity it contains.”

The Nature Trail will be officially opened at 3pm on Tuesday, 13 September, by Western Bay of Plenty Deputy Mayor Gwenda Merriman. But you can get a sneak preview at a guided walk of the trail on Sunday, 11 September, at 10am. Both events start from the Education Centre at 834 Wright Road.

Keith Pyle said the interactive signs are only the start of what is hoped to be a bigger project in the forest, including a resource kit and activity guide.

“The kit would describe activities at a number of check points along the trail, and elements of this could be a ‘self-guide’ to the trail. Initially this would be in printed format but ultimately we’d like it to be available in digital format for use with devices such as iPads.”

Funding for the Nature Trail to date has come from the Department of Conservation, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, and the Lion Foundation.