Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 27 February 2009 Contents 27 February, 2009 | Page 7
When English restaurateurs Trevor and
Helen Smith first visited Te Anau they
thought it was the most amazing place on
Earth and decided, almost on the spot,
that this was the place they would retire.
“We discovered Te Anau and thought it
was just a dream,” Trevor said.
For the past five years they’ve been
living that dream from their new home,
Te Timatanga Hou (New Beginnings), on
William Stephen Road.
For the previous 26 years their home
was an apartment above their successful
restaurant The Mermaid in St Ives,
Cornwall. It was hard but rewarding work
that defined their lifestyle for a large part
of their lives. They still own the restaurant
but it has been leased, freeing them up
for a new life in New Zealand.
Now the commitment and passion
previously lavished on their business has
found a new outlet — the garden they
have created from scratch — despite
having no previous gardening experience.
“The builders called us the bloody Indian
tea pickers,” Trevor recalled, laughing as
he recounted the sight he and Helen must
initially have looked muddling around
the section, pulling weeds, planting and
landscaping as their house was built.
Despite the misgivings of the tradesmen,
Trevor and Helen have achieved the
seemingly impossible and, although their
garden is a long way off finished, it’s hard
to appreciate that only five years ago it
was an empty paddock.
Such is the interest in what they’ve
created that garden clubs have already
When approached the first time to open
their garden to visiting enthusiasts,
the Smiths saw a unique opportunity
to combine their newly-found green
fingers with Helen’s chef skills for a good
community cause. On several occasions
now they have catered a light lunch for their
visiting garden groups, charged a small fee
and donated the proceeds to the Fiordland
Health Centre Trust.
Their generosity has seen more than
$2000 donated to the cause but Trevor was
matter-of-fact about what they’d done.
“To get out of a community you’ve got to put
into it,” he said.
As the garden has taken shape, so has the
Smiths’ evolution to the stereotypical “good
life”. They are growing their own fruit and
vegetables and could, theoretically be self
sufficient except that their pet sheep will
never be more than that. When one got sick
they paid $350 for an operation to save it.
“I know that’s mad,” Trevor said.
And yet you can’t help thinking that he’d do
it again if necessary.
There are lots of things in the Smiths’
garden that could be considered mad. Like
the amount they’ve spent on it – $10,000
on the ponds alone. Trevor estimates
they’ve spent in the vicinity of $250,000 on
the project so far.
“I don’t begrudge anything on the garden,”
he said. “I’ve got a passion for the place as
I had a passion for my work.
“Probably I am mad – but I’m a happy
madman if I am.”
Inspiration for the garden has come
from many places, not least of which has
been Maple Glen at Glenham, one of the
Smiths’ favourite spots. Their friendship
with the owners has seen them adopt a
menagerie of birds from there – white
ducks and swans among them with
peacocks planned for next year.
Every spare minute is spent in the
tranquillity of the garden which offers
incredible views across Lake Te Anau. It’s
a far cry from the hustle and bustle of
their previous life in England – a life many
of their friends doubted they’d give up.
“Southland’s a great place. I wouldn’t
want to live anywhere else,” Trevor said.
“This is our lives. This is happiness. This
is passion. This is living.”
An English couple whose only
previous horticultural or rural
experience involved tending
four window boxes and three
hanging baskets outside their
city apartment are carving a
Garden of Eden out of a 13.5
acre paddock at the foot of
Lake Te Anau. Are they mad?
WHERE OH WHERE?
Helen and Trevor Smith are anxious
to know the whereabouts of one of
their new cygnet swans. The bird had
only been in the garden for two weeks
when it went missing. Unable to fly, it’s
unclear where it could have gone.
Three people had reported seeing
the cygnet on the lake and, although
possible, that would be a long way for
it to walk, Trevor said. The important
thing for the Smiths was to find out
that the swan was safe and well.
“I’d like him back but if he’s okay then
I’m happy with that,” Trevor said.
Anyone with information can contact
the Smiths on (03) 249-8667.
The garden is an ever-lasting work in progress. Here preparations are being made for a
stairway at the front of the garden.
It’s hard to believe that this garden, which commands uninterrupted views of Lake Te Anau, was
only a paddock five years ago.
Trevor with one
of his beloved
one of which went
missing two weeks
after arriving at
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