Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 13 March 2009 Contents 13 March, 2009 | Page 7
t was supposed to be a year
off, escaping the rat race of
Maidstone, Kent where Mark
and Sharon Ford – then single –
were both leading busy lives as
British police officers. They took a
year’s “career break” that actually
lasted closer to two years and at
the end wound up in New Zealand
and left, reluctantly, with dreams of
moving here permanently.
On their return to Britain they stayed
at a bed and breakfast in Wales
where the owners asked if they
would look after the place while they
took three weeks’ holiday.
Mark and Sharon were convinced
they had glimpsed their future and,
at the same time as planning their
wedding, they were also applying to
immigrate to New Zealand.
Approval came through three weeks
before their big day so their wedding
doubled as a farewell party for all
their family and friends.
They trawled the internet for a dream
place in the country where they could
run a bed and breakfast – and found
it ... in Garston.
Then known as “Angers’ Lodge”, it
was a “posh” five-bedroom 1970s
home on nine acres in need of a
serious interior facelift. It was love at
“It was one of those stupid grinny
moments – when you’re just looking
at each other grinning and trying to
In the UK $528,000 might have
bought a two-bedroom terraced
house “with no land, no garage, no
fresh air” but here it bought their
version of a mansion.
On moving in they got their first
taste of old-fashioned southern Kiwi
hospitality. Neighbours had been in
and cleaned the house and a food
hamper was waiting.
The Fords got married in August,
moved to New Zealand in September
and in December took
possession of the property
they’ve renamed Castle
Hill Lodge. Next week they
will host their first guests
and they’ve been working
frantically to fit a new en
suite and redecorate the
room in time.
At the same time both have
jobs they commute to Gore
for and they’ve had to get
to grips with rural living.
So used to having shops
right across the road, the
couple have lost track
of the number of times
they’ve driven home and
realised they didn’t have
enough fuel to get to a
petrol station let alone
anywhere else (the closest
are in Kingston or
“making technology work FOR YOU...”
Lumsden). They’ve had to learn
to make sure their food shopping
is planned. They had no prior
knowledge of what a septic tank
was, let alone how it worked, their
water comes from a bore which
is also a foreign concept and they
don’t have gas.
They’re still so mesmerised by
their new surroundings that
Sharon races out almost every
night to photograph the sunset.
Their master plan is to attach an
en suite to every guest room but
it’ll take time and money so the
jobs in Gore pay the mortgage and
fund the renovations. They work
different hours so it will still be
possible to take in guests, albeit
not many to start with.
Outside they are amassing an
ever-growing menagerie of animals
another novelty of country living.
The line-up includes two of “New
Zealand’s ugliest goats” and six hens
that lay more eggs than the Fords
The Fords know they are still
something of a curiosity in Garston
and that they provide endless
amusement for their farmer
neighbours who “just keep nipping
up” on a regular basis to see how
they’re going, help fix things or
explain how something works.
They’ve been patient and willing to
advise on animal health and --
awkwardly comforted Sharon when
her pet lamb died.
“I was sobbing all day. That’s
why people look at us a little bit
sideways,” she said. “I know I’ve got
to toughen up. ”
LEFT: The Castle Hill Lodge, a
“mansion” that has offered the
Fords a completely different
way of life.
BELOW: Each of the guest
rooms will be themed according
to some of the places the
Fords have travelled. Sharon
is standing in what will be the
Animals are high on the pecking order at Castle Hill
Lodge – when Sharon and Mark ordered a henhouse,
it really was a house.
They know the rules about keeping animals on farms.
They’re not vegetarians and they know they’re there
for meat and that you certainly shouldn’t name
them. Yet every animal on their property has a name.
They’ve even thought up names for animals they
haven’t got yet – on their shopping list is a donkey to
be called Elvis.
It’s likely Castle Hill Lodge will ultimately provide a
haven for the ugly and unwanted animals of Southland
and even pigs and sheep won’t be kept for meat.
“They’re going to live until they’re old and when they
die they’ll be buried.”
They’re taking things slowly; painting, carpeting and
building en suites whenever time and money allows
but, most of all, they’re enjoying the good life.
“We wake up in the mornings and we just sit there and
smile and just think how lucky
we are,” Sharon said. “If we
were to win the lottery I don’t
think we’d move; we’re just so
happy in this spot.”
King & Queen
King & Queen
of the Castle
of the Castle
A young British couple who
travelled New Zealand as
backpackers have returned
as newlyweds to carve a new
future for themselves. Their
new environment is almost as
far removed from their old life
as they could have imagined
was possible – and they love it.
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