Farming, chocolates and the heart of the wine region.
11.03.2010 - 12.03.2010 20 °C
We phoned Kevin & Carol Loe (relatives) and arranged to meet them at their farm about 40 minutes from Blenheim (near Ward). Their farm was right out in the country, called the Homestead, made up of the main house and a couple of other nearby smaller houses. The family made us very welcome; two of their three sons were there and their daughter who works in Wellington. They had about sixty horses near the Homestead which Daniel (their son) managed. Kevin took us out in his 4X4 across part of the farm (5,000 acres) and showed us some of his stock of cattle and sheep. The land was very dry and arid after the summer, and fairly rough hilly terrain. No ordinary vehicle could have managed the terrain or steep hills. The 2,500 sheep and 600 cattle have ample room but the pasture is sparse. Kevin has recently diversified by introducing walks for trekkers and trails for bikers. The former is taking off well and he has set up different stations for them to stay overnight while on their two or four day walks. He gave us the history of the farm – how his grandfather chose this area after winning a ballot when it was owned by the government, right up to now where he and the neighbouring farmers are looking at a big irrigation project to improve the pasture and possibly grow some vines; this would be partially funded by the government. He said rabbits are a big problem at the moment. While we were there we saw a government official travelling over the land on a motorbike doing a survey of the number of rabbits. Kevin allows hunters, mainly at weekends, to shoot the rabbits – he even supplies them with free ammunition. Talking to him I got the feeling that he was in favour of the 1080 poisoning project (a government sponsored proposal to spray poison to kill off the pests and rodents – a controversial proposal!). We stopped at a landing strip very high up where the seed spraying planes took off and landed. We could see across a lot of his land right down to the coastline. As it was such a vast area we asked him how frequently he would inspect the stock – roughly once a month was his reply, and if an animal gets ill and dies it is buried where it drops. Back at the homestead we had lunch – all home cooked – and we heard all about the family history and connections. After a few photos we said our goodbyes and made our way back to Blenheim where we visited a chocolate factory – a small boutique where we could see the chocolates hand produced. We were welcomed with some free samples to eat; Thomas decided to go back out and return for second helpings!! We bought a few boxes of chocolates with macadamia nuts. We also went to the nearby Saint Clair Winery but it was just closing.
We travelled on to Picton – a small port where one can catch the ferry across to Wellington; it also has a large marina. I booked a crossing on the ferry to Wellington for tomorrow morning. We found a lovely B & B overlooking the coast for the night. There was only one other couple staying there – German. The owners were quite chatty and very helpful. They let me use their network to book accommodation for tomorrow night in Wellington.