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Home > News > Garden and outdoors > Rural Retreat a Slice of Heaven

Rural Retreat a Slice of Heaven

by Samantha van der Sande

Quietly nestled below State Highly 31 and into the depths of native bush between Ngutunui and Kawhia, Rowena Whale's idyllic 30 acre retreat could well be the epitome of total peacefulness and unspoiled natural beauty. Aptly named 'Rangimarie' (meaning 'peaceful' in Maori), the Waikato property remains tucked away from the hustle and bustle of urban life and is the perfect retreat for those wishing to sample a taste of the 'real' New Zealand.

As I approached the colonial-style cottage Rowena currently lives in, it became evident to me that there was an element of love for the land, that is, a connection with and admiration for the rugged and natural beauty that surrounds the newly erected buildings found at Rangimarie. The quaint cottage seemed to fit seamlessly in its surrounding landscape, and with a selection of antique farmhouse artifacts displayed throughout, the cottage somehow oozed a nostalgic ambience.

As Rowena came to greet me she explained the cottage was merely a compromise until the completion of her three bedroom house which is situated near to the cottage. Nevertheless, Rowena seemed quite at home in the cottage and I was informed that it would eventually play a crucial part as guest accommodation at Rangimarie.

While we sipped coffee, Rowena chatted about her ambitions for the property, and while there is still a lot to be completed here, it was clear that this woman has certainly seen her fair share of hard work. The ultimate plan for Rangimarie is a bush retreat featuring guest and home stay accommodation in the new house. Rowena pointed out that the retreat will offer a unique and secluded hideaway particularly suited to international visitors keen to get in touch with the real New Zealand not so commonly featured in the glossy brochures found in airports and travel agencies.

During the chat, I was introduced to Rowena's current visitor Katherine Otto (pictured far left), a WWOOFer (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) student from Bavaria, in Germany. It was clear Katherine too was quite at home at the cottage and when I asked her what she likes most about Rangimarie she tells me 'the fact it is so close to nature. So peaceful.'

Hobbit House

Katherine is not the only WWOOFer visitor to stay at Rangimarie and in fact, the property has been developed to accommodate WWOOFer visitors. Rowena explains she has had a number of people from all parts of Europe living and working on her idyllic property. While WWOOFers generally arrange to stay for a few days, most end up extending their stay for up to three weeks. There is an area set up for WWOOFer accommodation which features a number of 'projects' people have undertaken during their stay. Of particular interest here is 'Billbo's Bog', a hobbit-style house (complete with letterbox) which doubles as a composting toilet. Furthermore, there has been a large vegetable garden developed which has been highly productive, producing a range of organic vegetables such as spinach, leeks and potatoes.

Of course designing toilets and vegetable gardening is not all the WWOOFers do at Rangimarie. Rownea states that there was a lot of bush clearing to do in the early stages of development, and that the WWOOFers were extremely helpful in this respect. The retreat now sees a series of walking tracks which creates the illusion of an 'enchanted forest' for children and the adventurous adults.

Naturally I am keen to see the new house developments, and Rowena takes great pride in showing me around the newly painted rooms. Designed by Rowena herself, the house features a large open plan layout which has been meticulously designed to capture and accommodate the sun. The kitchen and living rooms look out over a landscaped grass area which is delicately enhanced by a bouldery trout stream and surrounding native bush. There is a large deck which opens up from the kitchen and dining area to create a real sense of indoor/outdoor flow and allows house guests to take in as much as the natural surroundings as possible. Even the design of the house interior compliments the natural beauty of the property. Rowena explains that her floors, roof lining, doors and furniture are made from the native Tawa milled on the property. The piece that takes my eye however is the magnificent open fireplace which exists as the feature of the main living room, and is finished in natural stone and wood.

While the design of the house is relatively modern, it does not intrude in any way, and seems to fit within the natural contour and beauty of the land. Rowena has tried to keep the property and house as sustainable as possible with wood fire heating and a solar panel for electricity. Even the contour of the roof resembles a bird's wing in flight. In many ways, Rangimarie is carbon neutral.

While it is obvious that Rowena's admiration for the property is a driving force behind the developments, she explains that there is another reason for developing Rangimarie as a tourist retreat: this is to share the beauty of the land with others.

But there's a love here that extends back a generation. Rangimarie was originally part of a 500 acre farm owned by the father of Rowena's late husband Barry. Rowena started working on Barry's family farm when she was only 18 years old. Eventually Rowena and Barry were married and they never left the farm. Nowadays (despite having to cut down in land mass) she holds onto a piece of her family history.

Every step of the way has ultimately been closer to Rowena's goal in achieving this. While Rowena states that she is happy to cook for her guests, there is a large wood fire BBQ and pizza oven located by the stream for the option of outdoor cooking and dining. If this isn't close enough to nature, there is a private, outdoor bath which hangs within the trees overlooking the bush and the trout stream. Rowena admits that a soak in this bath under the stars while listening to the sounds of the birds is 'pure heaven'. Every guest convenience has been considered to ensure that the final stages of Rangimarie's development will see self sufficient, self contained guest accommodation which offers the best of rural New Zealand hospitality. Rowena looks forward to the time she can welcome the first of her home stay guests onto the property to enjoy the treasures of Rangimarie.

For more information about Rangimarie please contact Rowena Whale on 027 5770978.

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