I am fortunate to have travelled widely.

I spent 25 years living and travelling in the US and Europe, I spent months travelling through Africa, the Middle East and South America… and I’ve made two trips to Antarctica.  The first trip was to the Antarctic Peninsula, a year later I ventured to the Ross Sea. I think Antarctica simply stunning.

Just a few pics scanned from my photo album – these are not digital –  so the quality is somewhat compromised …











The Garden

Eventually the villa was almost finished but the garden required a make-over.

I consulted with a number of landscape designers and was clear on what I wanted – an English cottage garden with only white, blue and purple flowers.

And I was very clear in what I didn’t want – pebbles, curves, native plants, anything prickly, seating, a water feature.  And each of them returned with fancy drawings showing curves and pebbles and seating and….

So I did the garden myself. Lovely Kevin from across the road helped build the retaining walls and I went shopping for plants.  We brought in loads of super-soil and then I began planting. It is still a work in progress…

garden reconstruction 001garden reconstruction 002Garden 003garden 003front garden 001

The Villa Project

I made a number of house hunting trips to Nelson before finally moving here.

Nelson has a high number of stunning turn of the century villas set within immaculate gardens, none of which I could afford. I was looking for a more modest older house that I could weave a little magic on.  I had my eye on a small house near the beach, but then discovered it had compliance issues which the vendors weren’t willing to negotiate over. So having already sold in Wanaka with the moving van booked, I potentially had nowhere to move to. I had just three days in which to decide what to do, or the problematic beach house would be mine.

So I looked online, saw a property which I thought might do and asked the estate agent for a floor plan.  I was sent the footprint of the house and pulling out some graph paper I spent an hour that evening drawing up the house plans. Half the night flew by as I redrew the house, remaking the interior spaces as well as adding a garage and an entire new wing plus a large deck.

Splendid, I thought, and come morning I placed an offer which was accepted. Had a building inspection done and by afternoon the house was mine.

1892 - my house on far right

my house on far right, 1892

One month later I drove up to Nelson with my sleeping bag and vacuum cleaner in the car. The following morning my furniture arrived and the next year was typical hell of living in one room of the house while renovations went ahead, plus a pup and then a kitten joined the family.

The house still isn’t quite finished; there is some painting, some tiling and some landscaping to finish, but everything else is done. The house was built in the late 1880’s and is now fully modernised with new everything – roof, plumbing, wiring, double glazed windows, solar hot water, kitchen, bathrooms. I am proud to say most visitors can’t tell which is new and which is original.

The house has now become a home.



2011 was a big year.

My beloved pup Badge died, I sold Falling Leaves, re-homed the goats Raspberry and Cinnamon and moved to sunny Nelson.

Why Nelson? Well I didn’t mind where I moved to, within the following criteria;

  • must be in the South Island
  • must be dog friendly
  • must have great weather

and so here I am in Nelson, the sunshine capital of NZ (most years).


Wanaka Helicopters at Falling Leaves

My first helicopter ride was in Argentina with a 10 minute flight over the world’s largest waterfall, Iguazu Falls. Nervous before the flight, once up in the air I was immediately transfixed by the exhilaration of the helicopter ride as much as by the stunning scenery. And ever since, a helicopter is my preferred way to fly.  

I am fortunate to have flown by helicopter over New York, Paris and numerous times over the Swiss Alps. I have also enjoyed several helicopter flights in Antarctica, off the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov.  But some of the most amazing scenery is right here in my own backyard, the lower South Island.  

A number of years ago we did a heli-flight over Aoraki/Mt Cook, landing high in the mountains to play in the snow. More recently I have flown with both Alpine Helicopters and Wanaka Helicopters through some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere.  And one of the coolest things about living in Wanaka is that the helicopter will come and collect us off the lawn at Falling Leaves. A VIP door to mountain-top service.

On one trip I was thrilled to fly down to Milford Sound in Fiordland. The weather was glorious and the scenery picture-postcard perfect. Stopping along the way to play in the snow and drink the crystal clear waters of a mountain tarn, we landed at Milford to stunning blue skies.  We then took a leisurely 30 minute walk to the wharf, the path wending its way through native bush with glances of the fiord and the iconic Mitre Peak. Meandering to enjoy the sunshine, we returned to the helicopter for our flight back to Wanaka via Sutherland Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the world.  

We approached the waterfall along the valley floor, marvelling as the water cascaded down from an amazing height. Close in, we slowly ascended up the face of the waterfall to than skim low across the lake at the top. We slowly rose up the face of the next section of the waterfall, completely surrounded by snow packed peaks. It was simply stunning. 

Sutherland Falls by helicopter

Another time we tried to visit Milford but the Fiordland weather had closed in. Here’s my trip report posted on TripAdvisor…    

Our party of five really wanted to fly down to view Milford Sound and Sutherland Falls however Milford’s weather forecast didn’t look good so we opted instead to see some of the glaciers around Wanaka.
A quick phone call to Wanaka Helicopters first thing to check the local weather conditions, then at 10am on the dot Andy arrived in the helicopter to collect us off the lawn. Buckled up and with headsets on, we were off, soon cruising over Lake Wanaka at a seemingly sedate 240 kmph. We made a leisurely circle around the stunning bird sanctuary of Mou Waho Island before heading over the braided Matukituki River. Climbing in elevation, we then landed on a high vantage point in the snow. After first exchanging snowballs we then enjoyed the views in the balmy temperature of 14C. Mt Aspiring was partly lit up by the morning sun however we couldn’t see the top of this stunning mountain as she was shrouded in cloud.
A kea, the large alpine parrot, landed on the snow nearby and then kept us entertained for 10 minutes as she soared and hovered just metres away, playing in the thermal updrafts from the valley below. Her wings outspread, she showed off her scarlet under wings to full advantage before landing nearby to bound across the snow in the kea’s characteristic series of hops and leaps.
Returning to the waiting helicopter Andy explained he kept the rotors moving while landed to deter the kea. They are notorious for stripping the rubber and metal off cars, however I hadn’t known they also like to strip helicopters!! They are a very clever bird and several will work together as a team to remove a car’s roof rack, wiper blades and even the bindings off skis.
Crossing the valley we then approached Kitchener glacier. Flying close to the face of the glacier we marvelled at the stunning blue of the ice as Andy provided a lively commentary on the glaciers, the mountains, helicopters and the many waterfalls.
Moving on, we then approached Avalanche glacier and again, we marvelled at the deep crevasses, the stunning blues and the shear drops below us. The waterfalls were incredible with literally hundreds of waterfalls gushing from the glaciers.
Continuing along the rock face we came to yet another glacier, the waterfalls all falling into a large lake covered almost entirely by floating icebergs. We circled around the lake edge, all of us whispering ‘wow’, or ‘awesome’ at the sheer beauty of the setting.
‘Would you like a James Bond moment?’ Andy asked with a grin before we did a dramatic swoop down over the lip of the lake, following the waterfall down to the valley floor below. It gave us the thrill of a roller coaster ride, albeit it was far smoother… and it also felt safer. Climbing again, we enjoyed the spectacular scenery before coming down to land on the shores of Lochnager, a surprisingly large lake hidden amongst the peaks. Drinking the pure lake water, we found it ice cold and totally refreshing. Many honeymooning couples arrive by helicopter with a picnic hamper to dine privately in this isolated splendour.
Reluctantly we departed the loch, following the contours of the mountainous land as we climbed over the crest of Treble Cone, one of Wanaka’s ski fields, before dropping down to the shores of Lake Wanaka and then back to land on the lawn at Falling Leaves.
Initially disappointed at not being able to visit Milford, we certainly had no regrets afterwards. Both trips are totally different and yet the superlatives are the same… stunning, spectacular, amazing, wow.
Thank you Andy and Wanaka Helicopters for a brilliant morning’s outing. It was simply perfect!!

And so if I ever win the lottery (somewhat unlikely as I never remember to buy tickets) I shall pass on the more traditional splurge of the cars, the shoes and the trip to Paris. All I want is a helicopter… with pilot!

The Project

Before the project began

About this time last year I finally made a decision on the garden shed located next to the paved terrace. The shed cast an enormous shadow over the house and garden in the winter months and served no useful purpose. So I thought I would remove the roof and walls, just keeping the lovely dry-stacked stone walls, and add a pergola and outdoor fireplace. As concrete would need to be poured I thought it best to wait until after the winter to complete the job which would, after all, take only a few weeks, possibly a month at most. Simple no?

 Well after getting the plans drawn up and approved by the local council and Deane the builder booked in, everything was set to go and work began, as scheduled, early October.

 And finally, four months… months!… later, the work was finally finished. Why did it take so long? I’m not sure really. I made the mistake one day of saying to the builders, please don’t arrive before 10 in the morning as guests are staying… and I didn’t see another builder for an entire week!

 Then in early December I saw the painter and said the project would be ready for painting soon. Neil nodded and said, “I’ll get to it after the holidays.”

 “When will that be?” I asked.

 “The end of January,” he replied.

 “Never mind,” I sighed, “I’ll have it all painted before then.”

 And I did. Though I don’t like heights so painting the very top of the chimney was a bit scary.

Eventually the concrete floor was finished and sealed and the BBQ, garden bench and firewood were able to be put in place. A native clematis, black grapes and a white grape are planted to eventually climb over the pergola.

May 2010

The perfect pup, Badge, loves the fire and he curls up comfortably with his blanket to enjoy the warmth. The draftsman had suggested the fire box be positioned quite high up the wall, following the latest fashion trend. No, I said. Badge will use the fire and it needs to be low for him. So out came the tape measure and Badge was measured to the knees to ensure an accurate height.

 At a recent drinks party the kind neighbours who had given Cinnamon came. I brought Cinnamon up to the garden for them to see his progress and he was tied to a tree. I soon tired of his constant bleating and so freed him to wander where he wanted. But he was a good boy and stayed by my side the entire time, only wandering off occasionally to vacuum up any dropped chips and snacks. After his initial scare when I lit the outdoor fire, he soon crept closer and seemed quite fascinated by the flames. And for once, Badge had a wee companion to share the warmth.


Cinnamon at six months

Raspberry the goat became quite skinny and stressed after the untimely death of her half-sister Lavender, so when a neighbour kindly offered a baby wild goat I jumped at the chance. And several weeks later Darren arrived at the door to say an orphan kid had been found in the nearby mountains.

 Approximately two weeks old when found, the wee goat is totally cute. He is a soft cinnamon colour with white face and a thick white crest running down his back. He has mis-matched ears, one pointing straight up, the other stuck out at a jaunty angle. Cinnamon has two bottles of milk formula a day, though he seems to believe he requires more. He now thinks I’m his mother and he follows me everywhere, trying to suck on my clothing and fingers. He has settled in well to life at Falling Leaves, with guests taking great delight (and lots of photos) when feeding him his bottle. Raspberry, who can be quite territorial, mainly ignores him so far which is kinder than the butting treatment I thought she might offer.

 Initially I had Cinnamon in a separate pen to protect him from Raspberry but at the tiny age of three weeks he was jumping over the sides which were two to three times his height. I then put a roof across the top but when Raspberry looked like she was going to jump onto the structure I removed the entire fencing. The two of them are now free to roam where they please in the lower paddock. One day the perfect pup, Badge,  and I returned from a full day’s outing to find Cinnamon curled up asleep at the front door, waiting for us. Thankfully he hasn’t escaped from his paddock since.

 Late afternoons Badge and I usually take the two goats through the end gate and the four of us take a stroll along the banks of the Cardrona River, the goats stopping to munch on the greenery while Badge races away after the rabbits.

 On the days I spend time in the garden I bring Cinnamon up to join us and he trots around everywhere at my heels. Last week I mowed the lawns and I thought that would make him pause, but no, he wasn’t deterred by the lawn mower at all, he just followed right along. I had to be very careful when reversing! He has now discovered that roses are tasty (well he seems to think they are anyway) and so his days of wandering freely around the garden are about to end.

 But already, at the tender age of five weeks, I can see that Cinnamon is a goat of immense character…


Update April 2010

Cinnamon continues to charm everyone as he begins to sprout horns and show his independence. While happy to skip around his paddock with Raspberry, he always welcomes a human cuddle whenever he gets the chance. He loves our walks down along the river… his favourite delicacies at the moment are the willow and poplar leaves as the trees begin their autumn molt.