In August 2008, we were fortunate to acquire a one and a half acre piece of paradise in the beautiful Wairarapa – just over an hour north of New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington. Our property looked out to the Tararua foothills with the mountain fed Waiohine river and native bush running along side the properties boundary.
The house was built in 1914 and was home to a dairy farmer & family who farmed the land surrounding the house for many years. The farmer’s wife created a ‘botanical’ garden around the house that became our pride and joy to look after. The property includes many fruit trees including apples, plums, peaches, orange & lemon along with a yummy grape vine.
So where is Matarawa exactly?
The property is near the bottom of New Zealand’s North Island in the Wairarapa. Tucked between mountain ranges to the west and & hills to the east. A long way from city life – very much a rural lifestyle. To get to Matarawa from Wellington requires a journey across the Rimutaka Ranges via a very windy road with big drops off to the side for drivers not paying attention – hard on both the driver & passengers! The train journey is a much better option.
We are down there somewhere – This is the Waiohine River viewed from the Reeves Track in the Tararua’s. We are on the left side of the river on the pasture land near the top of the photo.
Here’s an aerial view of Matarawa with some of the surrounding countryside features. Our house is one of three grouped together. Matarawa Cottage is on the south side of the road with the other two houses opposite. The land is in an ‘L’ shape with the house and a small paddock taking up 1/2 an acre. Another paddock of an acre extends from the road through to the native bush. The Tararua’s to the west have a major influence on the climate of the Wairarapa with their ability to capture north-westerly rain coming off New Zealand’s coast. The rain falls on the mountain ranges and when the nor’wester wind reaches the Wairarapa plains it is dry and warmed up producing the ‘fohn’ wind that gave us us warm temperatures in winter and hot, hot days in the summer and autumn (30 degrees Celsius plus). The effect is too produce a climate similar to the South of France. Our land was river silt that is very fertile & free draining. We had our own water supply from a bore.
A small railway station (a platform) 4 kms from the cottage provided train services to the city of Wellington taking just over an hour.
Approaching our property. You can see Matarawa Cottage tucked away in amongst the trees and gardens. All the paddocks you can see on this side belong to the dairy farm that surrounds our property. Our paddocks are on the other side.
Here’s a look at the outside of the house. (L to R) The front veranda covered in a very old wisteria. Looking at the lounge and third bedroom.
The garden. (L to R) From the veranda looking out to the road. Garden in front of the house.
The garden. (L to R) Around the back. Japanese maple, ferns & azaleas. A stunning climber beside the veranda. This climber is usually only seen in the sub tropical climate of the upper North Island.
The garden. (L to R) We had a little garden nook tucked away around the back of the house with a standard weeping tree providing a focal point in the middle. Here are Deb & Kelsey enjoying the dahlias on a hot Wairarapa summer’s day.
The garden. (L to R) A pond hiding away behind the garage. A mix of herbaceous, various bulbs & roses in the front garden.
The garden. (L to R) Summer flowers. A shady pathway.
Springtime. Flowers in August.
Dahlia heaven! A look at some of our dahlia collection.
Rose collection. This is just of few of the many roses dotted about the garden.
Shades of pink. Three of the late winter flowering camellias.
There are quite a few really nice trees around the gardens. Mostly exotics.
A selection of fruit from around the property.
This is our ‘back’ paddock with an orchard of older fruit trees. Apples, peaches and plums.
The back paddock is divided into two paddocks. This is the smaller one looking towards the road.
This is the paddock beside the house. An orange tree is bottom left & the splendid oak tree centre back.
The orange tree. The variety is a Carters Navel and the oranges ripen at the end of winter in August with picking going through to the early summer.
Springtime daffodils amongst the fruit trees. The local town, Carterton just down the road from us is known as the daffodil capital of New Zealand and has a big daffodil festival every spring.
The smaller paddock looking towards the road with a couple of apple trees (cookers).
This photo looks across the orchard paddock towards the smaller paddock & house. The oak tree in the centre is surrounded by other trees including a massive conifer to its right.
The oak tree in winter.
Sheds & Outbuildings. (L to R) Tool shed with a dovecote above. Barn/Implement shed.
Sheds & Outbuildings. (L to R) Woodshed and shelter for animals.
Sheds & Outbuildings. (L to R) The old washhouse & dunny. The ‘new’ washhouse and toilet at the back of the house.
Looking towards the house with all the various structures – dog house, potting on shed, chook house, wood shed.
A magnificent view of the Tararua’s from the bottom of the orchard paddock. The perfect spot in the shade for a summer’s day.
Another peaceful view of the countryside from the properties boundary.
(L to R) Looking back up the road towards the dairy farm milking shed. Looking towards the Tararua foothills. This is as far as the road goes …. just the farmers house a bit further down the road.
A typical New Zealand rural landscape – rusty old farm buildings, lush green grass and dairy cows grazing. This view was taken from beside the glasshouse looking east.
The area behind the orchard paddock is a strip of native bush with many splendid beech trees – this land is part of the dairy farm that surrounds the property. This area takes the overflow from the river when it is in flood. You can see here how there is a channel to take the river overflow water (fingers crossed!). The previous owners had only seen the river flood towards the house once in all their time there – but it is in a 50 year flood zone so …. which year is number 50?
Here is the area on the other side of the stand of native bush. The river is nearby here, about a 10 minute walk from our place.
The Waiohine river directly behind our place looking out to the Tararua foothills.
Looking east, the Main Trunk railway line bridge crossing the Waiohine river.
Sun showers coming over from the Tararua’s. Looking towards the dairy farmer’s house from the paddocks beside the Waiohine river.
This is the Waiohine river a bit further upriver from Matarawa Cottage – just before it exits the Tararua mountains at the Waiohine gorge.
The Waiohine river at the gorge. An area of outstanding beauty.
Deb brave enough to check out the Waiohine river swing bridge at the gorge. The Waiohine Valley boasts some unique flora and fauna, including the forest tree giants matai, northern rata and red beech. It’s home to a rare species of bat, the tiny native short tailed bat. Birds include bellbirds, kereru, morepork, tomtits, longtailed cuckoo and kaka. If you are keen sighted, forest gecko can be seen in the forest.
The Waiohine river is not always as placid in the previous photos. These two photos were taken when the river was in flood (not my photos, sourced from the web). To give you an idea of what these rivers cope
with, between November 1997 and April 1998 4,000mm of rain fell at a site in the Tararuas, while only 103mm fell near Martinborough (near our place) – 4,000mm is 157 inces or 13 feet! All that water gets channeled down the mountain and rivers before snaking its way across the Wairarapa plains. The rivers go from a trickle to a torrent a number of times a year. Summer can be worst with January recording some of the highest river levels. There is a lot of flood protection on the plains but even with this, the risk of flooding was always in the back of our minds.
Here’s where we caught the train into Wellington, the Matarawa Railway Station.
And if we took the car to Wellington, this is the way. Up and over the Rimutuka Ranges. This is looking down from the summit with the road snaking its way down to the Wairarapa Plains.
From the summit looking down towards the Wellington side. This is not a great piece of road to negotiate. Not many weeks during the year when someone doesn’t come astray and crash into someone or worse, goes over the side!. Quite often closed due to either wind or ice & snow.
Here’s a promo video made in 2015 by our real estate agent when we were selling the property.