The Sell family of Blenheim

It was nice to know that there was a bed waiting for us when we left the ferry at dark o’clock. We had been invited to stay with Emma and Paul Sell, both ex UK Army, who had emigrated to NZ some four years ago. Emma had been a term above Lou at RMAS and they were on the Regimental Administrative Officers’ Course together in 2002. Before leaving the UK, Paul had retrained as an osteopath. He bought a going concern, moved it to a better location, expanded and is going great guns and is the only multiple practitioner practise in the local area. Emma now runs a massage therapist business from home. They took a long view before emigrating, using a seven year plan to take them to where they are now, the town of Blenheim, the town which records the highest amount of sun in NZ annually. They have a lovely daughter, Chloe who is nine. We think they have achieved an excellent work/lifestyle balance. Certainly, I’m a little jealous!

The trip across the Cook Strait was quite pleasant. We got on the ferry and the girls found out that the cinema was playing Moana, the new Disney film. $5 each and off they went leaving Lou and I to watch the seas from one of the seated areas. Lou would have happily joined the girls watching Moana but there were only two seats and there would have been a mutiny had she taken one! We had following waves and wind which in a yacht might have been a bit cheeky but in the ferry, gave us an easy crossing.

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We stayed with the Sells for three nights and two full days. It was very kind of them to give up the equivalent of a Bank Holiday to look after us the first day. It was great too, to be back in a proper double bed, the comfiest we have slept in since we left the UK. In a lovely dark room and very quiet at the back of the house, it was wonderfully soporific! It was so comfortable that we slept through a 5.5 earthquake, an aftershock of the Kiakoura earthquake. Maybe we were just tired…..

With rain in the air and being overcast, day one was a trip to one of the local vineyards. Yealands Estates is an interesting place. Established by Peter Yealands, a man who believes there is always a way around a problem, it gave us a fascinating insight to his goal of making wine in a more sustainable way. Rather than have tractors to keep the grass and weeds down between the rows of vines, Peter decided to employ mini sheep. They aren’t big enough to damage the vines and work a treat. There are now 1500 around the vineyards, markedly reducing the businesses diesel emissions. There are a range of complimentary plants and flowers grown around the blocks, which gives the vines protection from a variety of bugs and ailments. Just smart, novel solutions. The wine was excellent too!

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Day Two was clear and we headed up to the Wither Hills, a park on the edge of town from where we were able to look over the whole of the town in the valley underneath us. Like all NZ towns we have visited, the majority of buildings are single storey and spread out. Emma and Paul’s house was lovely. I wish we could transport it back to the UK but I fear it would be well out of our budget anywhere in England.

The afternoon activity was the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, and that, we decided, deserved a blog all to itself.  Check it out.

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After yet another lovely evening meal, we spent the last night getting some great steers from Emma and Paul for our travels in the South Island. We headed off early on the morning of the 5th Jan to head down towards Hanmer Springs where we were to regroup with Gill and Alasdair.  Our sincere thanks to Emma and Paul for all their hospitality. It was great seeing them again.

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