Ritzy retirement in Canterbury
You don’t,” says Sue Rollinson, “take a farmer from Frog Flat and stick him in the middle of Merivale. I’d never do that to Ted.”
We’re standing in bright Canterbury sunshine outside the Rollinsons’ slick modern second house at Clearwater Resort & Golf Course. Roughly 5m from the deck’s edge lies the 14th fairway. Beyond the baize-like greens, past ponds and areas of native planting, we can see the Southern Alps glittering with late-season snow. If it weren’t for the occasional plane flying low overhead, you’d never guess we were 10 minutes from the airport in one direction and downtown Christchurch in another.
And that’s precisely why the Rollinsons chose Clearwater as the place they will eventually retire to from their Rakaia dairy farm. It’s a country view in the middle of the city – a perfect fit for Ted, who’s been farming for half a century.
“You just can’t take the country out of the boy,” says Sue. “I’ve seen too many people who’ve gone into town and hated it. I thought, ‘That’s not happening to Ted’ and that’s when I started looking.”
They considered Switzerland, Australia, Spain, France, plus the Bay of Islands and Bay of Plenty, before discovering Clearwater virtually on their
doorstep. Sue had booked Ted into the resort to recuperate from an operation. “After a week I asked him, ‘Could you live here?’ and he said, ‘Absolutely’. We called the real estate agent and it was all over Rover.”
Things really did move that fast. The agent took them to a section, for which house plans had been completed and consented. They signed and within three weeks work on their new house was under way.
It’s a very different place from their homely Rakaia farmhouse, to which they moved from Murchison decades ago. “That place feels like an old slipper,” says Sue. “Here I wanted to be able to entertain. I told Ted I wanted it to feel like the Ritz. And, if you’re going to change your lifestyle, you need to do that, to venture out and do something completely different.”
It’s a big, open-plan place, with floor to ceiling glazing, French oak and polished tile floors and a mainly black and white colour scheme enlivened by splashes of vivid colour. Most of it is down to Ted and Sue, who modified aspects of the plans, including the interior design. Compared with the Rakaia house, it’s deliberately more masculine, says Sue. “I thought, ‘Poor Ted. At home it’s flowers everywhere, so I’d better get a little more masculine this time’.”
Playing against type, it was Ted who picked out the lilac-coloured dining chairs. But the other glam touches are all Sue’s. Almost every room, including all of the five bathrooms, is graced by a chandelier. The ace in the pack is a massively pendulous item in the stair void, which they imported from Greece.
Upstairs is dominated by Ted’s “man room”, a surprise gift from Sue. It’s a big space, with a bar and comfortable couches and the best views in the house. Initially, according to the plans, half of it was to be given over to another bedroom.
“The builders had put a wall through. I thought, ‘This is a million-dollar view and only a handful of people are going to see it? Take the wall down!’ They got an engineer and we put another beam through the roof and now Ted has a gorgeous big room. When he saw it he went, ‘Wow!’”
The effort Sue put into surprising her husband seems typical. He’s 66 now and began managing his family’s farm in Murchison at the tender age of 16. They’ve done plenty of travelling – the world map in Ted’s man cave is heavily pinned up with places he has visited, including both poles – but this house represents the ultimate self-reward for 50 years of hard graft.
Always a keen golfer, Ted plays a regular round with his neighbours; Sue’s got her heated swimming pool and garden to enjoy. And, though they’re not yet living there more than a few days a week, they’ve been embraced by the permanents and have a busy social life, with regular cocktail and dinner parties.
“When we come over that bridge as you arrive at Clearwater, before we’ve even got to the roundabout, both Ted and I have forgotten about farming, lawyers, accountants, staff, everything,” says Sue. “It’s instantly relaxing.” Says Ted: “It still feels like the country to me. The only difference is I can’t pop out and do a spot of welding or drive the tractor. But I can drive a golf cart.”
To see web-exclusive images of this house click on the "photo gallery" link above.
|Story: Matt Philp|
Photographer: Paul McCredie