Jonathan and Helen were among the first townhouse residents to move into James Wattie Retirement Village.
The new Ryman village had been the ‘talk of the town’ and the Havelock North couple were ready to view the latest plans but were out of town for the first public meeting.
Not deterred, on their return they immediately signed up for their stunning new townhouse.
It wasn’t a difficult decision for the couple, they knew what they wanted.
Jonathan says he is ‘Hawkes Bay through and through.’
“I was born and bred in Hawkes Bay and raised on the family farm in Mangatahi. It’s out west and was a beef and sheep farm on rolling country. My great uncle drew a ballot for it in 1906.”
Helen was used to rural life also, having lived on a high-country farm near Blenheim.
Helen and Jonathan eventually moved from the farm to a large property in Havelock North with 1400 square metres of terraced gardens, lawn and a swimming pool. The grounds were a lot of work and although they shared the gardening, they eventually had to employ someone to look after the sizeable grounds.
Neither wanted to move out of Havelock North. “Havelock is special,” says Helen. “It’s not rural, but it’s just got a thing of its own going on and the shops are wonderful!”
Jonathan adds that there are also some great cafés to read the paper and have a coffee while your partner shops.
Physically, farming had taken its toll on Jonathan and the maintenance of the property was too much for them both.
They had already downsized after they left the farm, but there was still a lot that needed to go.
They kept the furniture that worked with the new townhouse, some of which talented Jonathan had restored, and bought a new dining table to replace the large farmhouse one.
“Once we got the family photos up, I felt at home”, said Helen. And there are plenty of them proudly displayed, along with a drawing of the old farmhouse and Jonathan’s favourite horses.
Although it’s a big change to come off the land to a retirement village, Jonathan has some advice for other farmers thinking of moving off the farm.
“It’s a hard decision, and especially for us where it was third generation, but you’ve got to face reality. The 1950s, 60s and 70s were brilliant, but farming is asset rich and cash poor. Unless you are big it costs you money.
“The wool you take off the sheep won’t pay for the shearing and the wool cheque used to pay the bills. It just wasn’t viable to stay.”
“They might think it’s small, but it’s amazing when you come in here,” he said. The high stud with the cathedral style ceiling offers a feeling of spaciousness and of course there is a whole village to enjoy.
They enjoy the village activities and it takes quite some time to walk down the pathway as the couple stop for a friendly chat to fellow residents.
Helen is an avid walker and Jonathan has also joined the walking group to keep fit. Jonathan still continues his woodwork and builds Morris chairs, folding tables and stools. He’s even made candlesticks out of horse stirrups - everywhere around the townhouse are reminders of the farm, including his time-worn farmer’s hat.
They are looking forward to the village centre opening and will make good use of the heated swimming pool and gym, billiard table, happy hour in the lounge and will enjoy coming over to dine in the village for a special meal.
It took some time to settle in, but it was the right move for Jonathan and Helen.