A small group of the Wednesday painting group had decided to visit an old homestead at Ashcott near Waipukurau for a sketching session this week. Glenys and I arrived earlier than the others and were allowed to sit in the big circular driveway in front of the old house. The homestead looked as if it had been built around the time of the First World War as it had the hybrid look between a villa and a bungelow. Now owned by an extremely rich Wellington family who only come up for the occasional weekend it has a full time housekeeper and a gardener who works there four days a week. The day we were there several other men were working there, trimming trees, planting a huge tree fern and mowing the lawns.
When Helen arrived with another painter we unloaded our gear and wandered between the high hedges and flower gardens until we stood on a large back lawn edged with trees overlooking an old dam up to the mountains. For the first hour we were incapable of working as we wandered in awe around the property looking at all the sculpture dotted amongst the trees. I was particularly fascinated by a stone gateway fashioned into the shape of a circle which led to a ponga edged pathway leading down to a rustic bridge fashioned from huge pieces of driftwood. It looked like something out of Hobbiton and it turned out that one of the men working there that day had built it and he was the tree man on the Lord of the Rings movies. Very talented guy but so down to earth- MiddleEarth!
In the end we broke for morning tea to work out where we'd sketch. While Jacqueline fed us pieces of dark chocolate Glenys and I decided to draw the old stables which lay to the side of the garden amongst mature trees. We were both so nervous about attempting a building but ended up very pleased with out efforts. After being so reluctant to come Glenys is now keen to go on any other sketching trips that are arranged over the summer. I took quite a few photos for references before we broke for a picnic lunch sitting under a tree by the dam looking up to the ranges in the west. By this time we were so mellow we didn't have the energy to do any more work so five of us left at 1pm.
This property is not open to the public so we were very fortunate to be allowed in to share the beauty of this lovely place. What's more Helen is certain we'll be allowed back. Now the search is on for our next garden to sketch in.