A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas
The Cockabully Hunters --- from an original painting by Noel Guthrie

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Turkey's kept their distance

Castle Rock Homestead


The day was rather cold and damp when I sketched this once proud homestead at Castle Rock.
I sheltered under some trees in the orchard and was constantly scrutinized by a dozen or so turkeys. Keeping their distance, I’m sure they had in mind my presence was just a ploy, to select the plumpest and the largest for the pot. . .
It does appear that Castle Rock was established in 1884, or thereabouts, by Gideon Rutherford.
Gideon, born in 1884 in Golspie, Sutherlandshire, Scotland, came to New Zealand in 1879 after spending some twenty years farming in Australia.
Beginning his New Zealand career in Dunedin, afterwards he spent some time in Oamaru, before finally ending up at Castle Rock, in South Canterbury.
He chose to erect his homestead here deep in a secluded valley, flanked on either side by high out crops of limestone bluffs.  Elevated thirty to forty metres above the valley floor, his site overlooked a little spring fed creek, which originates further up the valley.
This beautiful old home was actually erected in two parts.  The first being a two story section, built sometime around 1895 from rough hewn limestone, quarried on the property.
The rear section, a single story was built some years later, again of limestone, only this time the blocks were sawn to a smooth finish and chamfered corner blocks give this section a totally different appearance.
It appears this single story section has been erected as a utility block accommodating a kitchen, laundry, dining and living quarters as the family grew.
Gideon obviously liked his fruit trees, for on his arrival here he planted an orchard on the slope between the stream and the house.  This was reputed to be the best in the Canterbury district at that time.
Orange and mulberry were some of the species established here, as well as an Australian fig, which stands a few metres from the house and I ‘m told it still bears fruit.
Apart from clearing massive quantities of gorse and fencing the property into convenient paddocks, Gideon drained a swamp that covered much of the valley floor.
Being a successful stock breeder, I guess it was the natural shelter of the valley that originally attracted Gideon.
With his stain of merino sheep descended from the famous Learmouth flock in Australia, he was a regular prize winner at the Christchurch and Dunedin agricultural shows.
He had a great affection for his stud stock, his main objective was to produce the highest quality wool possible and he spared no amount of effort in the care of his flock.
His attention must have paid off, as one of his prize rams, an elderly gentleman of eleven years, yielded a fleece of just less than 10 kilograms one shearing season.
Those days are now history, a third generation of the Mowat family owns castle Rock.  Although it is a shame when some of those original homesteads become a little neglected when they are not lived in for a few years.
However, restoration plans have begun so I gather, in an effort to return this part of our history to perhaps its former glory.

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