Business Rural Summer 2021

8 | RURAL PEOPLE » Erewhon Station There’s ‘nowhere’ like the high country Kim Newth P icture a wild landscape of wide shingle rivers and sheer mountains rising to the sky. For English novelist Samuel Butler Canterbury’s high country was a vast and lonely place that inspired his 1872 satirical work of fiction: Erewhon – a play on the word ‘nowhere’. The title lives on in Erewhon Station at the top of the Rangitata Gorge, where station owner Colin Drummond and wife Erin Cassie are today’s stew- ards of this harsh and magnificent country. They farm in a traditional way, managing the land with respect and care. “It may seem like we’re in the middle of nowhere but these days it’s not all that remote,” says Erin, smiling. “We’re only a two and a half hour drive from Christchurch!” Colin has owned the 13,000ha property since 1998 while Erin put down roots here in 2011. The couple run merino sheep, Hereford cattle, deer and a large Clydesdale horse stud. Erewhon also hosts small tour groups over spring and summer, as farm schedules allow. Spring is a busy time on the station, with blade shearing of 1800 ewes followed by mustering of a similar number of wethers for drenching and to bring them to oversown country. At Erewhon, horses are used in place of tractors for jobs like working ground and mustering; Clydesdales pull a wagon with dogs, people and supplies to the muster site. “We don’t maintain our tracks very often as large sections keep on washing out – a horse is just as quick as a vehicle in this country,” says Colin. “When it comes to flooded rivers, if we have Clydesdales then we know we can always get home.” The spring muster is small-scale compared to the main autumn muster. Colin and Erin manage it between them with “a packie” (or cook). Blade sharing is used at Erewhon because it means the wool is cut cleanly with no ‘split ends’ and leaves enough wool on the sheep to ward off the cold. This method of shearing is incredibly hard physical work but nonetheless offers a way of life that still draws many good shearers. “High country farmers like us really do appreciate how hard those fellows work and we look after them.” Erewhon’s fine wool clip goes to the New Zealand Merino Company, with the bulk of it supplying the Icebreaker brand. Colin is pleased at how well contract prices are holding up. “All of a sudden, buyers are screaming out for finer wool. Of course, that’s not why we farm merino. We run them here because nothing else could handle the native graz- ing.” In spite of borders having closed due to Covid, Colin and Erin have been pleasantly surprised at how well their visitor bookings went last season with various bus groups keeping them busy. “There have been a lot of Kiwis out seeing their own country,” says Erin, who notes that their wagon rides and work horse demos are a popular choice. “We’re only small-scale, focussing on groups, because we have to balance what we do for visitors with everything else. We find people love seeing the high country at horse’s pace; it’s great for us too because we get to hear a lot of yarns and family stories handed down from the old horse-drawn era. We learn from them and they learn from us, plus it means we do more work with the horses through summer.” Covid permitting, Erewhon is ready to host visi- tors again this season with Clyde Hut also available for group bookings, (info at . Real horsepower: A team of Clydesdales work the ground at Erewhon Station, a 13,000ha sheep beef and deer property at the top of the Rangitata Gorge in Canterbury. Work horse demos, wagon and horse rides prove popular with visitors. Animal Health At Its Best Ashburton Clinic 363 West Street Ashburton Ph 03 307 0686 Methven Clinic 167 Main Street Methven Ph 03 302 8125 We provide an extensive range of services to take care of your animal health needs. Whether they're treasured pets or earning valuable income for you, we treat them with the same care and commitment that you do. It's a commitment we take seriously. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week - we're available. 24 HOUR EMERGENCY SERVICE