Keeping rural women connected

Rural Women New Zealand Mid Canterbury provincial president Marg Verrall in the grounds of Winchmore Gardens. Photo Toni Williams

Marg Verrall has been named Rural Women New Zealand(RWNZ) Mid Canterbury provincial president.

A member of the Winchmore branch of RWNZ, Marg is looking forward to the challenge but mindful of the work done by others in the role.

jobs, it’s a bit daunting there are big shoes to fill.

Marg got involved with RWNZ after being encouraged, for many years, by neighbour Ngaire Brown.

She resisted until her three children, now adults with children of their own, were older as she supported their sporting activities. It included being involved with Allenton Netball Club, where she is a life member.

RWNZ started as the Women’s Division of the Farmer’s Union in1925, and is vocal at a national level on range of rural sector services such as health, education, environment and social issues.

Mid Canterbury still has three active branches: Anama, Lynnford and Winchmore, as well as individual members.

Marg moved to Winchmore after marrying Bob in the 1970s.

Their property along State Highway 77 between Ashburton and Methven has been in the Verrall family now over four generations. Bob is the third generation farmer on the 205 hectare farm.

There is a lot of diversification on farm with cropping, fattening cattle, grazing and sileage operations during the year, Marg said.

They also run Winchmore Gardens, by appointment during the summer season, to showcase the homestead’s 1.8 hectare gardens to others.

Marg is charmed by the history of the property and feels an emotional connection to it.

The house sits on the site of the original Winchmore Estate House.

The estate once spanned just over 8093 hectares (or 20,000 acres).

It was named Winchmore by the lease holder George Hart in 1853, who named it after his birth place, Winchmore Hill, in London.

He planted the grounds to resemble his birthplace with a semi-circular driveway, large vegetable and flower gardens.

In the past there were dedicated vegetable gardens full of produce to sustain the homestead household, Marg said.

There are still wellingtonia trees, aged up to 160 years, growing in the extensive gardens which have kept many original design features, with modifications, as well as a kissing gate from the era.

Bob’s grandfather, Harry Miles Verrall, bought the property in 1928 and farmed sheep. Bob’s father, Ken, eventually bought the Winchmore block in 1966. His wife, Rosalie, was an avid gardener and maintained the grounds.

On Ken’s retirement to Ashburton in 1978, the property was taken over by Bob, and Marg continued maintaining the gardens.

The family have compiled a photo album with copies of photographs of the estate, its homesteads and some of its people dating from the 1870s. The Verrall home is the third homestead built on the site.

The original house burned down about 1908 and the second homestead needed extensive roof structural work and major maintenance. It was demolished in 1984.

Marg is hoping to use her role with RWNZ to continue offering women in the rural community a chance to connect with others through face-to-face meetings and by monthly newsletter sent directly to members.

She said RWNZ have been involved in a number of activities including knitting Warmth Hats and are planning their distribution around the district, as well as Meals On Wheels deliveries.Sports ShoesNike Air Max 270