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NZ Pretty as an English rose

Property Here - Saturday, March 30, 2013

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Rod Croon describes his Clevedon property as "magic" - talking about the view from the sunny old-fashioned veranda, the secret bush walk to the Wairoa River and the gracious homestead he found 11 years ago.

He admits he was only looking for land for his horse-breeding business, with no intention of buying a house.

"I knew as soon as I walked in," he says. "I just liked the feel of the place."

He's convinced the early settlers who built it in the 1890s knew what they'd found, too. "It's the highest spot in Clevedon, north-facing, right on the river," he says.

Over the intervening century, the homestead got a lot of attention, so Rod concentrated on the 15-plus hectares of farmland. "I've built 12km of post-and-rail fence, plus stables and irrigation for the horse troughs," he says. A former president of the Auckland Trotting Club, Rod's well-known in bloodstock circles, and up to two dozen mares and foals are housed in the custom-built 600sq m stable.

It's a wonder he's had time to admire the view, but Rod admits to whiling away many hours watching his horses from the sunny veranda.

"It's a magic spot," he says. "The English-style ha-ha means there's no fence blocking the view." He's referring to the ditched retaining wall separating the home garden from the adjacent paddocks.

There's an English country feel to the home garden, with its traditional borders and magnificent specimen trees. "It's been popular with garden tours over the years," Rod says.

The formal swimming pool, with its pool house and shady grape arbour, was popular with Rod's visiting kids, too. "They could party with their friends, away from the house," he recalls.

The house has no shortage of spaces either. The original square cottage, with its triple-sash windows, solid brick chimney and verandas, is still visible at the western end of the house.

Within its footprint is the formal living and dining rooms, sporting high studs and original kauri floors milled from the property. French doors open to the endless views and sun of the north-facing veranda.

The original front door is now protected by a porte cochere.

The central hall serves two generous bedrooms and an old-fashioned bathroom with decorated claw-foot tub.

A later addition houses a large farm-style kitchen and family room, all opening on to the veranda, shaded from summer sun but toasty in winter.

A master bedroom shares the sunny veranda, with its own generous bathroom and walk-in closet.

A third wing houses two more bedrooms with French doors, another bathroom and laundry. The former billiards room opens to a kitchen garden and dozens of fruit trees.

Across from the main house, a matching self-contained cottage provides even more options. "It's been a two-bedroom home for extended family," says Rod, "or could be guest accommodation or an office."

Rod points out the bush path to the river, where the neighbours' boats sail to the Hauraki Gulf at high tide. He enthuses about the great village community, with handy school buses to nearby colleges.

Rod doesn't need the large family house any more, but he could lease back grazing and stables. With the hard work done, new owners could just sit on the sunny veranda and enjoy the "magic" views of Rod's horses.