Toni Abrahams and Michelle Matthews love their "sprawling, handsome country house" at Hatfields Beach, and the sea and rural views it proffers.

But more importantly, it has been a place where they can offer refuge to ageing or maltreated animals.

Toni tells how she came to look at the property in March 2016, walked up the steps, saw the view and was sold.

"We particularly wanted Hatfields Beach. It is a lovely beach that isn't crowded, you can walk the dogs at the reserve and it's only five minutes' drive to Orewa. Orewa has bars, cafes, markets and the surf club.

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"So, you have the convenience with the lifestyle, and we wanted to rescue animals."

But first, Toni had to sell her London house.

"We spoke to the agent and we spoke to the vendors and they were able to wait for me to sell my house."

Once Toni and Michelle moved into their home in August 2016, along with Michelle's son, and friends rented the cottage on the property, they started taking in animals: three goats, three sheep, a Shetland pony, two dogs, four cats and about 40 chickens, including 10 roosters.

They have a shed if they need to keep the animals indoors, and a chicken house for the hens. "But most of the chickens are free rangers. People say they lay the nicest eggs," says Toni.

Their four-bedroom brick and cedar house has entry from the internal garage.

With the main living area spread across three rooms — kitchen/family/dining, the lounge and a sunroom, plus two of these areas opening to the covered decks — the home is ideal for entertaining.

"We have a lot of barbecues and parties. The sunroom opens to the lounge and out to the deck," says Toni.

"We spend so much time in the sunroom because the windows open right out. You have all the views and the sea air, and we can see the animals because the paddocks are all in view."

Also on this level is a large hall giving a degree of separation between living and the en-suited master bedroom, another bedroom and bathroom.

There's a Masport wood burner in the sunken part of the lounge — "that is where we cozy up and watch telly" — but it must be a cool day to light this, says Toni, as the home stays warm most days thanks to facing north and getting lots of sunlight.

On the upper level are two more bedrooms and another living area or media room, plus bathroom.

This level also has a legacy to the family who lived here before Toni and Michelle.
"What we found was rather sweet: the kids' cubbyholes," says Toni. "Upstairs, from each of the bedrooms is a cubbyhole that goes into the roof storage. There are all the kids' handprints there."

But now Toni and Michelle are selling. It wasn't the plan when they bought. Indeed, they have poured heart, soul and funds into renovating the property.

"We have been here only a year, but we have done so much work," says Toni. "We have painted the outside, replaced some weatherboards. In the sunroom we have put a new roof and guttering, we have a new boiler, new water pump and electrics to the water pump. The cottage has been redecorated, the roof redone and we painted the outside.

"We spent about $20,000 on fencing alone. We must've spent well over $100,000 doing everything on the house to get it to where we wanted it to be.

"But we have found another place that has double the land, so we can get more animals, and that is our aim."

They think the next owners will have to love animals.

"You need the animals otherwise it's going to be hard work keeping the paddocks maintained. Animals just do it for you.

"There isn't a lot of maintenance. Every two months we trim the hedges and every fortnight we mow the lawns.

"A family would be ideal because this has so much space for the kids to play and run."

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