In between having overseas film crews on location in their garden, and preparing for the Heroic Gardens Festival, Christine and Tony Peek tell Catherine Smith what they love about Coatesville.

We've lived in the district for 20 years after moving out here from our section in Takapuna to a 4ha block. We are both city-born and bred, but were frustrated gardeners. When we came out to the country, we felt very accepted. It's developed since then, but it's still nice and friendly, and developments are not less than 2ha blocks so it's still rural. Yet only 10 minutes away are all the shops and restaurants of Albany.

Coatesville was originally called Fernielea and the story goes that Gordon Coates, when he was Prime Minister, was most annoyed he didn't have a town named after him. So he offered to put the Albany to Riverhead road through in the 1920s if they changed the name.

The Fernielea Cafe is from the original name, it's always packed and has good food. The dairy still does large hand-rolled icecreams, there're still fruit and vege shops and places to pick your own apples and pears.

The Coatesville market on the first Sunday of the month is down at the historic hall - lovely locally grown and made food, homemade artisan things, all sorts of goodies. The hall is the centre of the community, a village green really. It backs on to the reserve - there's a pony club, all sorts of clubs, scouts. Everyone has their birthday parties and weddings there. After the fire we hosted Music in the Garden to raise money to re-roof and restore it.


The school is another big centre, whether you have kids or not. Everyone goes to the big Ag Day with pets and all sorts of animals, wonderful scones and food, it's a wonderful feeling.

Our garden club has 100 members, there are plenty of experienced people with lots of knowledge plus lots of young ones too. We have four Gardens of National Significance here, all within a few minutes' drive of each other. We have a trading table to raise money for trips, we like to visit other gardens.

We still have flocks of sheep being driven down the road - there are lots of leased paddocks, so they're droving with sheep dogs between them all, yet we're only 10 minutes from Albany. It's nice to watch the haymaking, the sheep grazing, it's really country. But it's so beautiful to sit on the deck with a glass of wine, we'd much rather just have friends around to dinner. Why go into town?

Christine and Tony's picks
* Fernielea Licensed Cafe - 302 Coatesville/Riverhead Hwy, ph (09) 415 6442

* Flametree Art Garden and Gallery - 16a O'Brien Rd, Coatesville, ph (09) 414 7433

* Windmill Fruit Orchard and Shop - 294 Coatesville Hwy, Coatesville, ph (09) 415 9497

* Coatesville Market - Cnr Mahoenui Valley Rd, Coatesville/Riverhead Hwy, held the first Sunday of every month except January, 10am-2pm