A health scare prompted a city couple to fulfil a desire to live the country life.

438 Pinnacle Hill Road, Bombay.

Robin and Alton Ross are living proof that townies can achieve the lifestyle block dream. Just four and a half years ago they were living in an apartment in Auckland city, now they are sadly parting with their 4ha block on which they've established a lime orchard.

It was a health scare that prompted them to pursue their country ideals, but now it is another health problem that is forcing them to return to the city.

Alton had a stroke while working in a busy city job, and decided to retire early.
"But we didn't want to do nothing," smiles Robin. "We'd never lived in the country before, but liked the outdoors and fresh air so thought why not give it a try.

We looked at lots of places within a 45 minute drive of Auckland, then visited this one. I think I'd bought it by the time I reached the corner of the tennis court - there was something about the sweep of the drive which took you past the court and the pool to the front of the house."

Half the land is in native bush, and the rest was pasture. It was one block carved off a formerly large farm that belonged to the family of All Black Andy Dalton, and this block happened to contain all the main farm buildings.
"So we've also got a haybarn, stock yards and a shearing shed," says Robin. "Other lifestyle farmers from the area bring their sheep here to use the shearing shed."

She and Alton didn't want stock to look after - they wanted to try a bit of horticulture.
"I took a walk around the supermarket to see what was the most expensive fruit, and that day it was limes," chuckles Alton. "So that's what we planted."

Three years ago he, Robin and their three adult children planted nearly 200 Bearrs lime trees on the property. Alton gained advice from the Fruitgrowers Federation on how to care for them, and, since putting in irrigation, has found them very low maintenance.

Their first harvest is due next year, and Alton regrets that he won't be here to enjoy it. Unfortunately he is now suffering back problems, and can no longer manage the physical nature of living on a lifestyle block.

He and Robin will miss their house too. A 16-year-old Lockwood of generous proportions, it is positioned to make the most of its views across the Waikato . There is a hearty brick open fire in the formal lounge, and a log burner in the family room. A room between these two could be used for formal dining or TV.

The bedroom wing of the main house also contains an office, from where Robin works part time as a travel planner for overseas visitors coming here on golf tours, and for New Zealanders going to India to trek.

The sunny master bedroom has French doors that open out to the pool area, plus its own en suite.

A separate guest house contains two more bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchenette and a living room. Robin has hosted bed and breakfast guests, and friends needing somewhere to stay for a few weeks at a time.

The pool is a bit special - it is salt water, heated by solar panels to up to 30 degrees.
"Our grandchildren have loved it out here," says Alton. "They're in and out of the pool, racing around on their trikes, and we finished off fencing the whole property to keep them and our dog Charlie safe."

There's even a stream in the bush below. Alton says there's an underground waterfall down there too, and if you sit by the stream once all the birds have gone to sleep, you can hear the water under the earth.

The couple have enjoyed being part of a rural community after a lifetime in the city.
"Country people are so friendly," says Alton. "There's always someone willing to give you advice or help. We've allowed use of our shearing shed for free because favours are always returned in one way or another."


VITAL STATISTICS

BEDROOMS: 5

BATHROOMS: 3

GARAGE: 2+

SIZE: Land 4.1ha, house and guest house 270sq m.

PRICE: $1.13 million.

INSPECT: Sunday 3-4pm.

ON THE WEB: www.barfoot.co.nz/336234

CONTACT: Heather Fewtrell, Barfoot & Thompson, ph 0274 954 775, 298 8029 bus, 09 239 1008 a/h.

FEATURES: Immaculately tended lifestyle block with 200 irrigated lime trees due for their first harvest next year. Elevated, sunny location with rural views. Warm, generous Lockwood house with separate guest house. Tennis court, heated pool. Kitchen orchard of various fruit trees. Haybarn, three-stand shearing shed and covered stock yards. Native bush with stream.