Chris Cresswell is a Whanganui surgeon who helps people in their darkest hours.

But when he's not working at Whanganui Hospital's emergency department, Chris is busy creating an urban farm on his Bastia Hill property.

When Chris and his wife Mandy moved back to Whanganui after spending six years in Christchurch, they fell in love at first sight with the house and its grand old gardens.

"Mandy came up to look at houses and I said to her, 'Find us a nice, low-maintenance place.' It's not low-maintenance at all, but we love it. It's our little piece of paradise."


The Cresswells are just the third owners of the 115-year-old house, and they share it with their French exchange student.

Their daughter has left home, and their son is on exchange overseas.

The property straddles a ridge of land between Mt View Rd and Ikitara Rd, with a limited amount of flat land.

The edge of the property slopes down to Ikitara Rd; a walkway leads from the gardens through native bush to the road.

The centre of the garden is a lawn with well-established flower beds curving around it.

There's a large swimming pool next to the house, and on a sunny ledge are the vegetable gardens.

"It's a fully organic, permaculture garden, and it's quite untidy at the moment because I'm letting things go to seed."

Chris has fenced off one corner of the garden for his hens.

Fruit trees of all varieties are dotted around the property - citrus, stone fruit, pip fruit, nut trees, guavas, and feijoas. The garden rings with the sound of bird song.

Neither Chris nor Mandy knew much about gardening when they moved to the property five years ago - but they're learning.

"I love vegetable gardening, and Mandy loves looking after the roses.

"We're also very lucky to have an amazing gardener who comes in once a week and helps us a lot - it's just too big for us to keep on top of on our own.

"I'm a newbie at gardening - well, I've had lots of attempts at gardening and have failed. But I'm doing pretty okay here."

Chris is passionate about sustainability and growing his own food.

"I want to create a little urban farm here. It's what a lot of us could be doing to help our planet, so we get to eat our own food rather than stuff that's been brought in by truck and is full of pesticides.

"We're so lucky in New Zealand that many of us still have a back yard to grow our vegetables in."

Chris said gardening is the perfect antidote to a job that is full of stress and trauma.

"It's very, very therapeutic. If I've had a bad day I can come out here and put my hands in the soil and just chill out. It puts things into perspective."