These are our newest babies,” Robyn Smith gestures to two little goats and a Highland cow with her calf at foot. “We’re feeding her stock-food pellets to try and get her used to us,” she explained, unfortunately thwarted in this plan by the sudden arrival of a Belted Galloway heifer who knows only too well what stock food is all about.

Orwell Creek Road, Ahaura, then

The animals are part of the attraction for visitors to the Smiths’ farm and eco-home lodge at Orwell Creek, Ahaura, roughly halfway between Greymouth and Reefton. Robyn and Malcolm Smith have owned the property that is surrounded by DOC land since 2007 and in that time have risen to the challenge of living off the grid, farming cattle and protecting the land and its history, but not without the occasional issue.

Orwell Creek Road, Ahaura, now as a private driveway

Although there are now 45ha of grassy paddocks along the flats, they’re not finished with breaking in the 59ha property that was ‘pretty solid’ gorse and macrocarpa.

Mother and child

And “every now and again we get some idiots coming through at night,” says Malcolm, explaining that unauthorised four-wheel drivers don’t always respect the fact that this is private land. On the other hand, by arrangement, clubs and authorised tours can pass through the property to the surrounding DOC ecological zone and to visit Napoleon Hill, once the site of a thriving community.

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