Boutique Barnstay – Staveley, South Island, NZ

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Staveley Camp

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

A good crew and lots of creative energy came together at the weekend at the Staveley Camp forest rejuvenation weekend.

As the crow flies Staveley Camp is only a 1km from Rata across Bowyers Stream and part of the land sustains a rare remnant of Canterbury Plains native forest.

Gen de Spa has been doing a great job initiating the caring process to rid the forest of all the nasties which are smothering it..... ivy, cotoneaster, sycamore, broom etc.

It will be a long process so it was fantastic to see so many keen folk on board ... many involved with Time Bank Ashburton.

What a beautiful peaceful place.....definitely worth our care!

Native Clematis

Monday, October 22, 2018

I was booked in last Friday to guide a couple of clematis enthusiasts on a NZ native clematis finding expedition!  It was by far the worst day of the year with this supposed spring day throwing hail, snow and rain at us along with a biting southerly wind.
So it was fortunate my guests were made of stern stuff and we had a fun day focussed on finding several varieties of clematis dotted around Mid Canterbury
The flowers are beautiful and varied ....from small and insignificant to large and flamboyant

Flowering is from September to November. 

The small and elusive Clematis Marata above is to be found in the Harris Reserve. Here it is earlier flowering than its backcountry cousin.

On to the Rakaia Gorge where we found Clematis Foetida in flower. The soft yellow is seen in great swathes all over the steep sides of the gorge as it climbs and hangs off vegetation. 

We were also looking for a much less common clematis variety.... Quadribracteolata. We were thrilled to at least find the seed heads. It flowers in September. Below is a photo of this particular clematis in flower last year .

Our last stop along the foothills was to photograph the spectacular Clematis Paniculata which grows amongst the beech forest and is at its best at this time of year. It is stunning with the white flowers standing out against the black trunks of the trees.
All in all, a successful day!!

Rata Escape Launched!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

In the Foothills of Mid Canterbury, a new and exciting tourism venture has recently been launched. Rata Escape, as the letters spell out, offers Rural Adventure Tours and Accommodation.

The accommodation base of Rata Lodge is located in Staveley and this “boutique barnstay” is set in a private bush garden under the grand presence of Mount Somers.

Rata Escape also offers custom-made day adventures exploring the spectacular Mid Canterbury backcountry. Activities include guided hiking, mountain biking, 4WD exploring, farm tours and creative workshops. There is the option of fully catered or self-contained stays.

For the two enthusiastic business owners, this venture is a step into new territory and “a way to keep our grey matter working” they add, laughing.

The friends, Judith Sommerville and Elspeth Jaine, dreamt up the concept during their weekly jaunts with like-minded tramping buddies of the “Foothills Social Climbers”.

Previously, Judith has spent many years teaching at Mount Hutt College. Now she coordinates the Boost Programme and supports the team of volunteers assisting with literacy in Ashburton Primary Schools.

Elspeth has stepped back from her career in physiotherapy where until a few months ago she was visiting older Mid Canterbury residents to encourage them with the Falls Prevention Programme. She sees their new venture along the same continuum of promoting activity and wellness as we age. “I imagine our adventure tours appealing to people of middle age and older, possibly groups of friends on a yearly trip away together. Comfortable lodgings, good food which is prepared for you, and interesting outdoor options to let you explore this stunning and uncrowded corner of New Zealand.”

Both women have a creative streak and they are keen to involve local artists in their venture. The workshops which are on offer are watercolour painting, floral design, cheesemaking and limestone sculpting.

Judith and Elspeth are excited to be gearing up for the coming season and to have the opportunity to share their love for the outdoors with visitors. They encourage you to check out their website at and join them as they “Breathe in the Backcountry”!