Leaving a beautiful view behind them

The eyes of Rob Burrows and those of his wife, Mary Ann, both mist over as they talk about the prospect of leaving their Amuri Basin property, Beechwood, in the Hurunui district.

Up for auction on Wednesday, May 21, the 275ha farm has been Mr Burrow's home since 1960, the place where the couple raised their two daughters, so the imminent shift does not come without much soul-searching.

Both said they would miss the stunning views to the west and, of course, the memories.

For Mr Burrows, the memories go back even further, to 1951 when his father, Tug, and his wife, Margaret, who still lives on the property, bought a 365 acre (178ha) farm of the same name on the other side of Top Pahau Ford Rd.

A returned serviceman, Tug Burrows was in numerous ballots for land in the area before using his rehabilitation money to buy his first farm.

Buying at the height of the boom, in the wake of the Korean War, meant times were tough at first, the family being restricted to a budget of 5 a week by the bank.

''A wife, two kids, no car, a few horses, a tractor and trailer, it must have been tough for Tug and Mum,'' Mr Burrows said.

A rabbiter and shearer, Tug Burrows was obviously not afraid of hard work. In fact, before his World War 2 service, he had built up a small Southdown stud ''which his father sold on him while he was away at the war, something he wasn't too happy about'', Mr Burrows said.

It was not too long before Tug Burrows was back putting rams over halfbred merino ewes, on-selling the ram lambs and building up assets.

By 1957, the Romney stud was established, which continues to this day, a smaller Leicester stud following a year later.

In 1960, The Terraces, as it was known, came on the market for 57 (an acre) and the Beechwood name simply crossed the road.

''There had been few if any sales in the area for some years and some people said Tug had paid 20 pounds too much. He sold the farm across the road for the same, so it wasn't too bad,'' Mr Burrows, who was 12 at the time, said.

''But we had no hay for winter, as it was left as a carrot for the bloke that bought Tug's first farm.''

''The whole family was involved, as you were in those days, and I can recall I felt that I really needed a smoke. I've only had about three since.''

Once they were settled in, paddock sizes were altered, new fencing erected and new pasture sown.

A major change came in 1962 when a Hereford stud was set up at the request of Margaret Burrows, who at the age of 93 continued to take a keen interest.

Today, Beechwood runs 140 Hereford and 60 Charolais cows, plus 750 Wairere bred Romney ewes and supporting stock.

Another huge change came in the early 1980s with the advent of irrigation. For the proposed scheme to go ahead a 75% farmer vote in favour was required.

''We ended up putting everyone on a bus and heading down to Winchmore,'' Mr Burrows said. ''When they saw what had been achieved there, plus numerous discussions at various watering holes on the way home, there was no real problem getting the vote.''

Today about 124ha and 28 paddocks are irrigated by border dykes and with 261 shares held in the Amuri Irrigation Company, there is sufficient water to irrigate the remainder of the farm.

Mr Burrows said the switch to dairying looked inevitable, but it was not his first choice.

''I'm more of a stockman than a mechanic. With border dyke irrigation, the only thing mechanical you need is an a alarm clock, which I can handle.''

At its peak in the Muldoon years, the Burrows used to sell 1100 stud halfbred and Romney rams. While those numbers had declined, sales remained strong.

Over the years, sheep had been sold to China, Uruguay, Argentina and Fiji. Ram sales had traditionally been capped off with a cup of tea and a whisky, or two.

''I can remember a couple of bachelors who came by every year to buy a ram. It was my job as a youngster to carry the bottle of whisky and the water jug and offer top-ups,'' Mr Burrows said.

''I remember approaching one of these old blokes and him saying `no, no, no', then chasing me round the room with his arm outstretched, obviously having changed his mind.

''On another occasion an agent and a Spanish-speaking interpreter got pie-eyed, leaving Tug and me trying to do a deal with a group who couldn't speak a word of English.''

Subject to the sale of Beechwood, Mr Burrows said he had lined up a 1000ha ''lifestyle block'' with less intensive farming.

- by Kit Carson 

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