Tea and history with Heritage NZ

Have you ever driven past the gates at Totara Estate and wondered what’s down the drive?

Many visitors have felt like that — but when they do take the time to visit, they are pleasantly surprised.

First of all, you will receive a warm welcome and be introduced to this beautiful property. You can then decide if you want to go for a tour around this collection of restored farm buildings and see for yourself how the important event that took place here way back in 1882 is so much part of our world even today.

Or you can be like an early farm-worker and have a proper cup of tea and a homemade scone with jam and cream either in the garden or inside the Men’s Quarters. You can even just look around the shop and see what treasures you can find. They don’t even mind if you want to use the picnic tables and bring your own lunch!

And what is the significant event you may ask? Well, over the summer of 1881, preparations were made here to process nearly 5000 sheep carcasses and send them daily by rail to Port Chalmers.

They were then frozen on board the sailing ship Dunedin, ready for the first shipment of frozen meat to leave the country and successfully land in Britain. This opened up the pathway to the massive industry we have now.

The Scottish owners of Totara Estate were full of ideas and energy and always looking at utilising new technology; a legacy of ingenuity and innovation that is still with us today.

Clarks Mill was part of the original operation too, growing and milling some of the finest wheat to be found in the country.

Today Clarks Mill is a restored flour mill, open Sunday afternoons from October to April. Group tours can also be taken there by arrangement, and to see the machinery running is a very special experience. The very knowledgeable Clarks Mill Restorers can be on hand to tell you the story. If you or your group are involved in the agricultural industry, a visit to either of these sites would be of great interest.

Totara Estate is part of Heritage NZ Pohere Taonga, the principal organisation looking after our culture and heritage in New Zealand — part of a cluster of significant properties in the area.

Not far down the road from Totara Estate is Clarks Mill, once part of the estate and now also owned by Heritage NZ. Head to Waikouaiti and you will find the Matanaka Farm Buildings. Inland is Hayes Engineering at Oturehua, and at Ophir, the post office.

Make some time to visit these local treasures and learn the stories.