Madness in the form of a barn

Blacksmith apprentice and Auckland escapee, Nate Savill tells us in this latest post about the red wooden barn he now inhabits in Waimangaroa, a small town near Westport on the West Coast of the South Island.

A wooden barn without electricty, a telephone or indoor plumbing, and so remote it might survive the apocalypse: welcome to Nate Savill’s home sweet home.

When I came for the Coast, and fell in love with the wildness of it, I wanted to live in the midst of it all. I sought solitude.  High rents and my newness to the area meant that living in Westport was going to be an easier, gentler option at least initially.    

A few months of flatting and there was still that niggling urge to get out on my own, to buck the complacency that can come with modern living… so I dug up a contact number for the owner of a barn up the coast.   A week later I was stacking firewood in the rain, with snow piling up on the hills, when the thought hit me that perhaps Westport had driven me to madness.  Madness in the form of a barn…

At night the lights of the Stockton mine cast an eerie glow on the skyline and rumble of trains and the cry of morporks break a silence I have not yet grown used to.

Now, it’s a nice-looking barn, a big red wooden barn and it’d be really nice in summer as a get away.  A get away from electricity, telephones, warmth (fine in summer), indoor plumbing, people and perhaps even the apocalypse.  I’m stubborn and slighly obsessive, so there was no way I was leaving this till the weather warmed up.

The barn is 15 kilometres north of Westport, on the edge of a small town/village called Waimangaroa.  It sits right against the hills, beneath the well known Denniston Plateau, and surrounded by manuka, fern and scrub.  It could be miles from anywhere, and anyone. 

Two wekas keep me company from a safe distance, and there is constant movement from fantails and waxeyes in the trees. At night the lights of the Stockton mine cast an eerie glow on the skyline and rumble of trains and the cry of morporks break a silence I have not yet grown used to. 

The front third of the barn has been partially converted in to what the owner calls ‘an improvised living arrangement;’ a kitchen/living room, a small ‘bedroom’ and a loft (the rest is storage for all manner of building material).  There’s a good log burner, which heats my hot water, a two burner gas cooker, running water and gas lighting. There’s plenty of outdoor living with an outdoor loo, outdoor shower, bush bath and a clay pizza oven. It has what I need for now. 

It’s basic, and it’ll need a bit of work. A new rhythm of life! I am face-to-face with my basic needs, as well as the forces of nature; relying on a fire, going out in the rain to use the sort-of composting toilet, waking with thoughts of the roof being ripped off because of the deafening sound of the wind is still a novelty. 

Compared to what the early miners faced in this area, living only in canvas tents at times, I am living with abundance; there’s really not much I’m missing. It’s a privilege to be here in the midst of beauty, and I think a little sacrifice is good for the body and soul. It’s like Lent all the time!

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