Rosemary and Michael O’Regan wanted a holiday house close to Christchurch – somewhere near a river and high-country lakes, preferably, where they could go swimming and where Michael could fish. What they found was a hundred-year-old potter’s cottage, in Whitecliffs Valley, 50km from the city.
The house was completely obscured by macrocarpas.
“You couldn’t see the front, it was so overgrown and had no entrance way. We went in through the back and could see it could be a gorgeous little cottage,” Rosemary says.
Whitecliffs Valley was one of the first parts of Canterbury to be surveyed, she says, and workers cottages were built to service the coal mines and brick and pipe works in the area. Terrace Cottage is one of the few remaining 19th century cottages, and was in an original condition when the O’Regans bought it, apart from the addition of a third bedroom and a toilet in the 1930s.
The exterior walls – sawn timber – have been left as they were when the house was built, apart from a coat of paint. Inside, they’ve polished the wood floors, painted, and gibbed. “We haven’t tried to take away from the fact that it’s 100 years old,” Rosemary says. “The idea that it’s old and has a history appeals to people.”
A well out the back of the house was built up for safety reasons, and put to use after they bought the house. Water isn’t plentiful in the area, so it’s partly thanks to buckets of water from the well that there’s now a thriving garden of lavender, rhododendrons and camellias.
The cottage is close to the epicentre of September’s earthquake, near Darfield, but came thankfully through intact, with just one cup broken! And it continues to attract visitors from all over the world, particularly in winter when its proximity to the skifields at Mt Hutt and Porter Heights makes it a popular base for winter sports.