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Episode 23: Head for the Hills

Screened 25 August at 7pm on TV ONE

Head for the Hills

Although the children have grown up and his Central Otago farm has been tamed, Richard Parsons doesn't take life easy.

Richard does most of his mustering on foot or mountain bike on his 1300 hectares of dry flat land mixed with steep, south-facing hill country near Alexandra.

He took up biking after a bad back forced him to give up sports involving running. Biking has now become a favourite way of getting around the property.

"It's really quiet and you see a lot more than you would on a motorbike or in a truck. It's good for man, dogs, sheep and cattle and saves a huge amount of diesel."

Richard's days start early and finish late but he still has energy for other things, including kayaking down a fast-moving section of the Kawerau Gorge every Tuesday night in summer.

He got into the sport when son Andy took it up at college and he's now involved with coaching and instructing other high school students in Alexandra and Cromwell.

Richard wanted to farm from a young age and, after he and his wife Jacqui got married, they worked on various properties in Central Otago before they could borrow enough money to buy Waikerikeri Station.

When their three children were small, Jacqui helped out on the farm whenever she was needed while continuing to work as a nurse.

When she's at home, horses are Jacqui's passion. She got her first pony at age 12 and has been riding ever since. In recent years, she and Richard have joined the annual

Goldfields Cavalcade, a week-long trek across Central Otago which retraces the steps and trails of 19th Century gold miners.

The Parsons spend weeks getting themselves and their horses fit for the adventure with regular rides to the highest point on their property.

"It's not uncommon to be in the saddle for up to 11 hours a day on The Cavalcade and they set a good pace so you have to be able to keep up," says Jacqui.

"The horses actually love it once they get fit - it's better than sitting in a paddock all day!"

This year, Jacqui and Richard didn't have to carry all their gear every day as a farming neighbour met them at night with their truck and horse float. Jacqui says sleeping on the floor of the float - once it had been cleaned out - was luxury compared to some years on the trail. 

Despite his busy life, Richard took art classes 20 years ago and paints landscapes from photographs he takes around the region. He works on commission or sells in local cafes.

"It's therapeutic and, after I've spent all day outside, it's great to get inside and do something different.

"For me it's also about capturing the subtle colours and tones of the Central Otago and West Coast regions."

To find out more, email Richard and Jacqui on

For more on The Cavalcade visit

For more on Richard's art visit

Jeff Aldridge

Field sound
John Patrick

Offline editor
Brent Whitwell

Online editor
Alex Wright

Sound mixer
Ian Leslie

Vivienne Jeffs

Network executive
Jude Callen

Consultant producer
Frank Torley

Associate producer
Dan Henry

Production manager
Robyn Best

Katherine Edmond

Julian O'Brien