In love with the outdoors

Living in small-town Blenheim has given this English family the chance to throw themselves into an active life.
In love with the outdoors

On any given day, you’ll be lucky to catch Jeremy Marshall and his family at home.

They’re more likely to be out playing hockey or soccer, at the beach, swimming,  or doing any number of other activities. Life is busy, and life is good.

Being in a small town – Blenheim has approximately 30,000 people – is part of what makes this possible, as there’s less traffic, and shorter distances between activities. 

“We’re actually able to fit a lot more in than we would, and so the kids get more opportunities to do things,” Jeremy explains. “My wife goes running in the mornings and I get to do a bit of cycling when I can. We can, on a weekend, drop everything and go up the skifield if there is snow. It’s easier to do those things.”

British-born Jeremy is the assistant principal at Marlborough Boys’ College. He and wife Helen, also a teacher, had resigned from their jobs in 2004 and planned to go travelling, footloose and fancy-free. Before leaving the UK, they attended a roadshow run by Education Personnel, a New Zealand-based organisation that recruits teachers, and Jeremy signed up with them. 

A couple of weeks later, he was on the phone being interviewed for a job at Marlborough Boys’ College, running the chemistry department and supporting staff development. His bachelor of science degree and post-graduate certificate of education were comparable to teacher qualifications here, so it was easy to get them recognised by NZQA (the New Zealand Qualifcations Authority). After two months, work visas in hand, he and Helen were on a plane to New Zealand. 

They’d planned to come here for two years but stayed for five, and job satisfaction had a lot to do with that. 

“You are treated far more as a professional and that helps enormously. You still work very, very hard but because you are trusted as a professional, it makes it easier to do your job and that makes it more rewarding,” says Jeremy. “Being a teacher in this country is far more rewarding.”

Jeremy and Helen’s first child, Zoe, was born here three years later. Family matters drew them back to the UK in 2009, and son Scott was born there in 2010, but Jeremy says affordable access to the outdoors made returning to New Zealand in 2013 an easy decision. The young ones had no objections.

“Zoe was quite excited, because she was born here and she considers herself a Kiwi. Scott was only two, so it didn’t really dawn on him what was happening; wherever we were, he was happy,” Jeremy explains. 

New Zealand’s connection to the outdoors also extends to ingredients being available on a more seasonal basis, he discovered.

“I think cooking seasonally is far more healthy.  I still remember going to get swedes to make Cornish pasties and being told they weren’t in season, so I had to adjust the ingredients for the Cornish pasties. But I like that,” he says. 

“I have become a bit of a dab hand at bacon-and-egg pie, some Kiwi-type dishes. I’m not so good at pavlova but I think that’s an art in itself.” 

There’s a lot to love about Blenheim, and Jeremy is a cheerleader for its many virtues. He describes excellent sports facilities, lots of sunshine, vineyards stretching in all directions surrounded by a bowl of hills and mountains. 

“It is absolutely spectacular. All year round it is constantly changing, because of the leaves on the vines changing. You are so close to the beaches and yet you can go and climb a mountain, Mount Richmond, which is taller than [Scotland’s] Ben Nevis, and sleep in a hut virtually on the top and look over to Nelson,” Jeremy enthuses. 

As with most migrants, being so far away from family is a challenge. They’re currently renovating their house to make it warmer, as many New Zealand homes are built without proper insulation and central heating.

It’s just about adjusting your expectations and enjoying what’s here, he explains. “If you can’t accept you’re not going to have all the things you have  in the UK, you shouldn’t be moving.” 

New Zealand’s two islands and various regions offer very different advantages, so Jeremy advises potential migrants to think carefully about what kind of lifestyle they want – and research whether a region has the kind of jobs they’re looking for. 

“If you’re very much a city person, you really  need to look at, say, Wellington or Auckland or Christchurch. If you’re looking for a more outdoor lifestyle, you definitely can’t go far wrong in going to Nelson or Marlborough – those places that still offer the facilities and the amenities  that you need because of the population,  but your access to the outdoors is going to be much easier.”

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