‘‘Serendipity’’ is how Jacqui Sedgwick found herself as the new owner of The Vicarage Bed and Breakfast in Oamaru.
Mrs Sedgwick and husband Neil fell in love with Oamaru, and the former Presbyterian church manse last year, on their way through to Dunedin.
‘‘It almost sounds like a cliche now, because I’ve met so many people that say, ‘I just fell in love’ — probably with the history first of all, and the proximity to the water, and that glowing turquoise ocean, and the super duper people,’’ Mrs Sedgwick said.
The Sedgwicks hail from the United Kingdom — Mr Sedgwick from Scotland, and Mrs Sedgwick from Hampshire, England. They were drawn to New Zealand years ago, after meeting in Australia and travelling here together as friends.
‘‘Just to cut a very long story short, we went home, got together, got married, had children, and always thought, ‘wouldn’t it be lovely just to take the kids to New Zealand’.
‘‘They were 7 and 9 before we plucked up the courage to do that, because we’ve both got lovely families that we’ve left behind.’’
Mr Sedgwick had a job offer for a timber company in Tauranga, where they had lived for 11 years, with Mrs Sedgwick ‘‘doing various things’’.
‘‘I did a bit of travel work, and a bit of teacher aiding, a bit of gardening for people, and a bit of home help for people . . . All the time we thought, ‘we’ve got to get to the South Island, we’ve got to get to the South’.’’
Last year, with daughter Daisy at the University of Otago, and son Alistair completing a ski instructor’s course at Cardrona, in Wanaka, the timing was right to look more seriously into making the move south.
Daisy graduated in May with a degree in environment management, and Alistair was now on to level 2 of his instructor’s course, in the hope it would help him achieve his dream of becoming a mountain photographer, she said.
Mrs Sedgwick had always wanted to run a bed and breakfast, but ‘‘missed the boat’’ in the UK.
‘‘We started to look, so then the serendipitous part comes in.’’
The couple were already booked in to stay at The Vicarage, when Mr Sedgwick saw it was listed for sale on TradeMe.
They were greeted by owner Nora Ngau Chun, who had herself been drawn south in October of 2019, to take over what was then Oamaru Creek Bed and Breakfast.
She freshened up the interior and reopened as The Vicarage that November, just four months before the country was plunged into a Level 4 lockdown, due to Covid-19, and business came to a screeching halt. Ms Ngau Chun had since returned to Auckland.
Although Mrs Sedgwick found the The Vicarage ‘‘overwhelmingly huge’’, everything had fallen into place, she said.
‘‘I think you’ve got to listen to the universe, and it was definitely love at first sight, definitely for Neil. Daunting at first sight for me, because I knew I’d be the one running the inside, and he’d be going back up north, you see, and I’d be here by myself most of the time.’’
The couple were drawn to the beauty and grandeur of the home, but also how welcoming it was.
‘‘This house hugs you, it definitely hugs you. When I come home, I honestly feel she says ‘welcome home’. It’s just lovely.’’
Mrs Sedgwick moved in on October 2 last year, and opened back up for business on October 8 to a full house, but she would not have had it any other way.
‘‘Because if I can do that, I knew I could succeed moving forward.’’
She admitted it was an interesting time to be entering the tourism industry, but was prepared for a slow winter, in anticipation of busy warmer months ahead.
During the quieter months, The Vicarage parlour was available for book clubs, baby showers and other small gatherings, either during the days or the evenings.
Oamaru was now home to Mrs Sedgwick, who was ‘‘absolutely in love’’ with the historic precinct in particular.
‘‘I love everything about it. The people down there have become such great friends.
‘‘The community has embraced me, and I am embracing the community in a huge way.
‘‘In such a short space of time, I’ve entwined my life with so many other beautiful people, it’s unbelievable really. I feel I’ve come home.’’