NZ Lifestyle Magazine Group


Donnellys Crossing is a tiny community once known for its railway line. It's now a quiet bush community with a magnetic pull that tempts dreamers, lovers and big-city escapees. Joanna Wickham (pictured) was one such runaway. The photographer and interiors stylist grew up on a Taranaki farm and, despite having a perfectly lovely bed, would sleep in a tent all summer long. When her dad first laid eyes on what would become Wild Forest Estate, he summed it up perfectly — “this is everything that you loved as a child”. And it is. In September 2018, Joanna moved in, leaving behind life in inner-city Auckland for 5.6ha of native bush complete with possums, a pet eel, three accommodation options and no cellphone reception. The house was built by a former owner who was an architect and constructed from bits and pieces, including local kauri and a church steeple. There are several accommodation options onsite — the Estate Owner's Cottage, a 1910 Kauri Bushman's Cottage, and the Tin Shed, a hilltop container transformation with views above the forest canopy. The Wild Forest glamping site is also a favourite with honeymooners and city-lights escapees — the combination of Lotus Belle tent and outdoor bath can soothe all woes and worries. Joanna doesn't miss Auckland. Sure, in Donnellys Crossing the cell coverage may be iffy, and the eels giant (ask to meet Ernie), but the move was the best decision she has made. “One guest who was a Japanese scientist said this was the purest air he'd ever tested. I'm leaving the forest to regenerate and re-wild so it will remain as untouched as possible. I guess I'm the kaitiaki [guardian] of this land and I have an overwhelming sense of love for it.” 990 Trounson Park Road, Donnellys Crossing. (09) 945 5960,