The gruelling trek to wedded bliss

23:00, Dec 14 2012
Rose and Jeremy Newton
HOME AND DRY: Rose and Jeremy Newton back on Pepin Island one year after the flooding.

Jeremy and Rose Newton's rocky start to married life made headlines around the country a year ago.

They are back home at the Pepin Island farm the Newton family run, fresh from their final years at Otago University and about to embark on summer jobs running holiday programmes for the Atawhai Community Church.

They recalled the events of a year ago, when Mr Newton and his family were stranded on one side of multiple landslides which had cut off Cable Bay from the outside world. Damaged communication lines and no cellphone coverage compounded the dilemma.

The bride-to-be was in Marlborough, with only a day to go before their nuptials.

"I expected rising panic, but I felt peaceful because I knew he would make it," Mrs Newton said last week while recalling the events.

Farm manager's wife Nicki Newton said things started going bad two nights before, when the river came up and stock had to be moved. "Jeremy and [best man] Sam [De Rij] were going to leave the next morning, but it didn't work out that way."


The rain continued, and the hillsides came down. Mr Newton and his best man had no choice but to walk out, negotiating near-impossible and sometimes dangerous landslides.

Like Frodo Baggins and his loyal friend Sam, they carried a precious ring across treacherous terrain to their final destination, along with 10 litres of homemade rhubarb juice, salami and frankfurters for the wedding feast.

"It all got there on time," Mr Newton said.

He remembered how frustratingly slow and tricky the journey was. "The slips didn't look like much, but we sunk in them while trudging through. It was quite difficult."

The biggest one required them to hike up a steep hill in order to get past it, while Mr Newton got stuck waist-deep in another slide and Mr De Rij had to pull him out.

At the time, the wider Newton family had no choice but to contemplate a similarly challenging mission to get to the wedding on time. Brother and sister Danielle and Michael Newton helped to lug the essential wedding wardrobe and menu to a point beyond the slips, several kilometres from the house, then returned home prepared to do it all again with the rest of the family, who were planning to hike out with their wedding finery.

The Nelson Mail's efforts to find out how the community was faring and to deliver supplies turned out to be their salvation. The boat the Mail chartered was able to deliver the wedding party to Nelson on the return trip. From there, the family, including a foster sister and Jessica Newton's French boyfriend, travelled to Blenheim by road.

The groom's father, Andrew Newton, hiked out after tending to the stock.

Rose Newton said last week the family were looking forward to enjoying a real Cable Bay summer, swimming, diving, snorkelling, and reading books other than textbooks. She has just finished an arts degree, majoring in English and psychology. Mr Newton has just completed a physical education degree with honours, and hopes to one day coach school basketball.

The Nelson Mail