Adding a glamorous twist to the holiday season are six charming ladies of Clevedon at a picturesque picnic, as they connect, share a sense of community and get into the festive spirit.
For us at EastLife, Christmas always starts early as we plan the features a few months in advance. It’s that time of the year when we have more elaborate photo-sessions which involve a fair bit of organising and coordination to tie in with the spirit of the season.
This year, Santa’s special helper was Olivia Radford who helped us orchestrate a polo picnic with some of the movers and shakers of Clevedon.
Things fell into place almost magically for the photoshoot with six amazing ladies -Lucy Ainsley, executive director NZ Polo Open, Indiana Bennetto, owner Auckland Polo Academy, Carla Van Tiel, owner Harries Boutique, Amy Sorenson, manager Harries Boutique, designer/home stager Marika Jones, and Sarah Richardson of NZ Sotheby’s International Realty — who turned up at the magnificent Ryburn Park polo grounds.
A picnic basket packed with fresh produce and an assortment of Clevedon products generously supplied by the Clevedon Village Market set the stage for photoshoot.
Even as the charming ladies soaked in the relaxed atmosphere at the meticulously groomed polo grounds, we had a special guest accompanied by Indiana, join in. It was Dixie the mare, a former racehorse now retained for polo.
It was a perfect day out. The Clevedon girls made time to unwind as they sipped on to organically grown Pink Ensemble Clevedon Rosé 2022. A delightful Provençal styled Rosé supplied by Marc Udy and his partner Camilla Jones for the special occasion.
Celebrations are often a chance to connect with others, share a laugh, count our blessings and marvel at life’s precious moments. They did just that!
Lucy Ainsley, executive director NZ Polo Open who lives with her husband Kel, an international polo player and their three children at the Ainsley Polo, a family Polo farm, says that the best Christmas gift she has received to date was five years ago.
“My husband gave me a wrapped-up puzzle of a horse. Although I like puzzles, I was slightly surprised that he had given me a children’s puzzle. But it was because he had bought me a young horse called Puzzle. When I looked out of the window, it was in the paddock (and she looks like the horse in the puzzle)! I had no idea he had bought her. She’s been the gift that keeps on giving every year.
“She is my ‘me-time’ and I love her dearly!” says Lucy who once played Polo but soon realised she is so much better at organising things, which is why she is a natural at organising the NZ Polo Open featuring the best national and international polo players.
And all she wants for Christmas is “a fun, sun filled summer with my family at polo!”
Indiana Bennetto, an Australian Women’s Polo Captain, also a qualified coach and owner of Auckland Polo Academy spends her year oscillating between New Zealand and Australia.
The acclaimed, competitive polo player says that Christmas Day begins with seeing the horses first.
“It’s only after we’ve fed them carrots in the morning that we celebrate Christmas with the rest of the extended family.”
Reflecting on the best Christmas present, she smiles saying, “It was a horse named Foxy that I was gifted by my dad when I was 14-years-old.”
Marika Jones says that Christmas is a time to be grateful and remember people who’ve had a tough time. The mother-of-three daughters says it was only five weeks ago that she couldn’t even speak!
“I was operated for the second time on a brain tumour and the doctors had said that it would take very long to recover. But I was determined to heal.”
On a trip to Bali with her friend, the home stager and designer learnt about meditation, spiritual healing and nutrition that enabled her on her road to recovery.
“Christmas is time with family and friends, and to be grateful for life’s blessings,” she says.
Carla Van Tiel
Carla Van Tiel, owner of Harries Boutique and mother-of-three has been a part of the fashion business for the last 20 years. Having opened Harries Boutique, a fashion and homeware store in Clevedon Village six months ago, this fashionista knows a thing or two about style, on and off the polo field.
“For us it is Christmas at home in a relaxed Kiwi style. We have fun around the pool and much as my mum would like me to have an elaborate Christmas meal, ours is a classic Christmas barbecue with a few drinks,” she laughs.
Amy Sorenson, manager at Harries Boutique, and mother-of-two girls says she met Carla, thanks to their daughters studying at the same school. “Now they are buddies. We will be spending Christmas at Carla’s place,” she says.
“At one time Christmas was about presents, but now as you grow older things change. I look at it differently. I look forward to some sunshine on Xmas Day,” she smiles.
Sarah Richardson’s passion is both real estate and the equestrian community. Having lived in the area, she gravitated towards specialising in equestrian lifestyle properties in Clevedon, Whitford and Karaka. A real estate agent with NZ Sotheby’s International Realty, the mother-of-one says that Christmas meal is always an elaborate affair with stuffed turkey, ham with all the trimmings, nibbles, roast potatoes, berry cheesecake, Clevedon strawberries and more.
Sarah’s husband Alex is a polo player for Auckland Polo Club while she just started playing polo and has evented to top level nationally.
What she looks forward to this year is her daughter discovering the magic of Christmas. “Now that Chloe has turned four, I am so excited that she is beginning to understand what Christmas is about. I’m so looking forward to celebrating it and seeing it through her eyes.”