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A warm welcome awaits you

Coonabarabran & Gilgandra town feature


Warrumbungles Popular Dubbo artist KYAH WILSON

Country gardens



Showcasing the best of rural and regional New South Wales

• Selling in every auction sale week • Leading wooltrade broker • Forward contract with Riemann • Offering Auctions Plus wool • Accredited & modern rehandle • Cash settlement on small lots • Merchandise • Shearing finance • Web access to client account • One competitive flat rate for all bales • Comprehensive market reporting • Detailed clip analysis

Since taking over our family farm I have been using Jemalong wool exclusively to market our annual woolclip. Using a combination of the traditional auction system and the internet based Wool Trade™ we have been able to take advantage of any upward movements of wool prices. This is due to personalised attention to detail and flexibility due mainly to Jemalong understanding our needs as a business. - Simon Squire-Wilson, Tiverton, Harden, NSW



trading as Central West Magazine ABN 151 6322 9418 ADDRESS PO BOX 1050 DUBBO NSW 2830 PHONE 0429 441 086 FAX 02 6867 9895 WEBSITE FACEBOOK PUBLISHERS, ACCOUNTS & ADVERTISING Elizabeth & Alex Tickle EDITOR Elizabeth Tickle CHIEF WRITER & PHOTOGRAPHER Jake Lindsay ART DIRECTOR Zora Regulic

DISTRIBUTION Central West Lifestyle magazine is published quarterly (available at the beginning of each season) and distributed to selected newsagents and retail outlets within the Central West and in the bordering regions of the Far West, North West, Southern Highlands, Canberra, Goulburn, Northern and Eastern suburbs of Sydney, in addition to a selection of other rural and coastal areas of New South Wales. Subscriptions and back issues are also available to read online, on desktop and mobile devices. Unsold magazines are distributed to cafes, health waiting rooms, quality hotels/motels, bed and breakfast establishments, hair and beauty salons and tourist outlets.

SUBSCRIBE ONLINE To order a subscription or back issue (mailed or online), visit © Central West Lifestyle Pty Ltd 2017 All Rights Reserved No part of this magazine may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the publisher. While every care is taken in the publication of Central West Lifestyle magazine, the publishers will not be held responsible for omissions, errors or their subsequent effects.

Pegasus Print Group, is an environmentally responsible printing company that is committed to helping achieve a sustainable environment. To underscore our commitment to environmental sustainability, Pegasus Print Group has achieved FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) accreditation as well as being ISO 14001 accredited. Paper and paper-based materials carrying the FSC symbol can be tracked back to their source, guaranteeing they come from forests which are managed to meet the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations. Pegasus Print Group is also an accredited ISO 9001:2008 supplier, which ensures each step of our production process is aligned with world’s best practice to deliver the finest quality possible. Together, these accreditations offered by Pegasus Print Group, offer our clients a guarantee that their printed products are produced by world’s best practice environmental and finest quality standards.


1 – 16 July 2017 Ignite the Night – 1 July Brew & Bite – 8 July Illumination McDonald’s Bathurst Ice Rink Ferris Wheel Live Music Carousel Local Wine Craft Ale Boutique Food


winter 2017 150


12  COONABARABRAN We visit a town characterised by starry, starry nights and a colourful and caring community. 66  GILGANDRA Stories abound as we are welcomed into this wonderful Central West shire with open arms.


144  ARRAMAGONG WEST Patience, persuasion and persistence have made this spectacular garden what it is today. 150  HILL VIEW This inspiring, tranquil garden in East Guyong has been built to last.




156  EWE TWO STYLE Trangie's Ewe Two on Dandaloo is at the forefront of fashion. 158  HERO PIECES Make a bold statement in your home with an eye-catching decorative piece. 160  HANDY HOUSEHOLD HINTS Terrific tips to try around the home. 163  KYAH WILSON Adorning this artist's home are artefacts of love and warmth and family connection. 166  HOT STUFF Winter can be wonderful with high-quality heating solutions.



176 SEASONAL RECIPES Hearty winter dishes to warm your guests. 182 COUNTRY COOKING Pies and puddings are the perfect comfort foods.


172  CANADIAN ADVENTURE The Canadian Western Agribition is renowned for being one of the biggest and best purebred beef expos in the world.





188 UPCOMING EVENTS 206 OUR ADVERTISERS 208 THE LAST WORD Coonabarabran barber Johnny Franklin is in the business for the long haul.


A warm welcome awaits you

Coonabarabran & Gilgandra town feature

WARRUMBUNGLES AT DAWN: The Breadknife is an iconic rock formation in the Warrumbungle National Park. Photography: Ilya Genkin


Warrumbungles Popular Dubbo artist KYAH WILSON $12.00 inc GST >



190 TEMORA MAGAZINE LAUNCH CWL celebrates its Autumn launch in terrific Temora. 194 FORBES FIRST Forbes hosts The Legend of Ben Hall movie premiere. 196  DIGGING IN Canowindra dines out en masse.

198 ONE-STOP SHOP When it comes to weddings, Dubbo RSL has it all covered. 200 WEDDINGS The Central West's blushing brides and gallant grooms tie the knot in true country style.





124  BUSHRANGER SERIES We head to Forbes to follow the fate of Ben Hall. 128  YOUNG ACHIEVER Agriculture in Australia is in good hands, thanks to the likes of Mandurama farmer Stuart Tait. 132  DUBBO CHRISTIAN SCHOOL This Dubbo school is empowering its students to realise their unique potential. 139  MACQUARIE HEALTH COLLECTIVE Teamwork and quality of care are at the core of this health initiative. 136  LIFE BEGINS AT 70 Moving to a retirement village can signal the beginning of a new and exciting stage of life. 140  DUBBO DENTISTS This husband and wife team is ensuring smiles all round. 143 THE COFFEE CLUB We chat to coffee king Greg Wynne. 169 CHURCH STREET CAFE Dubbo's Church Street Cafe is offering tantalising tapas. 170  ULTIMATE DIGITAL Making sure you're seen and heard. 186  BATHURST HERITAGE MOTOR INN Quality accommodation in the heart of Bathurst.

Country gardens



Showcasing the best of rural and regional New South Wales

W I N T E R publisher’s letter


welcome to winter “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” – Edith Sitwell

Temora Council General Manager Gary Lavelle, Jane Lavelle, Temora Council Deputy Mayor Cr Graham Sinclair, Lorraine Sinclair, CWL Publisher Alex Tickle, Temora Council Mayor Cr Rick Firman, CWL Editor Elizabeth Tickle, Temora Council Economic Development Officer Craig Sinclair.

CWL team member success: Lorraine and Ian Hills, "Leawarra", Guyra, after winning the Most Successful Exhibitor in the Wool Section at the 2017 Royal Easter Show. Image courtesy of The Land newspaper.


With great excitement we present to you our 110-page feature on Gilgandra and Coonabarabran (the Warrumbungle Shire). There is so much to see and do in this magnificent part of the world. As you read about the visionaries and characters of this area, together with the innovative and inspiring businesses here, you too will feel compelled to visit. We must express our appreciation to both councils responsible for taking the first step in creating this shared feature and to their staff for their collaboration. The Autumn magazine featuring the incredibly interesting and innovative town of Temora has sold at an unprecedented rate. Not only have the locals in and around Temora bought their share and many more but centres throughout the state have seen vigorous sales. The Town Feature editions seem to bring out an incredible sense of pride among residents and it is quite uplifting to see this reaction within communities. Part one of our Bushranger Series in the Autumn 2017 CWL featuring Rylstone- Kandos (the Lady Bushranger) was very well received and we welcome Greg Powell as a contributor. Greg, author of the book Bushranger Tracks, is passionate about the bushranger history and in this edition we feature Ben Hall and his exploits in the Forbes area. This is complemented by the Forbes showcase of the premiere of the film The Legend of Ben Hall, some months ago, found in the social pages, page 194. Again, we enjoyed taking CWL to the two April open days at the awe-inspiring Iandra Castle at Greenethorpe. We sold many back copies of CWL but more importantly, we engaged with many of the visitors on the day. We have made several trips to the towns of Junee and Coolamon, which combine to make up our Feature Towns in the next edition. Both very welcoming, these towns have so much to offer and so many reasons you would want to visit, again and again! Jake Lindsay (CWL Features Writer and Photographer) will be capturing the wonderful stories and images from these unique towns and you will see the fruits of his labour in over 100 pages of our Spring magazine. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to visit our Facebook page and check out our Instagram, where Anna Tickle (Social Media Manager) dedicates considerable time to profiling the contents of each new edition. It was wonderful to see Country Cuisine Writer Lorraine Hills and her husband Ian, from Guyra, experience such success with their superfine wool at the Royal Easter Show. Congratulations to you both on this fine achievement! Sixteen editions ago, we started our journey to cover the stories, the people, happenings and beauty of the Central West. Now, lured by the wonder of the vast and diverse surrounding areas, we are pushing the boundaries to show you even more in addition to our home region. We are very excited to move into adjoining areas and bring new and fresh Town Features that you may know little about. Based on this new focus, we will be featuring Gunnedah in our Summer 2017 edition and Yass in Autumn 2018. To our amazing advertisers and readers, thank you for your loyalty and unwavering belief in our product and your valued ongoing support. Relax, find a cosy and comfortable spot to unwind and enjoy this Winter edition of Central West Lifestyle.

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W I N T E R Jake’s message

From the boundary gate Greetings and salutations to all our esteemed readers, including ye ole faithfuls who have been with us on this amazing tour of inland NSW from day one! For me it was always going to be fun compiling the CoonaGilgandra feature – two country towns on the banks of the Castlereagh River and divided by the mighty Warrumbungle range. As a lad who grew up in Coona, it’s been wonderful to finally come home and write the stories as a local and not just a blow-in for a few weeks! For the past few months I’ve met up with dozens of interesting locals content about their lot in life. It’s one of those things I love about my job – meeting people with a healthy can-do attitude despite setbacks and daily struggles. You don’t need self-help books here, you merely have to take a stroll down the main drag. The idea is not to be rushed (you may miss something) and the characters mysteriously appear from the most unlikely of places! We’ve tracked down some real crackers and there is something for everyone – poignant love stories for the romantic, heart-breaking stories from the war and yarns about gifted artists (and we’re not just talking about the painting variety). Then there are local business owners, some who have been here all their lives and others who made the decision to move to the country, bringing new skills and revenue to town. Equally important, they bring new personalities and a shared belief that the town they’ve just moved to really is a good town worthy of their investment! (Maybe we should chat to Australia’s richest woman who has been quietly snapping up Binnaway farming properties like a true cattle baron). You can have all the historic buildings in the world but the real treasures in every town are the people, the unsung heroes who bring joy to others. On a different note, let’s chat about the weather. In Temora we had the wettest winter on record and doing the rounds this time experienced some stifling heat waves, leading to the devastating fires that destroyed 23 homes and most of the village of Uarbry. It is so soul destroying but strong local communities will help ease the pain. I’ve driven through the Warrumbungles many times and am constantly reminded that the people living on its fringes are strong and resilient, much like the ancient landscape itself.


I’ve met new blood making the town their own and people who have carved out a career on the land since their pioneering fathers first set up camp. It was a pleasure renewing old friendships out at “Tannabah” where the Knight family have quietly gone about their business for six generations, similar to the Chandler family in Gilgandra. While writing a yarn about the Orbital Swing Band I was talking to 78-year-old Graham Martin who played in Frank Bourke's White Rose Orchestra. During our talk he mentioned there was one young lad who visited his place to have a blow on the trumpet – wait for it, nearly 50 years ago! “It was supposed to help his lungs but he’d get so red in the face I thought he’d explode.” I suddenly realised he was talking about me. One of the amazing things about living in a small country town is the connections between the locals. Everybody seems to know everybody and they all have a story to remind you from days gone past. I was a young bloke unsure of my future direction until Rita England introduced me to the joy of photography and the wonders of the darkroom. This led to my first cover on the Coona Times (of the Anzac Day march) and my disastrous attempts at covering the 1981 Unicorns rugby league grand final. My film didn’t load properly and I missed the obligatory brawl that exploded right in front of me during the first half. By the end of the second half I had it all in the can – despite having to shoot the victorious team with a 300mm lens (meaning my subject and I were separated by the length of the entire field!). Later the pressure got to me and I botched up the processing. Somehow I finally managed to retrieve a few shots but memories of that fateful day haunted me for years! A few months later I left town to discover the “big wide world” and only recently returned. Back to the same room, only this time with neighbours with chooks and dogs (there’s nothing better than waking up to the sound of a rooster). At the end of the day I believe Coona and Gil are “fair dinkum” country towns on the Castlereagh that service strong and resourceful farming communities. With friendly locals, easy parking and a great selection of shops, visiting these towns is always a buzz but actually living in one of them has become a privilege.

Cheers, Jake



meet your team



AMANDA O’SULLIVAN Home & Style Writer, Photographer

ZENIO LAPKA Photographer


Publisher, Distribution, Advertising

Chief Writer & Photographer






Business Strategist

Household Hints Writer


Social Photographer

PAUL & ANNE LOVERIDGE Seasonal Food Writers

10 CWL


Publisher, Editor, Advertising

Art Director

Writer & Social Media Manager

Wedding Writer

Home & Style Writer






Country Cuisine Writer

JOHN CURLEY Accountant


Advertising Designer



Garden Writer


Bushranger Series Writer


I must admit I was sceptical when Elizabeth and Alex Tickle, publishers of Central West Lifestyle, approached me about running a Town Feature on Temora Shire. Flicking through the glossy pages of the impressive back copies of magazines that had been sent to me as a teaser, I could see why so many other towns had participated, however I wasn’t sure how councillors in Temora Shire would respond. I prepared myself for a hard sell. To my surprise, they embraced the concept and entrusted me to work with CWL to produce a magazine that would make all residents proud. What ensued was six months of collaboration with the helpful team at CWL. We started by brainstorming which local stories we thought best represented the social fabric of our community. We wanted to showcase the shire’s best assets but we also wanted to provide recognition to some of the unsung heroes. We decided to mix in a couple of quirky surprises too. Features writer and photographer Jake Lindsay did an amazing job at eliciting the story behind each individual and business to be featured. He also captured the shire looking its best after the exceptionally wet winter of 2016. The end result was fantastic. Since the official launch party in February 2017 we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from those featured in the magazine, the local community and visitors who have travelled to Temora as a result of reading the magazine. Apart from being a great promotional tool for the Temora Shire, the magazine has provided a discussion point and a keepsake for current and former local residents. The long-term return on investment for a quality production that has so many wide-reaching benefits is immeasurable.

YOUR LETTERS The Central West Lifestyle magazine feature on Temora Shire has been, already, an overwhelming success! The positive feedback from both locals and visitors alike has been fantastic. The publication, including the articles and photos, is of a very high quality. This is a publication that can be kept for the rest of time. Council believes our financial contribution to the CWL magazine has been a worthwhile investment, already at this relatively early stage. We are most grateful to the CWL team, especially Elizabeth Tickle. Council also warmly thanks our own Economic Development Officer Craig Sinclair. He has done a sterling job in coordinating our end. For me, the most heart-warming read was the tribute to our surviving World War II veterans. They really are some of Temora Shire’s treasures! When one reads our feature, no matter if you are a Temora Shire citizen or not, you will be inspired. This whole experience has only made us all even more proud (if that’s possible) to belong to our very special Temora Shire.

Craig Sinclair, Economic Development Officer, Temora Shire Council

This publication is in a class of its own. The photographers, writers and design team are to be congratulated on continuing to impress with every issue. I even enjoy reading the advertisements! At last, a classy publication that tells the real stories of our great Central West. Thank you, CWL, for inspiring us all to get out there and explore our great region! Congratulations to you all. Natalie Snare, Snare’s Newsagency, Dubbo


Cr Rick Firman, Mayor Temora Shire Council

Every edition of Central West Lifestyle is eagerly awaited to see which area is being showcased and to discover what unique people and fabulous hidden treasures are within our region. Each edition is polished with engaging stories from across the Central West. It feeds my appetite to explore more locations that I never knew held such charm. Congratulations to the entire team who deliver such a sought-after treasure. You make us all so proud of the region in which we live.

A beautiful shot from @hart_bar “Central West Lifestyle. It’s the perfect mag to add to any coffee table!” Thanks ladies!

Lisa Thomas, Wellington

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T O W N F E A T U R E Coonabarabran


Coonabarabran T O W N F E A T U R E



shire magic from the Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire When Coonabarabran was first established as a stopover point, visitors were welcomed with a pannikin of rum and a tasty stew. Our modern day offerings are quite different but our hospitality still holds. Warrumbungle Shire is one of great diversity – a diversity of landscape where the rugged mountains stretch from the Great Dividing Range in the east to the western plains; where it is said that the mountains reach up to touch the stars; where people warmly welcome strangers and proudly share their lifestyles and aspirations. Match all this with the diversity that comes from being an amalgamated shire with differing community needs and a beautiful landscape that tells stories of hardship, technology, volcanic eruption and positivity. Warrumbungle Shire covers an area of some 12,000 square kilometres with a population of just over 9000 residents and takes in the townships of Coolah and Dunedoo in the south east, Mendooran, Binnaway and Coonabarabran in the west and Baradine in the north west. Coonabarabran is the administrative centre of the shire and is also known as the Astronomy Capital of Australia. There is no question that Warrumbungle Shire experiences the four seasons. Recent bushfires – the Sir Ivan Fire in the Coolah and Dunedoo areas and the previous


Wambelong and Redbank Bushfires at Coonabarabran – show how ferocious our summers can be. And in winter, mornings can start at well below zero, followed by cool to moderate days with warm sunshine. It is nothing to experience a minus six and a plus 17 all in one winter’s day – a range of 24 degrees. Spring and autumn are also clearly defined seasons. Fresh leaves and feed in paddocks begin to show in early spring and the golden hues of autumn show their strength and remind us all that our evenings do cool off. No local goes out at night without a sweater in the car – even in summer. The indigenous history of the area is obvious as you drive through and take a closer look – Keeping Places in Coonabarabran and Baradine, the Sandstone Caves in The Pilliga, Tara Cave in the Warrumbungles, King Togee's grave just out of Coolah and the interesting town names and rivers remind us all that before Europeans established in the area Aboriginal people lived as one with the land. Living and playing in Warrumbungle Shire can be as exciting as you choose it to be. Come and share our lifestyle with us. Visit for a day or stay a week – you are always welcome and who knows, that week may even turn into a new lifestyle venture for you. Peter Shinton, Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire

Coonabarabran T O W N F E A T U R E

where the sky’s the limit Come and experience the beauty of the landscape that surrounds the quirky towns of the Warrumbungle Shire. With our rivers snaking their way from high in the mountains through rich alluvial farming land to the Western Plains, we are proud to welcome visitors.

The shire boasts a number of firsts, and the recent declaration of the Warrumbungle National Park as Australia’s first Dark Skies Park reflects the value of astronomy research undertaken at Siding Spring Observatory and the importance of maintaining an unpolluted night sky for scientific research and also for our own future. The strength of community spirit is seen in each of our towns. Coolah on the Coolaburragundy River is the home of the Black Stump, a map point that marked the edge of civilisation in the early days of establishing European settlement. It’s a small town with a strong sense of history and an industrious little community of people making a difference. Dunedoo has the Talbragar River in full flow, creating havens for the black swans after which the town was named. The Golden Highway through Dunedoo is said to be the life blood of this town but the recent Sir Ivan Bushfire certainly showed that community spirit overcomes all adversities. A little further west is Mendooran, the “oldest town on the Castlereagh”, a quiet village with a huge heart that pulses through the community. And thence to Binnaway, a town famous as a junction for steam rail and home of the White Rose Orchestra, which was a dance band that travelled to far-flung corners of the state to provide an evening’s entertainment for the locals. Binnaway is located on the Castlereagh too and also the home to former NSW Labor premier Jack Renshaw, whose legacy to the community generated a great love for the man. Coonabarabran, home to the country’s premier optical and infrared astronomical observatory, Siding Spring, represents the perfect blend of technology and environment. The source of the mighty Castlereagh River lies in the Warrumbungle Range and while the river is young as it winds its way through Coonabarabran, the “river of sand” gains momentum to flow in all four directions before emptying into the Macquarie in the west. At Baradine, changes in management of the “million wild acres” that we know as The Pilliga, and the Brigalow Assessment have seen a small timber industry service town grow into a tourism community with attractions that depict natural history and indigenous and European culture. Warrumbungle Shire is a partner with neighbouring shires in a new project to have the region designated as one of Australia’s first UNESCO Global Geoparks. This designation will support a growth in GeoTourism so that Warrumbungle Shire will bask not only in AstroTourism but GeoTourism development too. Adding to the major towns and villages of the shire are many small villages and sidings still providing special experiences and welcoming lifestyles. It is said often that Warrumbungle Shire is a safe place, a good place to grow a family, and a great place to return to ... time and again. CWL Images: D. Kirkland


days gone by Coonabarabran

Images supplied by Coonabarabran Historical Society 16 CWL COONABARABRAN

Coonabarabran T O W N F E A T U R E

star studded

From the bright lights in the dark sky to the many characters that bolster a strong and steadfast community, Coonabarabran features an all-star cast.


land of plenty With its spectacular rock formations and stunning stargazing opportunities, Warrumbungle National Park is a superb camping destination. The Warrumbungle National Park is an area of ancient volcanic activity, forested ridges, barren spires and deep gorges. The park was founded in 1953 and added to the National Heritage List in 2006 in recognition of its unique geological and biological values. The 23,312-hectare park is home to over 520 species of native plants, 311 native animals (including the endangered brush-tailed rock wallaby) and Aboriginal sites of cultural significance for the Gamilaroi and Weilwan people. It is an ideal destination for the bushwalker, camper, photographer, astronomer, birdwatcher or those who simply enjoy watching sunlight change the colours on a cliff face. In January 2013, a major bushfire affected 90 per cent of the park. Progressive reconstruction of visitor infrastructure is still under way. Most major walks and camping areas have been restored and are open to the 30,000 visitors who come to the park each year. In 2016, the park was declared Australia’s first Dark Sky Park, highlighting the park as an ideal place for stargazing. Sometimes referred to as the place where “East meets West”, the Warrumbungle Range supports plants and animals of the moist east coast and dry western plains.


In spring, the sandstone areas often produce remarkable displays of wildflowers such as wattles, peas and heaths more commonly associated with coastal areas. The diversity of landform, microclimate and associated vegetation provides habitat for many animals including large populations of eastern grey kangaroos, wallaroos and emus and 19 of Australia’s 55 species of parrots. The rocky spires and domes visible throughout the park are all that is left of a large shield volcano that was active 13 to 17 million years ago. The lava overlays sandstone areas that are remnants of the 150 million-year-old Pilliga Sea. Weathering of these rocks has left the harder trachyte plugs towering over the wooded slopes, the best example being the 90-metre-high rock wall known as the Breadknife. For thousands of years before European settlement, Aboriginal people regularly visited the Warrumbungles – a Gamilaroi word meaning crooked mountains. Evidence of Aboriginal camps is widespread and usually indicated by stone flakes from stone tool production. Throughout the park there are remnants of past farming practices. Camp Blackman is located on the original Belougerie

Coonabarabran T O W N F E A T U R E

Homestead site, which was owned by the Blackman family until added to the park in the 1960s. The park hosts a comprehensive program of walks, talks and tours as part of a Discovery Program. Led by Discovery Rangers, the program caters for all ages during the autumn and spring school holidays and on demand. The Crooked Mountain Concert has been held annually in the heart of the park, delivering an evening of music from a variety of genres and artists in a breathtaking setting below Belougery Split Rock. May Fleming has worked at the park since 2011 and is the Visitor Centre manager. “The Park would have to be one of the most amazing places to work,” she says.

“The spectacular scenery, unique volcanoes and diverse flora and fauna make it a truly special place. I never tire of driving through the mountains to meet visitors from all parts of the globe, making every day a completely new experience. “I spend a lot of my leisure time, with or without my family, exploring on and beyond the walking tracks into the canyons and climbing rock formations for the promise of another spectacular view.” The Warrumbungle National Park is one of the region’s top tourist attractions and never fails to deliver. CWL

ABOVE: The majestic view of the Warrumbungle Mountains.

WARRUMBUNGLE NATIONAL PARK VISITOR CENTRE The temporary Visitor Centre in the Warrumbungle National Park provides a range of visitor information, souvenirs and an interpretive display about the park. It is the ideal starting point for your Warrumbungle adventure into one of the state’s most popular national parks. Chat to our friendly staff for information on the many walking tracks, wildlife, best volcanic remnants in the park, picnic spots and camping tips. Basic provisions (ice, milk, drinks, sweets and basic groceries) are available. It is open daily from 9am to 4pm but closed Christmas Day. John Renshaw Parkway, Coonabarabran Phone: (02) 6825 4364


from Germany, with love A backpacker with a dream and an indomitable pioneer spirit has carved out an inspirational life in the Pilliga.

Thirty years ago when German backpacker Maria Rickert was shown a huge tract of land half an hour west of Coonabarabran, she knew instinctively she’d found her utopia. In the ensuing years she has managed to transform the dry Pilliga Scrub into a proverbial oasis. It’s known as Barkala Farm, but in reality it’s more like a small frontier village. It’s where the lives of countless individuals, many of them German WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), have been enriched and nurtured. Today it’s home to the bustling Pilliga Pottery and a sensational respite for travellers, but back in 1986 it was an undeveloped property with no infrastructure bar an old fibro house and a couple of sagging sheds. Sitting outside the Blue Wren Cafe on a balmy summer evening, surrounded by outdoor terracotta pieces, pots, planters and massive Ali Baba urns, Maria begins her amazing story. It all started when she, husband Richard and infant son Johannes embarked on a backpacking trip to Australia, a country she barely knew apart from TV episodes of Skippy as a child. They spent a night camping in the majestic Warrumbungle Mountains. Here, she says, the silence spoke to them. They had only been in the country a few weeks but that one night under the stars was a game-changer. The pristine air and enchanting landscape had them thinking in overdrive, and by morning they had decided to immigrate. Later that day they visited a Coonabarabran real estate firm and inspected several local properties for sale, the last of them being a 4500-acre farm surrounded by a forest the size of Belgium. Madly in love and open to the concept of wild, new horizons, Maria and Richard were about to take the biggest plunge of their lives. Despite only having a tourist visa and a rudimentary grasp of English, they checked their finances. They scraped together a $500 deposit, which they handed over to the surprised elderly farmers, Phil and Phyllis McDonaldson. They vowed to return and fulfil the contract, but it was going to test their resolve to the limits. Up to this point they were working on adrenalin and gut instincts but it was hard to ignore what they would be leaving behind – a successful pottery and textile business and a 600-year old home where Maria’s family had been dairy farming for generations. Of more immediate concern was the paltry amount left to tide them over for the final six weeks of their dream holiday. Far from crestfallen, they camped on the property, chewing over endless possibilities while surviving on herbs, soups and spinach – even resorting to a strange concoction of stinging nettle pie on the campfire. >


Everyone shares Maria’s indomitable determination and abides by her rules – never give up, dare to dream big and believe in the virtues of a hard day’s work.

ABOVE: Maria Rickert is the driving force behind Barkala Farm. FACING PAGE: Maria Rickert with her family in front of the old school house with Eva, Bernhard and partner Marianne Pichler and Johannes with his wife Regina and young Johanne.

Coonabarabran T O W N F E A T U R E


For the family and happy band of workers, the farm has developed into a spiritual place where everybody contributes to the running of the pottery, farming enterprises, cafe and restaurant, and a commercial greenhouse that supplies most of their fresh vegetables.

Maria still can’t believe her impetuosity all those years ago. Life in Germany was good for the former Kindergarten teacher, but this strong-minded woman thrived on change, challenge and adventure. There would be no turning back. But she knew then that if she could persevere long enough, and with strong support from Richard, family and fellow believers, she’d create something out of nothing. The pair returned home and tackled mountains of paperwork. One year later, after selling everything they owned, Maria was suddenly informed of a serious difficulty with her pregnancy. On the eve of their planned departure, her doctor advised her to stay put. With flights already booked, Richard made the heartbreaking decision to go on alone. Six long months later they were reunited and Richard was introduced to his second son, Bernhard. Over the years, new buildings were added and the enterprise grew into a dream bigger than either could have imagined. Today Barkala Farm has trebled in size from the original holdings, and life has never been busier, with guests and staff arriving from all over the world. There are many reasons why visitors make the 30km trip out to the farm. Most are there to see the renowned pottery – to watch demonstrations of the potter’s craft or choose a beautiful piece to buy and cherish, be it a decorative mug, plate, vase or mighty urn. Pottery is the mainstay of the enterprise, but others come to get a taste of a working farm. Many choose to spend a night or even a week in one of the five accommodation cottages with beautifully crafted bush furniture. There are many activities to choose, from including pottery classes, bushwalking in the nearby mountains and caves, bird watching, cow-milking or horse riding. Others come to brush up on their German or simply chill by the pool. For the family and happy band of workers, the farm has developed into a spiritual place where everybody contributes to the running of the pottery, farming enterprises, cafe and restaurant, and a commercial greenhouse that supplies most of their fresh vegetables. Along the way this tight-knit community has learnt to appreciate the values of family, friendship and solidarity. Everyone shares Maria’s indomitable determination and abides by her rules – never give up, dare to dream big and believe in the virtues of a hard day’s work. Throwing in the towel was never an option, even at her lowest ebb when Richard parted company and returned to Germany in 2004.


Coonabarabran T O W N F E A T U R E

Over the years Maria and her three children (Eva was the last after the two boys) have carved their own signature trademark into the buildings dotted around the main camp. Their latest project involves a complete overhaul of Coonabarabran’s historic Royal Hotel. By 2018, they will be serving beer from their own brewery, German meals and providing accommodation in the heart of town. With a strong backbone and a can-do attitude, Maria is many things to many people – a savvy businesswoman, a trusted sounding board and a solid rock to Johannes and his delightful German wife Regina, Bernhard and German partner Marianne Pichler and Eva, who recently returned home to join her brothers after several years practising law. Johannes is a master potter but can turn his hand to almost anything. He is an artistic ironworker with his own forge, a skilled mechanic and a maker of fine beer, but his greatest love is his farm work, particularly the livestock and machinery. Bernhard has inherited his father’s creative soul. He is a builder and works with natural materials to create beautiful spaces with unexpected features, always with a calming, down-to-earth appeal. Eva is proving a handy asset with all the legal paperwork associated with reinventing a country pub. Her natural charm and outgoing personality are an asset to every facet of the family business. Julie Squire is another invaluable team player who designs and engraves the artwork at the pottery. She’s been working at the farm for 25 years and is considered “one of the family”, having started out as the governess for the children in the School House. The Pilliga Scrub was never going to be an easy place to make a living but what Maria and her family have achieved is more than a living – it’s a life. She and Richard raised a family of skilled owner-builders and bush lovers who enjoy sharing their haven with others. Maria feels that her lifestyle nourishes her spirit and her spirit allows her to live that lifestyle, regardless of the setbacks and challenges. Barkala Farm is testament to her steadfast belief that anything can happen if you roll up your sleeves and stick to your guns. CWL

ABOVE: Some of the exquisite work from Pilliga Pottery; the paved courtyard outside the pottery and cafe complex is an oasis of greenery and terracotta, enclosed by the clay buildings and low stone walls. FACING PAGE: Maria with one of her designs; master potter Johannes at work; the commercial greenhouse, which supplies fresh produce for the cafe.

Barkala Farm - Home of Pilliga Pottery & Blue Wren Cafe. Family friendly farm stay, pottery art gallery & workshop, with camping available

Open 7 days ph:02 6842 2239 /PilligaPottery, Coonabarabran, 23km north, turn off Newell Hwy


KNIGHTS OF OLD The Knight family, a familiar name in the district for 163 years, has proved it is here for the long haul.


Coonabarabran T O W N F E A T U R E

The Knights are made of stern stuff. It all started in 1854 when John Knight and his pregnant wife Louisa sailed from Southampton to the new colony. Gold had been discovered and hopeful punters were arriving in their thousands from all over the world. But John wasn’t looking for gold. He knew vast tracts of land were opening up all over the country and wanted to grab his own slice of the pie for his large family that would surely follow. After their perilous voyage on board the Tantivy, John and Louisa embarked on an equally hazardous journey to the tiny settlement of Belar, where John first commenced work as a storekeeper. It would be a further six years before the scattering of buildings on the banks of the Castlereagh River, 30km away, would be given the name of Coonabarabran. Neighbours were few and far between and little things like Louisa’s sewing needle were highly cherished items that others could use providing it never left the premises. The Knights lost their first child but went on to have another dozen, including John Knight Jnr, born in 1854 and reputedly the first white baby the local Aboriginal population had set eyes on. A corroboree was staged to honour his arrival. The family acquired “Tannabah” in 1862. In 1886 the property, by then almost 25,000 acres, was divided up for closer settlement. John and Louisa were able to split the land among their children, with John Jnr settling on “Hollymount” (now run by descendant Warwick Knight and wife Julie), while “Tannabah” was handed down to youngest son Alf. Alf ensured the spiritual home of the dynasty would be an ongoing success, buying more land and showing his family that a good life could be had on the reliable 30’’ rainfall despite the long haul to town. Alf’s son Noel was born in 1910 and, like his forebears, produced medium-fine wool for English woollen mills. He started a Devon stud herd but his ambitious plans were thwarted by the advent of WW2. Noel answered the call of duty, and ended up with Bomber Command, serving as a navigator on board Lancaster bombers at the height of the Allied bombing offensive over Germany in 1943-44. Noel survived his tour of operations, was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross by King George VI, and made his way home to the rugged mountain country he loved. He stood for state parliament in 1950 — a particularly wet year that made voting next to impossible for those living in the bush. Jack Renshaw was declared the winner and Noel settled back to a bachelor’s life on the farm. One night at a function at the Coona Golf Club, he met a Sydney girl who had only recently arrived in town. Despite the 17-year age gap there was an undeniable connection. Sally Jarman suffered from asthma and poor health, and her doctor advised a move to the country. Scanning the Sydney Morning Herald, the 21-year-old noticed a secretary’s job going for Coonabarabran solicitor Don Beit. Her weekly wage was equivalent to the price of a fat lamb. Although she’d never heard of the place she took the plunge, arriving at Tooraweenah airport on a converted DC3. “The rest is history,” she says quietly. The much-loved family matriarch, now 90 and living with her dog Freddy at the Cooinda Village, enjoyed an interesting childhood — born in Kent with her formative years spent in Egypt before the family returned to Australia in 1937. > RIGHT: John Knight, aged 70, stands atop a rocky crag and surveys the mountains he had known so well for 50 years; Sally Knight, family matriarch; Sally and Noel on their wedding day. FACING PAGE: Mustering the sheep at “Tannabah”. COONABARABRAN CWL 25

Sally says her courting days commenced at the Imperial Hotel on Friday nights, when all the farmers came to town to share a welcome drink with fellow men and women from the land. With her good looks and genteel manner she soon stole the heart of the tall and handsome war hero. This city girl had no idea what was in store for her. She still laughs remembering the time she discovered “something rather odd” in the back of Noel’s new Chrysler ute. “There were these awful-looking animals I’d never seen before — they looked ready for death. Noel quietly informed me they were freshly-shorn sheep! It’s a wonder he persevered with me.” Having no electricity was a challenge in the early days and being on a party line (the Warkton exchange was one of the last operating in the state) had its moments but Sally soon felt right at home among the horses, dogs and livestock. Then there was her family, which now included Peter, Tony, Jenny, Christopher and Stephen. The boys, like their father, attended the Kings School, Parramatta, during the 1960s and 70s.


They were good years. The wool industry was in great shape and the Knights became synonymous with country hospitality during regular weekend tennis bashes. It wasn’t just the thrill of swinging a racquet but more an opportunity for like-minded families to socialise and enjoy a leisurely day at the foot of the scenic Warrumbungles. Noel was always old school. Instead of motorbikes he preferred saddling up his trusty steed to amble though the countryside like his forebears had done. It was a time for clearing the head while observing the country first hand. >

ABOVE: The old Tannabah homestead has never looked better. BELOW: Shearing is a busy time for Louise and Stephen Knight; Sebastian Knight carries on a proud tradition at Tannabah. FACING PAGE: Stephen Knight, a quietly spoken wool producer with a lifetime’s experience on Tannabah.

Coonabarabran T O W N F E A T U R E


After a lifetime in the mountains, Sally and Noel moved down the hill to nearby “Girrawa” in 1988 after their youngest son Stephen married Baradine girl Louise Deans and became the new custodians of “Tannabah”. Noel was still riding tall in the saddle when he died at the age of 79. Sally is proud of her children’s achievements. Apart from Chris, who spent his working life in the bank and the Department of Agriculture, and Jenny, who lives on the coast, her boys are continuing in their father’s footsteps. Peter and wife Trish run a large Devon herd on nearby “Coonamon”, the breed favoured by Noel prior to the war. Tony runs sheep on “Burrumbuckle” with wife Marie, while a fifth generation of Knights on “Tannabah” are keeping the dream alive. Stephen and Louise’s son Sebastian lives nearby on “Main Camp” and has been helping out for the past 10 years. Brother Alexander is working through a double degree in ag and business in America, while


sisters Eleanor (a speech pathologist in Wagga Wagga) and Amelia (studying teaching at Newcastle) all love coming home when they can. Sally Knight now has 12 grandchildren and the future of “Tannabah” looks secure despite the constant challenges of living on the land. Only a few years ago a fire resulted in the loss of stock, fences and pasture. Then 800 sheep perished after eating a poisonous plant. But the Knights are a resilient lot. There may be only half as many workers and twice as much land to work but they are producing treble what they used to. Born in the same year as Queen Elizabeth, the family matriarch quietly sits back in her chair and reflects on her long and fortunate life. “Taking that job in Coonabarabran 66 years ago was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she says with a contented smile. CWL

ABOVE: Stephen Knight feels right at home in the Tannabah woolshed.

Coonabarabran T O W N F E A T U R E

Ride of her life Baradine horsewoman Lucy Taylor will team up with two friends to retrace the steps of Genghis Khan in the epic Mongol Derby.

To ride in the world’s longest and toughest horse race requires horsemanship skills, physical endurance and a sense of adventure. Baradine’s Lucy Taylor has all the above, and she’s teamed up with two equally equipped friends, polo players James Lester and Alex Barnet, to tackle the gruelling 1000-kilometre Mongol Derby in August. For the past three years, Lucy has worked as a groom on the polo scene, spending half the year in England and the other half in New Zealand for their respective seasons. She returns home to her family’s 7000-acre cattle property 40km out of Baradine in between. All three contenders are in their 20s. James hails from Perth and Alex from Toowoomba. Riding anywhere from five to 10 horses daily is the norm for Lucy, so it’s fair to say her riding fitness levels are high, something she says she’ll be thankful for come August. The race through the Mongolian Steppe recreates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan in 1224.

“I remember looking over my shoulder while galloping across the sparse Mongolian wilderness and being mesmerised by the landscape. The Mongolian culture is so remarkably intact, and it was enlightening to stay with locals in their ‘gers’ (semi-permanent tents), eat meals with them and experience their way of life throughout the race. The Mongol Derby was a priceless experience.”

The course changes every year, and is kept secret until shortly before the race begins. The $13,000 entry fee provides the rider access to 30 Mongolian horses, a support team, pre-race training, and access to the support stations along the way. Riders must change horses every 40km at the support stations, and vets monitor the welfare of the animals. “Riding in the Mongol Derby will be a seriously mentally and physically challenging feat, but James, Alex and I are confident it will be an incredible experience,” Lucy says. “We’re all country kids with an appreciation for much-needed medical services in rural areas, so we’ve chosen to raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.” Along with 37 others, the team will be riding semi-wild Mongolian horses brought in for the event, at night staying with local herders or camping out under the stars. “With base camps every 40 kilometres, we’ll be trying to average around 130 kilometres daily, taking care not to push our horses too hard,” she says. Last year’s three-way-tie winner, central Queenslander Will Comiskey, raised $16,000 for the RFDS, and has offered Lucy some valuable advice. “The best tip Will gave me was to really pay attention to the horses you pick at the beginning of the race, and to become familiar with them,” Lucy says. “James, Alex and I all love the horse scene, so we saw this as an amazing opportunity to do something a little different, travel to a new place and raise money for charity. “We have a GoFundMe page where anyone can donate to our cause, which will be a great help for us to cover the costs of the journey.” CWL Words: Anna Tickle Images: Polo Pictures UK & Richard Dunwoody Photography

Will Comiskey, Mongol Derby 2016 Three-Way-Tie Winner

ABOVE: Lucy Taylor is confident the Mongol Derby will be an incredible journey. COONABARABRAN CWL 29

STARS COME OUT TO PLAY The Siding Spring Observatory and its world-class staff have put Coonabarabran at the centre of the universe.

Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran is Australia’s premier spot for checking out the universe, with 48 telescopes and 17 observatories. The Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics operates its research telescopes and hosts other institutions at this spectacular location next to Warrumbungle National Park. The Siding Spring Observatory houses an astronomy exhibition, which the 20,000 annual visitors are encouraged to explore. Here you’ll find hands-on activities and information about the universe, the solar system and the research activities undertaken by astronomers at the site.

Peter Verwayen Senior operations officer Peter Verwayen says the Siding Spring Observatory with 35 staff on-site is a small, tight community. During a devastating bushfire on January 13, 2013, Peter was the last man out, locking the gates at the bottom of the mountain with trembling hands. “I got the order to evacuate and had to ensure the site was clear,” he says. “I managed to throw a few personal items from my home into the car and literally tore down the mountain.” The observatory was saved thanks to water-bombing choppers and the gallant efforts of firefighters but the scars are still there four years later. “Losing everything I owned was a blow but the fire actually forced a lot of positive changes. I found a wife and in April 2017 enjoyed a memorable honeymoon in Iceland,” he says. The maintenance manager is one of six living on the mountain and wouldn’t have it any other way.


The Australian Astronomical Observatory houses the Anglo-Australian Telescope, which is the largest optical telescope in Australia. The AAT is four storeys high and holds a 3.9-metre, 16-tonne ceramic glass mirror. Inside this massive dome is a visitor viewing gallery open to the public and free of charge. From the gallery you can see the telescope and read about its history and the discoveries made with it. The annual Star Fest celebration is held on the first weekend in October. It’s your chance to explore the whole site, talk with astronomers about the universe and the research being undertaken.

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Central West Lifestyle Winter 2017 Preview - Issue 17