Bronwen began life close to the bush. She loves the native flora and fauna and travelling to enjoy the wide open spaces of the countryside.
Bringalbit Gardens and Homestead
Yes, it's true! I've just had a delightful few days in Kyneton with one of my daughters and her work friend to enjoy the Annual Daffodil Festival. Many local gardens and homes were listed on the brochure of places open to the public. One farm that enticed us to visit was Bringalbit in Sidonia, an area only a few kilometres out of Kyneton.
Just an hour by road from Melbourne, this working farm is such an interesting place, with its wide vistas and lots of lovely fresh country air. Next time we visit Kyneton to replenish our supply of its natural sparkling mineral water (which we obtain at pumps set up for public use), we'll certainly be contacting the Fox family at Bringalbit and making a booking to stay there.
The Farm and Gardens at Bringalbit
When we entered the long drive in from Sidonia Road, we were fascinated by the vision on our right of black-faced Sussex sheep with little lambs at foot, and later on our left, we were surprised to see Highland cattle peacefully grazing and fitting into the landscape so well. Along the track we came to a gate we needed to open and close and later a cattle grid to rumble across; we felt we were truly on a farm.
Passing a creek sheltered by a dense stand of poplars and silver birch, we feasted on views of lovely wide, green pastures until we reached the historic, 1870 yellow granite homestead set in extensive gardens. The house had begun life as a shearing shed and wool-shed.
We parked and climbed out of the car to breathe deeply of the bracing fresh air as we turned to appreciate all the work that had gone into building a nearby stone rockery embedded with a variety of colourful succulents.
At the front door, we were greeted by Mrs Fox, and paid our $5 per person to visit the gardens and farm.
The first thing that beckoned was a wide, tranquil lake to our left. We were preceded there by a pair of unusual ducks, a cross between Mongolian and Indian Runners; probably they were desperately attempting to lead us away from a precious hidden nest.
Different breeds of ducks and other water birds were busy on various parts of the lake or resting on the shore or on the edge of an island, safe from marauding foxes, descendants of those first brought unthinkingly to Australia that have succeeded in decimating many of our defenceless native animals.
Some of us, who had visited Bringalbit before, pointed out areas on the lake where we had seen many lovely waterlilies in Summer; now, in early Spring it was bare, except for the dancing reflections of the island and surrounding trees, but it was still beautiful.
The Oak Tree
Having performed their duty, our ducks waddled off to join their friends, while we were drawn towards a huge old evergreen oak tree that must have been there for many years. We had never heard of an oak that is evergreen before. Mrs Fox told us that she had planted some of the acorns and was now watching new ones grow.
From memory, that was near the olive grove that, in season, provides the oil that the family produces each year.
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Under the wide branches of the oak, inviting tables and chairs were scattered around. Those of us who had visited Bringalbit previously enthusiastically described a delicious afternoon tea they had enjoyed there—until one of the colourful male peacocks had suddenly flown up onto the table and tried to steal their cake!
He did get the crumbs!
Another Corner of the Garden
We strolled around to an area of garden near the back door of the homestead. Here we were delighted to find a parterre, complete with topiary. Neatly trimmed hedges protected several different plants, including daffodils, mint and other herbs.
Some Lovely Walks
We slowly roamed along intimate avenues between gardens adorned with flowers and overhung by arching apple, quince or crabapple trees, some of which were in blossom.
Beneath some of the underlying shrubs, we found groups of an interesting variety of poultry resting or scratching around for worms and insects. The poultry here included hens, roosters, bantams and guinea fowl, including a lavender one.
Elegant peacocks occasionally appeared on the green lawns in the distance, displaying their colourful feathers. Some of the lawned walks included roses, perennial wallflowers and, of course, daffodils and jonquils, while around one corner we came upon a useful vegetable patch.
The Homestead and Places to Stay
As the weather was cool, we elected to go into the homestead for refreshment. How glad we were that we had! In Melbourne, cups of tea or coffee often cost $5; here, for that same price, we served ourselves in the cosy dining room with our beverage of choice. Then we sat at the long, polished table to enjoy an array of sweet temptations, including a scrumptious Greek lemon and yoghurt cake made by Mrs Fox. Other choices included toasting marshmallows before burning logs in an open fireplace. The walls were decorated with paintings, signed by well-known artist, Susan Fox, and available for purchase.
We decided to see the rest of the house, paid our $5 and were very kindly shown around by Susan herself. What a variety of rooms we saw! Some were crowded with collections of many kinds: Glassware, china, objects from nature, even living plants. Other rooms revealed spacious bedrooms, ready for people to come and stay, and we found that the tariff includes a generous country breakfast, with dinner available too, if required.
We discovered that there is further accommodation available, well spread out around the farm, giving privacy. These places include the Woodshed Hill House, the Shearers' Shack and the Gardener's Cottage. They are all self-catering and include bed and bath linen. We can't wait until we can find time to come back one weekend or public holiday to sample one of these!
To top off all these alluring charms, The Fox Family at Bringalbit also offer
- a wedding venue,
- a place to hold small conferences
- and caters for visits by small coaches.
The amazingly versatile Susan Fox, as I've mentioned, is an artist and she offers, not only art classes, but also cooking lessons. What more could we want!
On our way out of the homestead, we found in the hallway a versatile collection of mementos and had fun making our purchases. On offer were several Susan Fox's original paintings, a variety of very reasonably-priced cards decorated with prints of some of her work, and, finally, right outside the front door cartons of free-range eggs, the colours of the shells betraying the variety of poultry that have produced them.
As we drove along towards Sidonia Road, one of us noticed a black wallaby checking us out from among a stand of trees and we all turned to watch him.
One last thing to be aware of when driving along the track towards home is the safety of the Bringalbit livestock, so, take happy memories of a lovely day, but please remember to shut the gate!
Finally, I'd like to share with you a couple of the cards I bought; they are just two of the lovely array created from some of Susan Fox's evocative paintings.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Bronwen Scott-Branagan