Over the weekend, we visited our friends Andrew and Alice at their farm at Watervale, in the Clare Valley (about 1.5 hours from Adelaide). The Clare region is now known as a food and wine destination; it abuts the world famous Barossa Valley which I wrote about a few posts ago here. Originally though, this area was all farm country, and Alice and Andrew now run the family property (they run Merino Sheep on it), which Andrew's family have farmed since around 1860.


I've written about visiting them for lunch before on the blog, but this time we were house guests for the weekend, along with another family, the Bs and their 3 children. That brought the total number of kids to 9, and adults to 6. But while we adults were outnumbered, we had a relatively quiet time without kids in sight - they literally disappeared outside to play and only returned hours later muddy and happy to eat before disappearing again.

We did the usual things you do in the country in Winter. There was a bonfire lunch in one of the paddocks.


We ate and drank every 2 hours it seemed, Alice is pretty good at turning out gourmet fare. All of my children managed to fall in the creek and get soggy feet and muddy legs at various points.... The kids visited the litter of new puppies and collected eggs from the chooks, did some go karting up the bumpy driveway, and rode around in the back of the Ute over bumpy farm roads.

Farm dog with Ute


The modern part in the back of the house with Pierre Frey covered window seats

The house wasn't lived in for around 10 years or so before they moved in, and it was still in a sort of Victorian era time warp. A renovation completed a few years ago has created a modern, light, bright and warm living area at the back of the house, while leaving the original formal rooms at the front untouched, with all their layers of family history.



Print room

My favourite room is the room that Alice put Mr AV and I into for the night - the print room. It's like sleeping in a World of Interiors Magazine photo shoot. It seems to have been decorated around 1890, and literally every surface has been covered by carefully cut out illustrations from English periodicals of that period.




There are a lot with pictures of the future King Edward and Queen Alexandra's wedding, pictures of Queen Victoria holding various babies being christened, horses, cats in bonnets, and various other things. Apparently no one is sure which family member originally did this, but it does seem to be the Victorian equivalent of the teenage girl's bedroom plastered with pictures of teen idols all over the walls.

The Billiard Room is also interesting, full of taxidermy and old books

My 6 year old said to the other boys "Lets get out of this room - it's really creepy"

and photos of various members of the Royal Family who stayed at the house in years past when they had come out to the colonies on tours.

The Duke of Windsor, circa 1920 when he was still Prince of Wales, unattached to Wallis, and highly eligible

As with most farms these days, Alice and Andrew have diversified their operations. Most farms like this in the past were mini villages, and were heavily reliant on large numbers of servants, management staff, and labourers to keep things going. Modern farming means that Andrew now does it all himself, with a bit of help from a casual labourer. This means that there are a lot of cottages and outbuildings that are no longer inhabited. After completing the renovation of one of the old cottages, they now have a thriving business with a self contained cottage called Hughes Park Cottage. It's quite separate from the house, so totally private, and is set amongst pretty rolling hills dotted with gum trees, and at this time of the year lots of little creeks with running water.


The other thing that they've recently started doing is to hire out the gardens against the house for Wedding receptions as a venue. Having attended their wedding 10 years ago, I can attest to this being an excellent venue for a memorable wedding with the marquee set up on the grassed terraces to the front of the house - the views are so pretty across the hills, and the house makes a stunning and very special backdrop with photographical opportunities galore on the property.



I thought it might be interesting for my overseas readers to have a little glimpse into an Australian style working farm. This farm house is definitely on the larger side I hasten to add, but it's a little glimpse into lives lived in the past, and country hospitality, working life and style today.


So, here is a little promo for my friends. Alice is a consummate hostess, and a very stylish city girl now living in the country. The cottage is beautifully furnished in a quintessential South Australian country style

Hughes Park Cottage

and for weddings, should you be thinking along those lines, this is a link to all the information on them

Hughes Park Weddings

I'm pretty sure after having 10 houseguests for the weekend, Alice is still trying to catch up this week, so thank you Al, we absolutely loved staying with you.

22 comments:

  1. Sounds to have been the perfect weekend, especially as all the children did what children are supposed to be doing - running about and filling their lungs with fresh air!

    It is fun to take a peek into Australian country living and the local farmhouse vernacular, which (no surprise) is quite different to the British and American farmhouse style. The building looks very substantial and beautiful and your friends are smart to have figured out a way of continuingthe family tradition of living off the land.

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    1. I agree CD - the screen free weekend was fantastic! They were all so happy just roaming and exploring. Yes, Australian properties are very different from the UK and the US too. We have different vernaculars around the country depending on climate, but this is very typical of South Australia with the sandstone.

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  2. My gosh it's gorgeous. I'll be taking note of this property for our eventual trip to Australia, funny we were just talking about that trip last weekend when we were in Algonquin Park (we travelled there from an amazing week in Chicago for the city/country mix) and in the dreamy state where we felt like we could plan future hols. Of course now we're back home to reality... but I do think it's important to have a minimum of two holidays scheduled to look forward to and plan around. Travel, it's so good for the eye and I'm so intrigued by the look of this farm and that absolutely amazing house. I've visited some really beautiful horse farms in our area but this farm looks very special: English house meets farm. Love that the kids were able to run wild too, they must have loved that.
    Thank you for sharing your weekend and your friend's property Heidi. XO

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    1. Well I'll be thrilled if you put us on your itinerary Dani! I saw a few of your photos on Instagram of Chicago - it looked like a lot of fun.
      There are a lot of big stations the further away from Adelaide you get, a little further North from my friend's place. They really were little villages as they were often a few days or weeks to travel from the city, so were incredibly remote back before modern technology shrunk distances. And yes, the first houses were very English in style but with a few adaptations for Australia, like verandas. So glad you found the post interesting Dani, and if you are planning a trip let me know! xx

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  3. Wow, so beautiful!! For some reason, I was reminded of that movie, "My Brilliant Career", with all the Victorian/Edwardian-era furnishings. Thanks for sharing these photos, and I will bookmark the link and keep it in mind! I know what you mean about being in the country with kids turning out to be pretty quiet - earlier this month, we spent a week with my husband's cousin, who lives deep in the Swedish countryside. The kids would run outside as soon as breakfast was done and wouldn't show up until the next mealtime!

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    1. Do you know Louise I've never seen My Brilliant Career, which is shameful as it's regarded as a classic!! I loved your photos of Sweden, it looked really beautiful, and they do have wonderful Summers. So glad you and the kids had such a great time. Glad too that you enjoyed the post and a look at Country Australia! x

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    2. Heidi, "My Brilliant Career" would be so worth getting hold of! Haven't seen it for years but loved it at the time - hopefully it's aged well. The young Judy Davis and Sam Neill were wonderful in their roles - and it was a great career enhancer for Gillian Armstrong and Margaret Fink. Must try and track it down myself to see if I still like it as much. The older Judy Davis was also so good in the more recent Australian movie "The Eye of the Storm" based on the Patrick White book. Pammie xx

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  4. Fabulous story about your friend's country life. The house is wonderful and larger than many country homesteads. Farming in Australia is diversifying and sadly many need to do this in order to survive. I am sure the children had the best time being able to roam freely in the fresh country air. Cold in the West this morning but the sky is turning a pretty blue so perhaps the afternoon will be better. Enjoyed your excellent post, with best wishes Lillain.

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    1. Hi Lillian, It is a lot larger than most farms, but there are a lot of the larger stations in the area. I think it was a pretty rich farming area back in the day before wool prices dropped. And yes, most farms now are very diversified - you really can't rely on just one crop etc to keep things going. We hear stories of people making cheeses or value adding to their product in other ways, and the cottage business here is a great way of using up the little cottages that are otherwise empty here. Happy Spring - we've got blue skies too today, but still cold! Hope you get a little sunshine x

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  5. The Victorians sure loved decoupage - I see so much stuff from that era in auction houses and even the Duchess of D had a decoupage folding screen - i love a folding screen but couldn't bring myself to bid on that specific one. I love then house and remember it from when you first showed us. My fantasy is a country life but it seems like it is for industrious people and not lazy folk like me but if I was in Oz I would visit and stay there for sure!

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    1. Yes - they were definitely fond of decoupage. Thinking about how little there would have been to do when living so remotely from the city, it's no wonder someone took to the room with scissors and glue. I think that you're the perfect houseguest on a country property N! I too think I'd be far too lazy to live on a farm... x

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  6. Hi Heidi,
    Great post. A print room immediately reminds me of some grand mansion in england with bright yellow walls and black and white images overlayed. (perhaps even a dollhouse?) - which I adored when I first saw it and probably is the reason for my love of toile, as it really had such a similar feel. I love the clare valley, this farm was obviously an important one in the region at the time that the area was in prosperity. (Mid to late 1800s?). I grew up in the oustkirts of the adelaide hills and that weekend your children had was pretty much my childhood. My parents built their home in the 70s but the back of their property has the original farm property - a much more modest two room and addition cottage ruin. Mid 1800s perhaps it was quite important in its day as it was on the original postal route. They have unfortunately put a sheet roof on it and use it as fodder storage!

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    1. Hi Rebecca - yes, I know exactly what you mean about a print room. It was something that was common in the Georgian era in England, and very similar to toile. How lucky you were to be able to roam free in the hills as a kid! I had a friend who lived in Balhannah, and I used to love going to visit her for the weekend - we'd spend all our time damming the creek at the bottom of her garden. But that's sad about your cottage!! Although I suppose better it's roofed and used than left to fall down. You pass so many little settlers cottages that are tumbling down now in paddocks in the country. x

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  7. I love the historic homestead and the quirky interiors... its so good for the kids to feel the freedom the country brings! xx

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    1. They had such a good time Jenny - not once did they utter the words "I'm bored!" x

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  8. This is just lovely!!! How divine are those Pierre Frey seats?

    x

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    1. Yes, love all the colour Al has used throughout - you'd love it too, colour is not so common here in Adelaide, so she's gone against the grain to some extent, and it's lovely xx

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  9. wow, what an extraordinary house..love the stonework and it's double storied v different to NSW country houses I know, and that hall with the columns..etc

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    1. There are a few big double story ones in the region smr, which now that I think about it isn't so common throughout the rest of the country where it's generally single story. No idea why, but it's really just this particular region of SA. The columned hall is just beautiful. x

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  10. Incredible house! I just sent the wedding link to my sister as she's really having trouble choosing a wedding venue. Her fiancé is from Adelaide so it may interest them! The house itself reminds me of a grand old home we used to live in as children. It seemed we were never inside, always in the paddock or trying to catch yabbies in the dam. I am always grateful to have had that very Australian experience. I must find out the history of that house as I recall someone or other in the history books lived there but younger me wasn't too interested in the details back then!

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    1. That's so kind of you! Thank you Anna. How lovely to have had a country childhood too, there's always so much to do outside, but if you have a big house like you've described I'm sure it would have been fun exploring inside too. x

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  11. Dad managed the station from 1959 to 1974, I was born there, it was an idyllic place to grow up, days on horseback riding check on the lambing ewes, walking the great washes as a family with our rifles flushing out foxes. Picnics at the yabby pool on the Skilly Creek. Finally the place is being shared, with the public, Andrew and Alice are doing a great job.

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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