The term “Tree Change” has become very popular in Australia to describe those moving from metropolitan cities to Regional Australia. The reasons for tree changing are many and varied. For some it is about affordable homes and a lower cost of living; it may be about space and a healthy lifestyle; for others is it about creating a new and exciting life. Whatever the reason, there are a growing number of people in Australia making the move from the City to the Country.
Some of these people have been choosing Wollombi Valley. Less than 2 hours’ drive north of Sydney, Wollombi is the gateway to the Hunter Valley. The establishment, development and significance of the township of Wollombi is directly connected with the construction and importance of the Great Northern Road in the early 19th century. At the time only a few large parcels of land were allocated, but over time these have been subdivided and sold and the Valley has changed from a dairy and wheat growing region to small farming allotments.
While there is still a large group of ‘locals’ who have lived here their whole life, the districts’ convenient location to Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle has made Wollombi a popular area for people seeking the tree change experience, either as ‘weekenders’ or a permanent lifestyle choice. ‘Weekenders’ – as they are so affectionately termed in the Valley – are almost too numerous to count. These couples, families and individuals seek out the area for its rural lifestyle combined with is convenient location to the urban areas. Many weekenders eventually grow to love the area so much they become part of the growing number of permanent residents in the Valley. What sort of lifestyle properties are available in Wollombi?
While some people still do the daily commute back to the urban areas to work, many live and work here permanently. Whether it is running home businesses or working amongst the vineyards whilst enjoying a spectacular country lifestyle, the business opportunities are infinite. But it isn’t all about work; there is also the lifestyle aspect of living in the Valley. Whether is it raising your own animals, growing your own produce, participating in the local theatre productions, attending the local pony club, or simply going to the local pub for a drink on a Friday night, the opportunities to meet people and become part of the community are endless.
It is this rich tapestry of how people live and work in the Wollombi Valley that will be showcased at the Wollombi Small Farms Fair.
“Scott was born a country boy and after years of living in Sydney he needed to go back to his roots. Me, being born in Sydney, living in Bondi and working a Corporate life for over 20 years the idea started to appeal to me. For many years I had driven through Wollombi on my way to the Upper Hunter and when driving down the mountain and reaching the Valley it was where I could truly take my first breath and breathe in the fresh air and beautiful countryside. It then only seemed right that Scott looks for a new career within the region. I started as a weekender and we were looking for a place to buy either here or outside the valley but still within a sensible drive for Scott’s work at Kurri Kurri. You may think of Wollombi as a quite, hidden valley but when Zac was born and I started living here full-time my thoughts all changed and so did our minds of where to call home. It was only to be within the Wollombi valley, a small thriving, inspirational community so our search really began for a property to buy here. Now 7 years, two children, two horses, many cows (including a milking cow), chickens, vegetable garden and a small homewares business later I couldn’t think of anywhere else to live.”
Kellie Jones owns Twine Home Store in the Wollombi village
“I never thought that I would live more than a three kilometre radius from any City Centre. I was a city girl through and through. I grew my own vegetables at home, but that was a close the farming as I had ever been. Then eight years ago I met a guy from Wollombi Valley and fell in love with the area. At first I commuted to Newcastle for work, then after having two children I worked from home, eventually resigning from my job to work on the farm full time. I can now drive a tractor and a bobcat with some degree of confidence. I have chickens, sheep, cows, pigs and a dog. As difficult as it is we eventually eat our animals, except the dog of course! I grow as many of my own fruit and vegetables as possible and make preserves, jams and pickles. This year I have taken my passion for quality locally grown produce and I have decided to become a commercial garlic farmer. I planted an acre of garlic and hope to be selling it at the local and ‘city’ markets this season. I will admit that sometimes I have a moment of uncertainty when I realise that I am no longer a city girl but I would never ever change anything; I love the farm life, the schools, the community and the overall lifestyle.”
Natalie Moore owns Moore Wollombi Garlic
“We’d had enough of spending over an hour driving 35km to work each day, and wanted to bring our kids up with a country lifestyle but close enough to cities to give them the right opportunities down the track. When we were looking for a country getaway, we got a map of Sydney and drew a circle marking 3 hours from where we lived, first looking around Wisemans Ferry and then discovering the Hunter Valley. This particular area is about an hour from Newcastle and less than 2 hours from Sydney, so we often have friends come to visit or vice versa. We eat better here, we look after ourselves, we’ve made some truly great friends, our kids can be as noisy as they want, and we are all loving the small local school. Now I spend my time instructing Zumba classes. I highly recommend the Tree Change lifestyle!”
Jarmilla and Arthur Ablett own Timetravellers Motorcycle Tours and Events in the Wollombi village
“We moved out of Sydney 4 years ago after emigrating here from the UK. We always wanted to have more space and land for our family, dogs and horses. Once we moved to Wollombi valley we realised we found the best of everything – my husband is still able to commute back to Sydney for work when needed. I have been able to start a horse breeding business on our new property, our daughter has just started at the local Laguna School which is just an amazing school – where else would you find a baby wallaby and a lamb in assembly?! We found a valley full of like-minded friends and a unique inclusive community offering everything from music festivals to arts and theatre, fantastic food and wine all on our doorstep. We’ve moved around a lot in different countries and it’s taken us a while, but we’ve finally found a magical place to live that’s really not too far from anything, but yet still far enough to have the space and farm life we love.”
Louisa Farthing owns Stoneybridge Gypsy Cobs
“I’ll be honest, I never thought we would have ended up in the country. Having a successful PR career in Sydney and married to a musician and record producer, the call of the wild didn’t really apply to us. Friends pictured me frolicking through paddocks with sequined Blundstone boots and champagne glass in hand and bets were placed as to how long the four of us would last ‘in the sticks’.
Six years and 2 more children later we couldn’t be happier. I may not have the sequined ‘Blunnies’, but I am guilty of owning some rather dashing pairs of gumboots! Nash runs a successful music studio on our 100 acres and I try to cater for the musicians with produce we grow here at Foggy Mountain. We hold a small music festival every year called The Foggy Mountain Jam and our dinner/show features produce that is seasonal and comes within a 100km radius of our home. We produce our own free range eggs, grow (or try to!) our own vegetables and raise our own pigs for meat. We have become concerned with sustainable food production, pay more attention to how our food is produced, reduce the amount of preservatives our children consume and try to adopt organic farming practices as much as we can.
The local primary school and our vibrant, artistic community is, I have to say, the heart and soul of the Wollombi Valley. I am happily involved up to the eyeballs in school fundraising activities and an avid participant in community activities. We have found our little piece of paradise and extremely lucky to live amongst so many like-minded people.
And I do frolic through the paddock with a champagne glass in hand!”
Veronica Chambers runs the annual Foggy Mountain Jam Festival (amongst other things …)
“A gift my husband and I gave each other; a six months experiment living in the country. Six months cradled in green, to re-bond our frayed family unit, to rest our frazzled nerves and to heal the mental and financial wounds of our busy busy busy urban life. It meant commuting for the both of us – “well if we lived in Sydney we’d be happy to work only a one hour commute from home” we explained to our friends who not always successfully composed their incredulous faces. So to Laguna we hauled ourselves and our stuff. A calculated move to place us pretty much geographically equidistant from three cities, and smack in the middle of Wine Country – well, to the southern edge of it anyway. Within weeks we realised that we had won some kind of life lottery that we didn’t know we had bought a ticket in. The Laguna Valley is beautiful; green and lush and enchantingly lovely. Our child goes to the local public primary school that is staffed with exceptionally talented teachers and support staff. With less than 50 kids in the whole school, we are thrilled with his academic, social and personal development. And he is so happy! He plays outside, and for hours at a time we have no idea where he is – my “previous life” helicopter parenting style is slowly being put aside and he is bursting with independence and newfound confidence in himself. And far from isolating myself from my good coffee and good food obsessions, I find myself in the midst of a local slow food movement, with people who are delighted to share their knowledge, skills and recipes, and who smilingly indulge my hungry curiosity about all things from making pate, planting garlic, raising livestock for food, making artisan bread, preserves and even salami. It’s now nearly two years since my husband and I gave each other our gift of a rural life, and it’s no longer an experiment, it’s our life.”
We were looking for a business that had potential to support a Tree Change move and give us a life style we were all looking for, away from the horrors of city commuting, escaping the escalating stress factors in daily City life and more quality family time together.
Lieneka ,Simon & Colin were all lucky enough to have lived in various Rural Environments in their formative years. As parents & grandparent we knew we must act responsibly and give our new generation the same opportunities.
We found Mystwood a small hobby resort located in a beautiful valley halfway between Wollombi & Laguna.
Combining our proven life experiences gathered from around the world we now have 3 successful businesses operating in the Wollombi Valley and one in Sydney.
Great people with real Aussie characters, community spirit, proximity to necessary services, schools, fine food, historic sites both indigenous and colonial, awe inspiring Australian animal life, great boutique wineries and a couple of unique watering holes.
It’s all here in the Wollombi Valley. Three generations living harmoniously on a property with the hope of one day maybe making it 4 generations. Reflect on the past, work in the present and plan for the future. You can achieve what ever you need to “love the life you live and live the life you love” here in The Wollombi Valley.”
Lieneka and Simon own Mystwood Retreats