Wednesday, June 4, 2014


A few hours from Sydney on New South Wales' mid-north coast is a place called Gloucester. James' mum grew up here, on her parents dairy farm with her two sisters. Though James' grandparents have now passed on, the property remains with the family, a cherished reminder of their parents and their past.

Ever since we met, James has wanted to take me up to Gloucester. For three years now, we've been saying we'll drive up there and, of course, never have. When the whole family was reunited at a recent wedding, it was decided we'd all get together once again up at the farm. And so it happened that last weekend, when James' late grandfather would have turned 94,  I finally got to see the stunning place that James had been telling me about all these years.

If you look closely in the picture below, you'll see the farmhouse down at the base of the mountains. It must have been an amazing place to grow up and I can understand why it is still so meaningful to the family today. James' mum told me there was never any time for rest on the family farm. Back breaking work day in, day out. I wonder what would happen if you plucked a bunch of kids from suburbia and put them on a farm for a week. Would they sink or swim? Relish the change or complain? Have they done a reality show about that yet?

For a good few years, the farm was in a state of neglect. James' mum had warned us in the past when we were saying we were thinking of going, that it wasn't the same as it used to be. Recently, though, one of James' cousins, her husband and their two kids moved in and restored it to its former glory. The only difference is, it isn't being used as a dairy farm at the moment. As far as I know, dairy farmers have had a tough run since industry deregulation back in 2000.

There was about 27 of us (including about 6 kids) at the farm that day. James and his cousins shared many fond memories of times spent at the farm and, at one point that afternoon, most of the family went down to the river where the kids used to play. I don't know why I am using the past tense, since some of them got stuck in skipping stones and dipping their toes that day. Apparently there used to be watermelon (!!!) growing along the riverbed. I don't think I've ever considered where watermelon actually grew but fortuitously in a creek wouldn't have been a guess of mine. 

Turns out watermelon isn't the only thing this farm yields. I am guessing this is what truly organic pumpkin looks like?

Before we left the farm that day, we headed for the hills at the back of the property. I took this last picture from up there, using my iPhone. Isn't it heavenly? 

Hopefully it won't be too long before the next family catch up - there's something incredibly special about being able to hang onto, or at least go back to a place that holds many of your memories and stories. For some people, the place they grew up has been bulldozed and built over or at least changed so much they barely recognise it. I wonder what that must be like to experience?

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