Today has been for me a realisation of dreams that I have had since I was a little girl. After a long, cold and restless night we were up at 5.30am and quickly chucked on our clothes to get warm. Our taxi at 6.20 drops us at the greyhound terminal and we catch the bus to Miriam Vale two hours down the coast.
When we arrive we are met by Rosie, a cheerful Londoner who has been working for accommodation and food at Glassford Farmstay for the past few weeks. We pile into the ute and within 5 minutes are making our way along an unsealed road on the way to the farm. The scenery is breathtaking, nothing like anything else we have seen anywhere along the East Coast and I’m smitten. Rolling hills, tall gum trees and spartan looking greeny brown grass cover the land as far as we can see.
Around half an hour later we arrive, the farm is a large beef ranch with 4000 acres of land, 350 cattle and over 30 horses. We make our way up to the long drive and pull up alongside a sturdy and spacious looking white painted, wooden house. The largish barn serves as a kitchen and dining area and as it is completely freezing we’re pleased to see a basket with a log fire burning away in the middle. Rosie encourages us to make ourselves hot drinks and endless rounds of toast with local honey for breakfast. No sooner have we made a start on that than we’re interrupted by a booming voice. Attached is one of the most friendly and instantly likeable people I have met.
Bill is the owner of the farm and warmly introduces us to the other guests. A British/Australian/French family consisting of Lorel (Aussie born, lived in England for the past 40 years) Jill, her daughter (UK born lived in OZ for 10 years) Theo aged 4 and Chloe aged 3( Born in Australia) and their Dad Terry ( French).
In no time Bill announces we will be riding and after kitting ourselves out in layers and layers of shirts, cowboy hats and riding boots we follow him out to the horses. Rosie has explained to us that there are no routines or set timetables here and we can do as little or as much as we want to join in with the daily farm business. We saddle up the horses and after 5 minutes of instruction we’re off. The kids are both looking really anxious and although I have got complete faith in Bill and Rosie I can see why. This couldn’t be further from a riding school experience. Bill doesn’t like the horses to walk in single file and we make our way in our group across the absolutely awesome and beautiful, wild looking land.
We ride for about an hour and Bill gives us some great informative explanations about the wildlife, trees and cattle along the way. The kids just love it. Despite their initial nerves they’re both grinning and as I know Ali was a bit worried it’s fantastic to see him getting more confident. With a bit of encouragement he is so pleased to be able to make his horse AJ do what he wants. My horse Jasper is a dream to ride, very lively and fresh but really responsive and despite not having ridden for years I feel really confident and just love it. Maisie is riding Starlight and Simon is on Canada.
We make our way back and after sorting the horses out head to the barn for lunch. Bill has made some potato and celery soup and we have cold chicken, ham, boiled eggs and salad to go with it. So good. We were all completely freezing at this point and mugs of steaming coffee washed it all down and warmed us through.
Bill then announces we have to move Nobbsy the bull back to the pastures. Apparently he is a fantastic bull who loves his job so much he forgets to eat in between servicing the cows and therefore has been penned in for the past 3 weeks to give him a rest and feed him up! Getting Nobbsy up the ramp and into the truck is no mean feat and I was scared just watching Bill. The bull was massive and although not enraged, just pissed off enough to show Bill who’s the boss. Watching him snorting, pawing the ground and rolling his eyes whilst crashing around his pen was a scary and exciting experience. Eventually though he was in.
We set off along the road to the pasture. Four year old Theo sat on Bills lap and helped to drive. The kids loved it, racing along in a big van with Chloe and Theo whooping along as we sped up and down the hills. When we arrived Bill let Nobbsy out and once he was at a safe distance we all jumped down and listened as Bill explained more about the day to day running of a ranch this size.
Back at the house and Bills mates Chris and Dan have arrived. Another couple of cowboys, they stride in and explain how they took the back roads here to avoid detection by the local police. Having been involved in a collision with a roo they have a light missing on the car which needs replacing! Bill explains that Polocross is a very popular sport in these parts and they will give us a demonstration if we want.
They saddle up 3 horses and after a quick explanation they’re off. A cross between polo, lacrosse and rugby it’s a dangerous and thrilling looking game and we watch from the edge of the field.
We get back to the barn and have some homemade biscuits and hot chocolate. The kids feed Poppy, a hand reared baby kangaroo who has just been weaned from the bottle. It’s magical watching them and after a quick chat we decide we definitely want to stay here longer than our planned day and night.
Our dinner of roast beef cooked in a huge cast iron pot over the open fire is fantastic and we sit around the fire later listening to Don Williams. I tell Bill I know the words to the songs despite not hearing them for 25 years. He tells me he has been listening to the songs every night for the past 25 years and still doesn’t know them!
Being here is an amazing adventure and all my romantic ideas of cattle station life are coming true, sat here listening to the men chatting about cows and rodeos and drinking Bundaberg Rum. Off to bed now it’s a long cold walk in the dark to the guesthouse. Bill tells us first job of the day tomorrow is milking the cows! Yeee ha!