From Downtown Homes New England North West 2019
Walking our Border Collie Kelpie cross, Walt, under the alders in the paddock near our house, I admire the magnificence of the Great Dividing Range and I am reminded of the first time I visited Nundle and saw those striking mountains.
After an extraordinary drive from Tamworth, shadowing the serpentine curves of the Peel River, by the time I reached Nundle I was so in awe of the beauty of the landscape that I was thinking, “What is this place?”
Duncan and I have just passed our 20-year anniversary of living at Nundle and I still appreciate that humbling experience of living in a mountain landscape daily.
This milestone anniversary has given us the opportunity to reflect on what moving to Nundle from inner city Sydney has given us. Duncan and I were looking to move out of Sydney because we wanted to settle in the country for our children to have the nature-based country childhood we enjoyed near Camden, on Sydney’s then rural fringe.
I visited Nundle as a journalist in 1997 to interview Peter and Judy Howarth about Nundle’s leadership in rural revival, it’s new Jenkins Street Guest House, as well as revamped The Peel Inn, café, and antiques stores.
Judy showed me a yet to be restored building, the former Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores. When I returned a month later with photographer John Fryz we said one of us had to do something with this building.
After visiting numerous NSW country towns Duncan and I kept coming back to Nundle and moved here with our daughter Isabelle in December 1998.
We initially operated an art gallery out of the 1891 timber and corrugated iron general store building, but revived the Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores responding to customers’ keen interest in the heritage of the building.
Being authentic to the roots of the business, we sought out traditional housewares like Falcon and Romanian enamelware, timber and natural bristles brushware, millet brooms, ceramic mixing and pudding bowls, preserving equipment, Indian cotton tea towels, bulk loose leaf tea, earthy soap cut from a slab, wicker baskets, and steel gardening tools.
In the 20 years that we’ve run the shop, society has become more do-it-yourself, back-to-basics, and environmentally conscious, seeking out the traditional kitchen and garden tools that we offer. We have conversations with customers about growing and preserving fruit and vegetables, making sauerkraut, kombucha, and sourdough, and replacing plastics with natural alternatives. Our webstore and social media help us make connections across Australia.
Occasionally urban customers are intrigued at the prospect of living in such a small community, “But what do you do here?” they ask incredulously. We make our own fun. There’s no shortage of committees organising events and contributing to the community, and we are fortunate to have musicians, who bring exceptional entertainment to our small town, who call Nundle home.
We explore the bush, walking with our sons Cormac and Gryff, and friends in Crawney National Park, on Crown Lands and forestry trails, or on friends’ properties, appreciating the alpine plants and trees, and glimpses of kangaroos and deer.
Nundle has given us a strong sense of place, connection to multi-generational friends, and the wellbeing of the community and landscape.
The store lets us have the small farm we dreamed of, grow and butcher our own lamb, cook from the fruit and vegetables in our garden, and forage for wild foods like stinging nettle.
We’ve just installed a third-hand 1950’s Rayburn wood stove and it is gratifying to return from my walks to enjoy its homely heat, and the smell of triple ginger cake baking in the oven, and beef bourguignon brewing on the hotplate.