Barrie and I met while travelling overseas, came back to Oz for a few years and went off again. Second time back in Bunbury we immediately fell pregnant with twins, Aidon and Jai in 1983, then in 87 had Jaxon, and in 1989 Zoë was born. In between all this we had often talked about buying some land and after we had the bike shop for a while, we definitely wanted bushland for mountain biking around. We had looked at various places over the years, usually in the Ferguson valley, but it was always just too expensive. In a couple of years maybe we can afford it, we’d say. . .
We started doing full moon mountain bike rides in 1992 (in the days before good bike lights made night riding an easy). A bunch of mad riders would set off at moon rise across farmland, along bush tracks and back country roads, sometimes to an arranged café stop, and then loop back to the starting point again. We were of varying ages and mountain biking skills, but the good riders would support and encourage the beginners, giving tips and advice and making sure no-one got lost or left behind. I always reckoned I was a better rider at night with just the moonlight to see by – I couldn’t see the things that scared me, and just had to handle it as I went. The ‘good riders’ would stop at serious obstacles and help us through (or warn us off if it was really dangerous). Several of us were mums of young kids – we shared babysitting costs and had an escape for a night.
One particular ride started at Brett and Leonie’s Brookhampton organic farm, into Preston state forest, onto a gravel road with an awesome downhill run (a dozen or so riders hurtling down a hill in the dark – yahooing our lungs out. The bush creatures must’ve been startled to say the least!) Then down to the Preston Valley Store, owned at that time by Peter and Sue who had kindly agreed to wait up for us – it was about 11pm by this. Coffee and cakes later and we treadled off along the old railway track and eventually back to Brett and Leonie’s. At one point we were riding along Lowden-Grimwade Rd and Ron mentioned that “there’s a really lovely 100 acre bush block for sale just there. If I had some money I’d grab it”.
Some days later Baz and I discussed what Ron had to say about the bush block. When a few weeks later Ron came into our bike shop in Bunbury, I asked him what else he knew about the property for sale. “Nothing really” he said “but I can give you the phone number of the people the owner is currently staying with”. I rang and spoke with the Wessling’s who agreed to get Ian, the owner to call us back. In due course he did, and we arranged to meet and have a daytime look at the property.
The place at Lowden was 45 minutes drive away from our shop – too far in my mind, but Baz convinced me that it was a lovely drive (he’d travelled an hour to work in Sydney traffic when doing his electrical apprenticeship).
So one Sunday in February 1993, we went to have a look at Ian’s property. It had been a 400 acre farm, which he had subdivided into 4 x 100 acre lots. The other 3 were farm lots and had all sold, but the ridge top was bush and no-one wanted steep, rocky bush – ‘useless land’. Except for us.
Ian took us up to the top part of the property, to show us the stunning views of the Preston valley. I noticed the trees and zamias. He pointed out the parkland cleared section (“about 8 acres”, he said “enough to run a few stock if you want, but there’s no water here”). He took us around to look at the back soak (“you might be able to put in a well”). I noticed the balga’s (grasstrees or blackboys). They were absolutely beautiful, ancient trees, some with multi heads and over 8 foot tall. I fell in love.
Luckily so did Baz. It was perfect for us – though bigger than we had planned (we had thought about 30 acres would be heaps). Most of the properties we had looked at before had been predominantly cleared farmland, or otherwise very low lying and swampy in winter. This property had great mountain bike country – steep bits, flat bits, rocky bits, smooth flowing bits, beautiful bush, stunning views. And wonderful wildflowers for me.
And so we put our beautiful house that we had just finished renovating after 4 years, on the market. Four kids and a struggling business – and we sold our house – our biggest asset – to buy a useless bush lot that would cost us money and generate none – and we would have to rent a house to live in. Yes – most definitely a decision of the heart and not the head (my parents were horrified).
On 3rd June, 1993 – Aidon and Jai’s 10th birthday – we ‘took possession’ (funny that term – the land had already possessed us when we walked over it!) and so began an adventure of discovery and learning and getting to know this magnificent tiny little bit of the planet.