How a redundancy allowed a natural gift to bloom
City-lifers, David Bray and Louise Freckelton often spent their holidays escaping to the countryside. They loved walking in nature, with Kosciuszko National Park their absolute favourite place to trek. Despite having lived in cities across the globe including Melbourne, Sydney, Beijing, Shanghai and Cambridge in the United Kingdom, a voluntary redundancy from the University of Sydney, gave the pair the impetus they needed to follow their true passion. Leaving their careers in sociology and International Relations, David and Louise jumped into an adventure of a lifetime, and moved to the Snowy Valleys region in 2012.
Louise and David with their dogs
“We had always wanted to live in the bush so moving here was logical,” said Louise.
It was the Snowy Valleys’ abounding natural beauty, wide-open spaces, country charm and position that really sold the location. Just 4 hours from Sydney and Melbourne; and 1 hour from Wagga Wagga – a major regional centre – they had everything they needed within a realistic drive.
Since making their move over 9 years ago, they’ve discovered even more local delights – beautiful wines, fresh apples and berries, great cafes and an interesting community.
“I’m not sure I thought there would be such a wonderful mix of people – farmers, business people and many interesting and creative people. People taking their cafe to the next level, amazing photographers, artists, other fabulous food producers, wine makers and beer and cider makers. Such an interesting multi-faceted community of different people.”
Among other things, Louise and David run Highfield Farm and Woodland and Kestrel nest Eco-Hut where they combine small-scale, ethical and sustainable farming with the conservation of one of Australia’s critically endangered habitats.
“We bought a property that had a conservation area protecting critically endangered habitat. Our aim was to manage that and to start a paddock to plate enterprise. We are environmental stewards and we have now added a beautiful eco hut for guests to stay in to reconnect with nature in our conservation area, as well as eat our farm produce. ,” added Louise, whose lamb was awarded in the Delicious Produce Awards two years in a row.
The Snowy Valleys is a popular Country Change for a range of people, providing the best of both worlds in terms of high-quality of life and comparatively low cost of living. The region is blessed with an abundance of natural resources but also has all the services and infrastructure that the community, including young families, need. With its abundance of waterways and mountain bike and hiking trails , it’s also the adventure seekers ultimate backyard! There are also a range of employment opportunities from major employers like Snowy Hydro, Visy and Forestry, to seasonal work in horticulture.
With the splendid mix of nature, industry and creative energy, it has allowed Louise to pursue some new hobbies and loves.
“I’ve had more time to cook the way I want to with our own farm-grown ingredients and local produce. I’ve learnt to weave and now make baskets from materials found on the farm. And it is fun, hard work and sometimes very sad working with animals.”
David and Louise with their animals
When reflecting on her and David’s journey and the joy (and challenges) it’s brought to their lives, she has one simple piece of advice for others considering a move.
“Just do it. City life is so busy – too busy. It can take a while to wind down from city life but you will, and a whole new world and life will open up.Don’t waste your whole life in cities, there is much more for you to do, and much more to experience,” Louise added.