Making a major life move during the pandemic was not ideal timing. But this couple was welcomed with open arms and found a beloved new home in Cootamundra.
Rowena and Brian Redding found Cootamundra by accident. But if they could have seen their future they would have known, even then, that it was a happy accident, indeed.
The pair was on a short driving holiday to visit the town of Junee one Sunday afternoon in 2020. However, they only made it as far as Cootamundra and despite the quiet and emptiness of the town during COVID-19 times, they were impressed with the town, the amenities and the affordability of the area.
‘We were looking for a good-sized residential block with a large shed or space to build one and, most importantly, side access so that we could accommodate our motorhome – a 10m converted bus – on-site and in the backyard.’ While the couple had found it difficult to track down their dream large and level residential block in other regional towns, they found two great options in Cootamundra.
After a few inspections, the decision was made. ‘We were moving to Cootamundra!’ But the disruption brought on by the pandemic in 2020 meant that the Reddings faced a few unusual challenges. ‘As it was not possible at the time due to pandemic restrictions to pop into the pub or cafe, have a drink and chat to the locals and get a feel for the town, the whole decision to buy in Cootamundra was on blind faith really.’ Fortunately, their faith was rewarded.
By the time settlement on the property was reached in mid-July 2020, some businesses were starting to turn the wheels again, but it would take some time until Cootamundra returned to normal. The town’s strength of spirit meant the community remained strong and supportive. It also afforded the Reddings the opportunity to get involved in local clubs and meet new people.
‘We had both retired before making the move, so looking for work was not a requirement but it did make it more challenging to meet people and get involved with community.’ Instead, Rowena and Brian connected with neighbours, joined community groups and took up volunteering opportunities.
They became early members and investors of the Coota District Co-op, with Rowena volunteering at the temporary membership office and the Christmas pop up shop. They also joined the local RSL sub-branch (Brian is a former ADF member) and have volunteered at events like the local beach volleyball. ‘What fun that is … beach volleyball in Cootamundra, brilliant!’ Rowena also enjoys her weekly sessions with ‘a most amazing group of wonderful crafty ladies who meet weekly at the ex-services club’.
‘All in all, our Country Change has been a positive experience with absolutely no regrets. We are loving life in Cootamundra.’
The long road to Cootamundra
Rowena and Brian experienced a few years of relocations and life changes before finding themselves in Cootamundra in 2020. After spending 16 years in Canberra, the sudden death of a parent in 2007 led them to move to Port Macquarie to care for their remaining parents.
But they were soon missing their children, grandchild, extended family and friends in Canberra. They also missed the distinct seasons and discovered the coastal lifestyle wasn’t for them. Rowena and Brian longed to be ‘west of the divide’.
When their last parent passed away in late 2019, the couple knew it was time to move back closer to Canberra. Their aim was to be within a few hours of Canberra in a relaxed community with access to basic amenities.
Great location, packed with facilities
Cootamundra turned out to be the perfect place for the Reddings. Just two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Canberra, the couple are still able to head to the capital regularly to babysit, puppysit and catch up with family and friends. After Brian unfortunately experienced a stroke in 2021, the pair were also able to access specialist medical care only one hour away in Wagga Wagga.
Rowena says, ‘Having to travel to Wagga, or elsewhere, for specialist appointments is unavoidable but we make use of the opportunity to shop for the things not available in Coota, and to explore the “big smoke”.’
Cootamundra itself now has three doctors surgeries, two dental clinics, numerous boutique stores and so much more. As Rowena says, ‘Cootamundra is blessed with a brilliant Arts Centre and we both love the Tin Shed Theatre. The swimming pool at the Cootamundra Pool & Sports Stadium is always a “must visit” when our granddaughter comes to stay – summer or winter.’
Nature lovers can enjoy the Cootamundra Bird Walk, Pioneer Park’s walking track and the Cootamundra Mountain Bike Track. Set amongst rolling hills and farmland, and boasting the glorious change of seasons the Reddings had been pining for, Cootamundra is a scenic part of the world to live in.
Rowena and Brian also love ‘their own backyard’, and their new home has allowed them to build this for themselves. ‘Our home was only about eight years old when we moved in, and the yard was laid mostly to just lawn. It is now full of garden beds, trees and shrubs and raised vegetable beds out back. It has been a challenge for Brian post-stroke and he has done a brilliant job. It is very satisfying to sit back with a cuppa, or a chilled glass of wine, and enjoy the fruits of his hard work. It is now just a matter of waiting for everything to grow to maturity,’ Rowena says.
Advice for anyone considering a move to regional life
- Getting involved in community groups has been invaluable in helping the Reddings meet new friends and feel part of the local community. Choose a sport, hobby, or service that interests you. (As the birthplace of Sir Donald Bradman, you could give cricket a go!)
- Rowena and Brian say there is always something exciting happening in Cootamundra or one of its neighbouring towns or villages. Events such as the Fibre Festival, the Cootamundra Show, the Cootamundra Rodeo and Christmas Carnival & Fireworks Display bring the community together.
- The Reddings have this simple advice for anyone considering a country change: ‘Just do it.’