In June 1973, the Webb family purchased a 204 acre property in the Strzeleckis, just up the hill from Toora.
For the city born-and-bred siblings, 11yo Melissa, 15yo Peter and almost 18yo Keith, suddenly there was a new place to roam and that is exactly what they did.
For many years, the family travelled down regularly in Gordon’s van or Lois’ Pontiac. Eventually Keith, Peter and Melissa added other interests to their farm visits and, for awhile, the farm became Lois’ and Gordon’s domain.
They split their time between Box Hill and Wonyip, their combined vision of what the farm could become was slowly revealed over the years. Gordon enlisted a nearby farmer, Bob Clarke, to help build a barn from corrugated iron and local trees.
Lois enlisted Gordon to help create her own version of an English country garden, along with a rambling vegetable garden and an orchard of her favourite fruit trees.
Keith is a fine photographer and we are fortunate that he has recorded many of the changes that have occurred over the years. He recently commented, “I can remember consciously trying to capture the normality of life back then which seemed set to stretch on into a happy future.”
I could very much relate to this. When one is in the midst of life, it does seem like these days will stretch on forever. Peter and I have been together for 32 of those 43 years. We took our children to the farm in those early days and they soon came to love it just as much as we do.
But the good times do not stretch on forever. Gordon died in 1996 with Lois following in 2012. After Gordon’s death, the natural flow of those happy days were changed. Without the weekly care provided by Lois and Gordon, the vegetation and local wildlife started to reclaim the land. The house suffered as well.
We still had many good times however something needed to occur that would allow us to manage the farm in a way that would not require weekly attention.
Around 2007, we joined the local Landcare group. Many of the Landcare members were city folks who had bought properties in the hills much like Lois and Gordon. We soon became involved in several local projects such as tree-planting and the removal or containment of ‘noxious weeds’.
Our big break came when the Jack and Albert River Restoration project awarded us a grant to spray the blackberries on the property.
This was a turning point as we now regained access to a large area that had been completely off limits due to blackberry invasion. It led us to consider placing a covenant on about a third of the land – a large area of wet and damp forest and cool temperate rainforest that had managed to avoid being cleared.
We have all become connected to the hills of Wonyip, each in our own way. Peter and I are interested to see what kind of relationship our sons, nephews and nieces will form with the farm and the land.
We are incredibly fortunate that Lois and Gordon had the foresight to create a home away from home in such a beautiful part of the country.
May our children and grandchildren continue this story with the same delight as us.