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.
August 3, 2016 at 4:45 am
Beautiful words about how the generations are turning over at Wonyip. I felt conscious of that happening when Philip and I, and Keith, took on Dad’s role – big shoes to fill. And those late teenage years when I got my first car and coming down to Wonyip with friends was kind of a hippie-ish sometimes crowded affair, quite exciting and new. Now I see my sons coming down with their friends and hope that it is as wonderful as it was and still is for me.
August 3, 2016 at 9:52 pm
I have been lucky to be a part of many of those years and look forward to many more in the future. (As soon as next weekend!)
August 3, 2016 at 10:36 am
A fine story to write about on the second year anniversary of your blog. Over those two years you have opened our eyes and hearts to the importance of living sustainability and sharing that with friends and family. The evolution of the farm, and its bright looking future as the next generation becomes more involved, is a perfect example. I look forward to many more inspirational stories in the coming years.
August 3, 2016 at 9:57 pm
Thanks for the thumbs up on the anniversary of ‘a change in time’ and for your thoughtful reply. 😊
August 4, 2016 at 11:50 pm
So good to be able to look back and remember and also to look forward