Picture a plain flat paddock of five acres somewhere in the Yarra Valley, Victoria. One boundary is a quiet country road edged with a few trees, remnants from pre-clearing days of the early 20th century. Another boundary is a deeply channelled winding creek bed containing wombat burrows. The only trees of any substance are the Manna Gums that flank both sides of the creek. The other two boundaries are marked by rough and ragged fencelines, barely sufficient to contain the cows who roam the paddock.
No trees, no water other than a small muddy dam. No birds apart from the odd magpie flying overhead; no possums or gliders and definitely no koalas. What on earth could be the attraction to this bit of unloved farmland?
For us, seeking a patch to call our own, finding this paddock in 1978 was exactly what we wanted. It was as much of a blank canvas as we were going to find.
From paddock to sanctuary, all it took was two heads creating a vision that we knew from the very start would be our own personal Paradise.
The Nature of
When you holiday at Wombat Bend, you’ll be sharing five acres of natural sanctuary. Our billabong is the heart of our environment, a stretch of water that reflects all the shades of light throughout the day. It’s home to so much life beneath and above the water, you’ll be astonished.
Wombat Bend is a sanctuary. From its paddock beginnings, it now provides permanent habitat for over 100 species of native birds, together with possums, gliders, echidnas, bats & phascogales, and of course wombats, and a remarkable range of insects, frogs & fish.
The parkland surrounding the dwellings and the billabong is so natural, it’s hard to believe it has all been planted to a design ~ but of course, that is the essence of good design, that it looks and feels completely natural. You’ll feel it in your bones. It just feels right.
From its beginnings…
For first time visitors to Wombat Bend, it’s a surprise to learn that this serene parkland, with its bird-filled billabong, and mudbrick & timber dwelling nestled amongst shady trees, was a plain ordinary over-grazed cow paddock in 1978. The land was nearly flat, treeless and bare of any structures apart from some poor fencing, and bounded by Paul’s Creek to the west, the road on the north, and adjoining properties to the east and south.
Yet once upon a time, soft-footed kangaroos grazed on grasses and herbage beneath a canopy of eucalypts and wattles; now hard-hoofed cows roamed.
Our small valley, set within the larger Yarra Valley, lies an hour north east of Melbourne. Clearing of much of the region had occurred in the early 1900s and apart from the creeklines, little remained of any substance. The five acres we found suited us perfectly.
Like a good painting, a good landscape begins with a vision. Our vision was to create a habitat in which we and the local wildlife would live in harmony, and which would provide permanent sanctuary.
We designed ourselves an octagonal home so that from anywhere inside, the views capture the water and the wider rural landscape. Step through the doors and you’re right in it. Later, when we built The Burrow, we applied the same design principles; as soon as you walk in through the door, you’re transfixed by the view of the billabong.
The billabong is a life force, providing a perfect environment for water birds to live and breed, raising new families each spring, and going about their daily rituals with little concern for our presence. Our resident Airedales take little notice of them, and vice versa.
Choosing the trees and shrubs for shade and for framing views is as important as the placing of furniture, cupboards or windows inside the house. As the landscape was designed to attract and provide sanctuary for birds and other wildlife year round, it is evergreen, long flowering and Australian in nature. During the past 40 years we have recorded over a hundred bird species that feed, live and breed here.
The process of landscape design can be compared to composing music or painting. All three may draw inspiration from the natural landscape, its sounds, texture, light and movement.
Where the built landscape differs from painting is that while the still life may briefly change with differing light intensities, its form or structure does not. A landscape on the other hand is a constantly changing, growing, living entity with, some believe, a soul of its own.
It is the other lives: the birds, animals and insects, which are a major part of this continuing growth, in a symbiosis which we as the audience can only wonder at, and from which we can constantly learn
To the present…
And so, as Wombat Bend has matured and developed its own life balance through our nurturing and understanding of Nature, it is the entity we envisioned all those decades ago.
There is nothing more soothing to the senses than to quietly watch the water birds going about their daily business on and around the billabong; be amused and delighted with the parrots and pigeons that descend on the swing feeders when seed is spread for them; be captivated with the little dancing blue wrens and the grey fantails, and wake each morning to the pure carolling of the magpies and the songs of the willy wagtails.
You’ll feel the ‘wholeness’ in your own soul.
It’s not only a sanctuary for wildlife. It’s a sanctuary for people too