Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Friday, November 25, 2011

Escape to the Country

Australia still hasn't seen the second series of Downton Abbey, so while we wait to find out what happens to Mr Bates (my favourite character; who would have thought it possible to fall for a fictional gentleman's valet from 1914?), we shall just have to be satisfied with another bit of property porn – Escape to the Country.

My mother and I love this show with the same adulation that a country dog loves a country sausage sizzle at a country fĂȘte. We love the gracious country gates that hint at the gracious country pleasures beyond, the old stone homes dripping with wisteria and dogwood roses, the pretty farmlets bordered by hedgerows and wild flowers, the huge rambling gardens with spectacular views to the fields beyond, and – perhaps most of all – the idyllic villages they're set in. The properties featured on this show represent such an Arcadian scene of bucolic bliss that you can't help but wish you, too, had a spare £900,000 to throw down on a crumbling, old country cottage in Somerset or Devon.

Australia doesn't have the endearing village scenes that England does, nor the tiny winding country lanes, the rolling green hills speckled with cows and manor houses, and the soft, gentle light that throws a glowing, Turner-esque sheen of perfection upon it all. We do, however, have our own version of the countryside: part bush, part bucolic. It may not be everyone's cup of Earl Grey tea, but it does have its own rustic charm. Here are some of my favourite rural views of Australian, photographed over the past few years. As Jane Austen famously said: "If only we could all live in such a place..." Looking at these scenes, how could you not fall in love with country life?

A beautiful lavender farm near Daylesford in Victoria (pictured below), which was created out of the run-down remnants of an old Swiss-Italian settlement of stone buildings and farm land. Doesn't this look like a scene from the South of France? Look at that stone veranda. Bliss. (NB If you'd like to visit, try to plan for the lavender harvest in mid-January, when the property is at its best.)

One of the most magnificent properties in Australia, this grand country estate (pictured below), which is/was owned by friends, has just been sold to a group of Chinese investors. The courtyard photo was taken on a glorious spring day during a particularly good season, when hundreds of spring lambs were being born. These were two of the newbies. They adored running around the formal courtyard. I'm not sure the new Chinese businessmen will allow them do this... (I shall post more photos of this gorgeous property and garden this week.)

St Ambrose Farm 
Many images have been posted of Paul Bangay's idyllic property (pictured below), which has since been sold, but it's one of my absolute favourites. A former derelict schoolhouse, Bangay converted it to a beautiful home and garden over a five-year period. I still love flicking through The Enchanted Garden, the book that chronicles how Bangay fell in love with this dilapidated wreck of a building and turned it into a dream home. Look at those box hedges! Oh how I long for ours to look like that...

A romantic, colonial-style private home in the hinterland behind Noosa, Queensland
Reminiscent of the house in Out of Africa, this beautiful, rambling old home (pictured below) had a gorgeous wrap-around verandah upon which the owner, a lovely woman called Anne, had arranged a selection of chic wicker chairs covered in striped French fabric. It was the perfect spot for a wine at sunset.

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