SIMON AND SARAH HAGGARTY SHARE HOW THEY GAVE A HISTORIC GRAZING PROPERTY IN NORTHERN NSW A NEW PURPOSE.
FOR MANY PEOPLE, renovating a house in the country is a big enough dream, but for the past three years Simon and Sarah Haggarty have been rebuilding a village. In 2011, Simon’s family bought the nearly 5000-hectare Goonoo Goonoo Station, 23 kilometres south of Tamworth in NSW, setting themselves the audacious task of giving one of Australia’s oldest grazing properties a new lease on life. Dating back to the 1830s, the property included more than 20 buildings, such as an 1840s homestead, a jackaroo’s quarters, butcher’s shop and stone store, as well as a post offiffice, chapel, school house, farrier’s workshop and woolshed. Then living on Sydney’s northern beaches, it wasn’t until the following year in 2012, when they hosted Simon’s cousin Summa’s wedding in the homestead garden, that the couple imagined opening a restaurant, function venue and accommodation here. In 2013, after the birth of their daughter, Abigail, they started to act on this vision, commuting between Sydney and Tamworth fortnightly, before moving to a cottage on the farm permanently in May 2015. “When I was working in Sydney [as an accountant and equities analyst] I was leaving home at 6.30am to beat the traffiffic and then I’d arrive home at night, and half an hour later Abi would go to bed,” says Simon. “Moving here has cemented the three of us as a family unit,” agrees Sarah. “We spend a lot of time together now, whether that is cooking, riding bikes or swimming.” Although both Simon and Sarah grew up in Sydney, neither were new to country life. Simon had spent weekends and school holidays on a family farm at Wollombi in the NSW Hunter Valley and brought his fifirst Pee Wee 50 motorbike with him to Tamworth. “It’s in the shed,” he says with a smile. Simon’s father, Tony Haggarty, also grew up on a dairy and beef farm at Dungog in the Hunter Valley. Sarah’s introduction to the country came later in life, moving from Killara on Sydney’s north shore to study business marketing at Charles Sturt University’s Bathurst campus in central NSW. It was here she met Simon, who was studying business accounting. After graduating, Sarah worked for Cumulus Estate Wines as a marketing assistant, which often took her to Orange for events and the annual FOOD Week. She then changed direction and began working as a law clerk, while studying postgraduate law. The purchase of Goonoo Goonoo Station brought the family’s Goonoo Goonoo Pastoral Company holdings to 31,600 hectares across fifive New England properties, and
pushed Simon and Sarah’s project management, design and marketing skills into new territory — although Simon keeps the scale of the project in perspective: “A big project is just lots of little jobs,” he says. The couple also had a fortunate head start, with the previous owners having already engaged Sydney-based Tanner Kibble Denton Architects and gained a development application to restore the buildings for private use. Simon continued to work with associate Sean Williams, who specialises in heritage buildings, to rethink the design for more commercial uses. Today, the attention to detail in every aspect of the makeover is extraordinary — from artisan custom cabinetry and reuse of original hardware, to the thoughtful combination of contemporary and traditional fifittings. The Glasshouse Restaurant and The Woolstore function room opened in October, the restaurant taking its name from the statement glass walls, revealing 180-degree views of undulating farmland. Chef Damion Moyses’ menu focuses on regional produce, sharing plates and elegant presentation. “We wanted to offffer a style and quality of restaurant and accommodation not available inland between the Hunter Valley and Byron Bay,” says Simon. Back at the Haggartys’ cottage, Sarah admires the black baldy cattle grazing in the paddock. “I still get teary when I leave my family in Sydney,” she confesses, watching Abi run to play with labradoodle Hamish and say hello to calves grazing by the fence. “But once I am home I am right.”
For more information, telephone 0429 384 297 or visit goonoogoonoostation.com