Annabelle Hick­son: A Day in the Coun­try


Country Style - - CONTENS -

EV­ERY MORN­ING BERYL STE­WART puts out freshly washed table­cloths on the pic­nic ta­bles at Green Val­ley Farm, an ad­ven­ture park she and her fam­ily built on their sheep farm south of In­verell in north­ern NSW. Have you ever heard of an ad­ven­ture park with fresh table­cloths? On a sheep farm? Or one where they en­cour­age you to bring your own food rather than queue up like cor­ralled cat­tle to buy aw­ful ham­burg­ers? I hadn’t. But that’s be­cause I hadn’t been to Green Val­ley Farm be­fore. I never knew the ad­ven­ture park con­cept could be so civilised. My hus­band — in all se­ri­ous­ness — de­scribes it as one of the won­ders of the mod­ern world. A piece of the bush full of home­made roller­coast­ers and metal slides, cows with five legs (for real), putt putt golf, mon­keys, rab­bits, gar­dens, gi­ant bounc­ing pil­lows and the Bee Gees crack­ling over the speak­ers. You are shaded by tall gum trees and sur­rounded by pad­docks. And af­ter you en­ter the gates no one re­ally tries to ex­tract any money from you. A mod­ern anom­aly. Kids split away from their par­ents in packs, while the adults mill around the bar­be­cues and pic­nic ta­bles. It feels like you’re liv­ing in one of your par­ents’ old pho­to­graphs; when there was trust enough in the world for kids to be un­su­per­vised and free. Our day at Green Val­ley Farm con­trasted sharply with our ex­pe­ri­ence at Lego Land in the USA. We were over there for my sis­ter’s wed­ding and thought we’d take the chil­dren to Lego Land be­cause we’d heard it was amaz­ing. It was not. A carpark the size of our en­tire farm — a hot bi­tu­men af­fair for miles — set the heart-sink­ing tone. We then shelled out al­most $1000 to get through the gates only to find queues an hour long, dreaded min­i­mum height mark­ers that stopped my rather short chil­dren in their tracks, and rides that, with the ex­cep­tion of the roller­coaster, where less thrilling than what the kids get up to on an av­er­age day on their bikes at home. And where was the lego? My son thought the whole joint would be made from real Lego bricks. It was not (al­though I am not go­ing to hold that against the place). I felt like I’d been had. Just another schmuck with a buck fill­ing up the pig­gy­bank of a large ad­ven­ture park money-mak­ing ma­chine. Flash for­ward to Green Val­ley Farm, which is not owned by a pub­licly listed com­pany. The car park is in a pad­dock with gum trees. The day we vis­ited there were about forty ve­hi­cles parked less than a minute’s walk from the en­trance. To get into the park you go through a small build­ing that houses a museum ded­i­cated to freaky taxi­dermy an­i­mals, crys­tals and an­cient tele­phones. At the end of the room, you will run into a teenager who sells you the tick­ets: $15 a per­son or $8 for con­ces­sions. If you don’t have cash, no wor­ries. She writes down the amount you owe on a bit of pa­per, tears it off and asks you to fix it up at the kiosk in­side. The trust! I can hear my hus­band mut­ter with­out irony “#bet­terthanle­goland” to no one in par­tic­u­lar. He re­ally said the word ‘hash­tag’. This is a place whose rai­son d’etre is not about cre­at­ing profit. In­stead its KPIS are about com­mu­nity, joy and fun. For years they charged noth­ing at all. Then, be­cause of in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums they in­tro­duced a $2 en­trance fee, and now it is up to $15. I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced such value for money. Beryl and her hus­band Pat, along with their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, have cre­ated some­thing that is fun­da­men­tally good and whole­some and that is not some­thing you see ev­ery day. Just like the five-legged cow. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit green­val­ley­ Annabelle Hick­son lives on a pe­can farm in the Du­maresq Val­ley, NSW. Fol­low @annabelle­hick­son on In­sta­gram.

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