OUT OF THE BOX

Vil­lage life in Stan­ley.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Jamie Kronborg pho­tos Jamie Kronborg, Wendy Stephens

STAN­LEY – above Beech­worth – has al­ti­tude and at­ti­tude. On a clear day from the top of Mount Stan­ley you can see all the way to Kosciuszko. A lit­tle way be­low the sum­mit you’ll find the North East’s hor­ti­cul­tural heart, a re­silient and cre­ative com­mu­nity and four dis­tinc­tive sea­sons.

GENEVIEVE Mil­ham sits in her kitchen in the vil­lage of Stan­ley and rekin­dles a child­hood mem­ory.

She re­mem­bers be­ing squeezed onto the bench seat of her par­ents’ car with her sis­ters and brother and taken on a day-drive from the fam­ily’s home in Al­bury.

Out they drove along the city’s hand­some streets, lined with plane trees, and across the river-bridge with its fruit-fly check­point.

Be­yond were the blue-green-grey-green hills of Vic­to­ria’s North East. These were the 1960s. “There was this thing about driv­ing in the land­scape then – driv­ing through the coun­try, some­thing that was for leisure and plea­sure,” Genevieve says.

“Some­times we’d go out to the weir on Lake Hume or up to Beech­worth.

“We lived down in the flat coun­try by the river, and here, up in the hills, this was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Here – as we drove up – there was this gor­geous change in the land­scape. I sup­pose it be­came em­bed­ded in us be­cause we ex­pe­ri­enced it at such an im­pres­sion­able age: this scenery – the eu­ca­lypts and the rocks that I’ve since learned come with min­ing ar­eas.

“We would drive on out to Stan­ley to the fruit farms where we went to get a box of fruit.

“It was a mys­te­ri­ous place. It was def­i­nitely on the far bound­aries of our drives. As a child it was a sort of nether re­gion, and mys­ti­cal.”

It was a time when Stan­ley – re­mote in its way, high on its plateau south of Beech­worth – was the place that had put bite into Bri­tain.

Fruit and veg­eta­bles had been found to thrive in Stan­ley’s cool foothills’ cli­mate and what came to be con­sid­ered its lim­it­less top­soil – a rich earth in which there is said not to be any clay base – in the wake of gold’s dis­cov­ery late in 1852.

When the glint dis­ap­peared from what was known as Snake Gully – and then Nine Mile Creek be­fore it was named Stan­ley – the plateau’s tall tim­ber was cut and milled.

It is where one of these mills once worked that Genevieve Mil­ham now lives in an ex­tra­or­di­nary gar­den.

The district also be­came a fine source of pota­toes, yield­ing up to 800 tonnes a year and all of them dug with forks. Now less than a tonne is har­vested. But it was the place where the ap­ple came into its own. Or­chardist Peter Cham­bey­ron – whose fam­ily has pro­duced fruit in Stan­ley for gen­er­a­tions – says ‘King Cole’ be­came the dom­i­nant ap­ple va­ri­ety grown in what is re­garded as Indigo Shire’s rich­est soil.

It was bred in Aus­tralia in 1912 from what is thought to have been a cross be­tween the Amer­i­can-raised nine­teenth cen­tury ‘Jonathan’ and pre-eigh­teenth cen­tury ‘Dutch Mignonne’.

A sin­gle tree could yield al­most a tonne of fruit and King Cole ap­ples be­came Stan­ley’s sta­ple ex­port to the United King­dom for decades.

“There were prob­a­bly a thou­sand acres (411 hectares) of King Cole grow­ing in Stan­ley at its peak, around 1965 to 1970,” Peter says, “plus Granny Smiths and other va­ri­eties.”

“Then Bri­tain joined the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity and the mar­ket ef­fec­tively dis­ap­peared overnight.”

The last ship­ment of Stan­ley King Coles ex­ported to Bri­tain was sunk in the Suez Canal dur­ing the 19-day Yom Kip­pur Ara­bIs­raeli war.

Much has changed – there are now just a few or­chardists on the plateau for whom ap­ples are a prin­ci­pal crop but they num­ber the lead­ing pro­duc­ers in Vic­to­ria. >>

Ad­vanced hor­ti­cul­tural tech­niques have led to the in­tro­duc­tion of higher-yield­ing va­ri­eties on dwarf root­stock that are close-by planted in trel­lis sys­tems, stream­lin­ing tree man­age­ment and har­vest­ing.

Henry and Rita Hil­ton, who farm south of Stan­ley, have de­vel­oped their Snow­line Fruits or­chard and a keen mar­ket for their pro­duce – which also in­cludes stone­fruit, berries and nuts – since the 1980s.

Henry was born in the English ap­ple county of Kent, raised in a fruit­grow­ing fam­ily and stud­ied hor­ti­cul­ture be­fore trav­el­ling the world and set­tling in Aus­tralia.

The pair runs a beau­ti­fully-main­tained or­chard and nut grove and a highly suc­cess­ful farm shop, and about a third of their an­nual pro­duc­tion is sold di­rectly to the pub­lic.

Change is also con­tin­u­ing in the vil­lage and the district. Where the com­mu­nity in 2006 had a pop­u­la­tion of al­most 700 there were 324 at the 2011 cen­sus.

Stan­ley vil­lage is seek­ing the restora­tion of its sta­tus as a town­ship – some­thing it lost in the wake of mu­nic­i­pal amal­ga­ma­tions in the 1990s when the com­mu­nity was des­ig­nated en­tirely as a farm­ing zone.

Ed Tyrie, the pres­i­dent of the lo­cal ad­vo­cacy or­gan­i­sa­tion known as Stan­ley Ru­ral Com­mu­nity In­cor­po­rated, says the com­mu­nity wants its of­fi­cial iden­tity re­turned.

It is en­vis­aged that change will en­able the de­vel­op­ment of re­tail en­ter­prise which – apart from a prece­dent which al­lows the his­toric Stan­ley ho­tel to op­er­ate – is presently lim­ited to far­m­gate stores, such as Hills­bor­ough Qual­ity Nuts.

Anita Mi­hal­je­vic and An­drew Cook are pro­duc­ing pota­toes, rasp­ber­ries, eggs, olives, hazel­nuts, chest­nuts, grapes, greens, con­serves and condi­ments from a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in a new farm­ing busi­ness and have re­cently opened a farm shop on their prop­erty on Stan­ley’s out­skirts.

Or­chardist Rob Sin­clair makes fruit avail­able from his fam­ily’s cool­store at the vil­lage in­ter­sec­tion and the Cham­bey­rons and High­grove are among grow­ers who of­fer pick­y­our- own in sea­son.

“As a town­ship we would be able, in ad­di­tion to the farm shops, to have an art gallery and craft shop and we could reestab­lish a café and a store,” Ed says.

The former Com­mon­wealth pro­tec­tive se­cu­rity agency ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and his wife, Maggy, a former mu­seum cu­ra­tor, de­cided eight years ago to move from Can­berra to Stan­ley.

Stan­ley Ru­ral Com­mu­nity had al­ready been es­tab­lished when it re­sponded, with Ed’s guid­ance, to the un­fore­seen clo­sure of the district’s former postal ser­vice in the old vil­lage store late in 2010.

It is a mark of Stan­ley’s re­silience and rein­ven­tion that the or­gan­i­sa­tion was able to win coun­cil ap­proval for a de­mount­able – which a lo­cal bene­fac­tor bought and loaned to the com­mu­nity – to be placed on a road­side verge to serve as a new li­censed post of­fice.

The ser­vice is this year be­ing re­lo­cated across the road and into the former Stan­ley state school. “We like get­ting our hands dirty,” says Genevieve. “Stan­ley will evolve, but it will al­ways be of the earth.”

BLOOMS \ Pacific or moun­tain dog­wood Cor­nus nut­talli flow­ers in the Stan­ley gar­den of Jenny In­dian and Stephen Rout­ledge, one of nu­mer­ous fine gar­dens in and around the vil­lage. STEP AHEAD \ Hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist Henry Hil­ton and his wife Rita use ad­vanced tech­niques to pro­duce trel­lis- sys­tem ap­ples at their Snow­line Fruits’ or­chard south of Stan­ley.

BITE \ Or­chardist Peter Cham­bey­ron grows ap­ples, cher­ries and some berries on his fam­ily’s Eu­ropa Gully farm, which is open in sea­son for pick- your- own. The or­chard in­cludes what are thought to be the last 10 ‘ King Cole’ ap­ple trees grow­ing in Stan­ley. MAIL­MEN \ Graeme Os­borne ( cen­tre), Stan­ley Ru­ral Com­mu­nity chair­man Ed Tyrie ( left) and Bob Malone meet in Stan­ley’s de­mount­able road­side post of­fice.

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