Fun for young farmhands

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - South Australia Holidays -

IT’S just gone 5pm and a deep chill is set­ting in at Bun­ga­ree Sta­tion. As the sun dis­ap­pears, a bon­fire crack­les out­side our apart­ment and the air is filled with the gut­tural mews of farm an­i­mals set­tling down for the evening.

Be­side me, how­ever, the ex­cited squeal of a three-year-old is pierc­ing the calm.

Come on, let’s go-o-o-o,’’ she im­plores, jump­ing up and down, obliv­i­ous to the cosy charms of the fire. Let’s go . . . now.’’

There’s noth­ing to do but fol­low her past the sta­tion’s grand 1840s home­stead to the lawn where four adorable lambs are wait­ing for their evening bot­tle. Th­ese lit­tle tykes, hand-reared af­ter be­ing aban­doned by their moth­ers, are more than ready for their din­ner.

The lovely Ir­ish farm­hand, Phoebe, rat­tles her pail full of beer bot­tles that have been filled with milk for­mula and topped with rub­ber teats. The lambs leap and bleat, push­ing each other aside to be first.

My city-dwelling daugh­ter has rarely ex­pe­ri­enced a greater thrill. Phoebe shows her how to hold a bot­tle and she bravely of­fers one to the big­gest lamb, a smile plas­tered on her face. For ur­ban chil­dren, this is the ul­ti­mate ad­ven­ture hol­i­day. Apart from feed­ing lambs, Bun­ga­ree Sta­tion of­fers farm jobs, in­clud­ing grain-feed­ing some (very tame) grown-up sheep (a bit scary for a small per­son), toss­ing pel­lets to geese and a res­i­dent kan­ga­roo (com­plete with joey in pouch) and hand-feed­ing the doe-eyed pet deer that roam the prop­erty. There are also dogs and horses to ad­mire, ducks, cock­a­toos and other birds to watch and a small or­chard to check out.

About 140km north of Ade­laide, and a five-minute drive from Clare, Bun­ga­ree Sta­tion is at once a work­ing farm, an ex­cel­lent tourist fa­cil­ity for fam­i­lies and a his­toric land­mark. The sand­stone home­stead is still lived in by the Hawker fam­ily (ma­tri­arch Sal is the prop­erty’s present host), de­scen­dants of the G. C. Hawker who set­tled the area in 1841.

The prop­erty is dot­ted with sig­nif­i­cant her­itage build­ings in­clud­ing a church, ceme­tery and sta­tion store, the last crammed full of dusty flot­sam rang­ing from old tools to soaps and heal­ing po­tions. There’s room for 48 guests in suites or cot­tages with quaint names such as the Stal­lion Box and the Lodge. Our three-bed­room apart­ment, the Court­yard, is mod­ern and in great or­der. Hearty break­fast pro­vi­sions in­clude de­li­cious farm ba­con and eggs, juice and bread.

For the chil­dren, though, there’s no doubt the an­i­mals are the star at­trac­tions. Af­ter a few days on the farm, our daugh­ter re­turns to the city with what we call farm face’’: rosy cheeks, chapped lips and straw in her hair. It’s been an ad­ven­ture she’ll re­mem­ber for­ever. El­iz­a­beth Mery­ment El­iz­a­beth Mery­ment was a guest of Bun­ga­ree Sta­tion and Tourism SA.

Check­list

Rates for her­itage rooms start at $55, in­clud­ing break­fast. More: (08) 8842 2677; www.bun­ga­reesta­tion.com.au.

Not so sheep­ish: Bot­tle-feed­ing lambs

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