Sharon Fowler

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SHARON FOWLER

It’s Sun­day night in Mudgee, in NSW’s cen­tral west, and the stars are aligned. I am hud­dled with my fam­ily in a pad­dock so dark and icy that I’m be­gin­ning to won­der how this could pos­si­bly have seemed like a good idea. Then I step into a small, pitch-black dome, clam­ber a few steps up a me­tal lad­der and through the viewfinder spot Saturn, its rings clearly vis­i­ble about 1.4 bil­lion km away. Sparkling above it is Ti­tan, and af­ter a quick ro­ta­tion, there’s Al­pha Cen­tauri.

Through sev­eral tele­scopes out­side we’ll also spy the chalky sur­face of the moon, dips and crags so de­fined it’s like look­ing at the palm of your hand. This is Mudgee Ob­ser­va­tory, the cre­ation of John Vet­ter, an am­a­teur as­tronomer and natty te­le­scope builder who’s been stargaz­ing for more than 40 years. He wel­comes stu­dents, astronomers and gen­eral pun­ters like me who barely know Al­pha from Orion.

Mudgee is a small­ish coun­try town with more than a few shin­ing lights, not least of which is our ac­com­mo­da­tion. Ear­lier in the day we ar­rived at Barn End Cot­tage, part of the beau­ti­fully re­stored Trelawney Farm, a crisp white ex­te­rior and scar­let door beck­on­ing as we drove up the blos­som-lined drive­way. Barn End is the smaller of the homestead’s two self-con­tained sec­tions, and it looks a treat, with its fire­side arm­chairs, an­tique iron beds and chic bath­room with claw­foot tub. We plop on the sofa, which will be­come our prime view­ing spot for starry nights and misty morn­ings, awak­en­ing each day to a pal­ette of wa­ter­colour blues and pur­ples.

The main part of the prop­erty, The Coach House, also con­tains a gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned liv­ing area plus li­brary and three bed­rooms, one of which is a sweet child’s re­treat com­plete with chalk­board walls and rock­ing horse.

Trelawney Farm’s decor is a care­fully cu­rated blend of fam­ily an­tiques, vintage finds (from glass milk bot­tles to porce­lain Chi­nese vases) and in­dus­trial ac­cents. There are whim­si­cal touches, too, with text graph­ics curv­ing over walls and quirky black­board il­lus­tra­tions. It’s the hand­i­work of Kathy Collins, a Syd­ney-based in­te­rior stylist and co-founder of bou­tique ren­o­va­tion com­pany Ur­ban Splash, who pur­chased the di­lap­i­dated farm sev­eral years ago and metic­u­lously re­stored it to a fam­ily home, with Barn End orig­i­nally de­signed to house vis­it­ing friends and rel­a­tives. So while ev­ery­thing looks in its per­fect place, com­fort hasn’t been for­got­ten (and the longer you stay the more you feel at home).

The night af­ter our ob­ser­va­tory ad­ven­ture, we wake up to an icy -2.4 de­grees. Visit in less gla­cial con­di­tions (I’m picturing balmy sum­mer evenings) to take ad­van­tage of the wide deck on three sides, the en­ter­tain­ing­sized al­fresco din­ing ta­ble, the yard’s clay pizza oven and even a dis­creet out­door bath tub.

Ly­ing be­tween Trelawney Farm and the Mudgee Ob­ser­va­tory, the com­pact town cen­tre is sprin­kled with her­itage ar­chi­tec­ture and more than a few tasty treats. We start each day with brewed cof­fee at the at­mo­spheric Butcher Shop Cafe; lunch at Ar­buck­les Res­tau­rant, a ca­sual place decked out in retro kitsch; and slip into El­tons Eat­ing + Drink­ing, where there’s con­tem­po­rary art, crisp wood-fired piz­zas and craft beers on tap.

There are shop­ping gems too, such as the eclec­tic mix at Juliet Hors­ley Home­wares, which in­cludes lovely leather bags and straw cow­boy hats in rain­bow shades.

Mudgee is wine coun­try and good drops beckon. Lo­gan, on the way into town, is a favourite, its glass­walled tast­ing room perched atop a hill (try the perky shi­raz and silky pinot noir). We are trav­el­ling with a small child and dis­trac­tions are in or­der, which we find at the Mo­tor­cy­cle Mu­seum at Robert Stein Win­ery and Vine­yard. At Short Sheep Mi­cro-Win­ery, a new lamb nuz­zles its mum me­tres from the cel­lar door; and at Lowe Wines, an or­ganic vine­yard, farm and win­ery, we find chooks, don­keys, ducks and a strut­ting bril­liant-blue pea­cock. Our son adores the wel­com­ing baby goats at Lean­ing Oak Dairy.

There’s plenty of stargaz­ing on of­fer in Mudgee, and mak­ing your­self at home at gor­geous Trelawney Farm is a stel­lar idea, too.

While ev­ery­thing looks in its per­fect place, com­fort hasn’t been for­got­ten

Barn End Cot­tage at Trelawney Farm, above; and bed­room and liv­ing area

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