THIS IS NOT A GARDENING POST. BUT I’VE INCLUDED IT ON THIS SITE, INSTEAD OF ONE OF MY LINKED SITES, BECAUSE A Fare With Nature is just such a perfect place for gardeners on holiday and in search of good accommodation with an interesting edible garden as an extra bonus.
Sometimes, you just get lucky! And we got very lucky indeed when we went to stay at A Fare With Nature at Prom Road Farm near Wilson’s Promontory National Park. The “Prom” is one of Australia’s great natural wonders and lies to the extreme south of the continent, sticking out from South Gippsland into Bass Strait (see my article on Wilson’s Promontory on the Tamborine Dreaming website; click on tab above). It’s a “must see” for nature lovers, photographers and bushwalkers.
This is an area of gentle green hills, fat dairy cattle, gorgeous beaches, forest pockets and quiet, meandering backroads. If you want an overseas comparison it’s very like Devon and Cornwall, or parts of America’s Carolina coastline.
A Fare with Nature sits right in the middle of all this beauty; a small B & B which offers just so much more for the money than most. I’ve stayed in guesthouses/B & Bs all over the world and this is my favourite because a variety of small details come together so nicely here to make a happy whole.
First, there is the location, on a hill overlooking the beautiful bay of Corner Inlet which is almost encircled by the rugged northern coastline of Wilson’s Promontory. To the southwest are views of Waratah Bay, on the promontory’s western side, which is studded with rocky islands. Behind the guesthouse the hills rise in gentle swells and in the folds lies a temperate rainforest running down a long, secret gully where the only sound is trickling water and the quiet songs of small birds. The national park is only a short and pretty drive from here while Foster, the nearest small town, is just minutes away.
We arrived on a perfect winter’s day when the waters of the bay were as blue as the sky. We drove up the long driveway to the house through emerald fields grazed by black-and-white cattle, for this is a working dairy farm more immaculate than any I’ve seen. When we stepped out of the car the view grabbed us because it takes in such a vast sweep of coastline. The hills of Wilson’s Promontory are much larger than expected (Mt. Latrobe is 754 m and is, I think, the highest point) and make for a dramatic skyline. We were delighted at the thought of waking up to such a view.
The house is modern Australian in style, of brick, with a large upstairs veranda on two sides and a patio downstairs. Inside, the guest accommodation is country in style but not the overly fussy ye olde kitsch style beloved of so many Australian B & Bs. At A Fare With Nature the style is one of simple comfort yet bright and pretty with interesting paintings and photographs on the walls. And, it is amazingly generous as to space. The five bedrooms are all large and the bathrooms equally spacious; ours was so big you could have thrown a party in it! There are two guest lounges too, one upstairs and one down, also of large proportions and very comfortably furnished.
We relished the space. Those who know us know that we are not usually partial to B & B-style accommodation which requires more sociability than is natural to us (especially Bob!). We usually prefer the anonymity of hotel/motel rooms or self-contained cabins. So part of the great charm of A Fare With Nature for us was that the guest bedrooms are all very separate and private and the guest lounges (two for five rooms!) are so large and well-furnished that you can share them with fellow-guests without feeling overly intimate.
Despite the bright sunshine the fresh air of South Gippsland was chilly so we were glad to go inside where a log fire was awaiting us in the downstairs guest lounge. And also in the kitchen, which is the heart of this house, as it should be in any good country B & B. This is a kitchen large and splendidly-enough equipped to feature on Master Chef and presiding over it is the REAL secret of A Fare With Nature’s success – the owner and hostess, Rhonda Bland.
Rhonda is a rosy-cheeked countrywoman with a heart as big as the universe and an ability to turn her capable hands to anything from sawing logs and milking cows to grafting pear trees and cosseting guests. She has lived and farmed in the area all her life and her four children are all dairy farmers; one of them runs the farm on which the B & B stands and Rhonda still lends an experienced hand with milking if she’s needed. You just can’t help loving Rhonda the minute you meet her because she is just so cheerfully down-to-earth and dispenses hospitality so lavishly. Her anzac biscuits may just be the best in the world and in her big, warm kitchen she creates all sorts of other country delights. She’s very modest about her cooking but we loved it and others do too. Much of the produce comes from her own garden and the pantry shelves are all aglow with pickles and jams made by her and members of the family.
And then, there’s the house specialty, Rhonda’s rhubarb champagne!
We drank a bottle of this delicately pink, refreshing, sparkly drink and could have drunk several bottles more, but didn’t like to be greedy! It certainly went wonderfully well with Ronda’s roast pork and crisp crackling.
We had to pack a lot into our three days at “The Prom” so didn’t spend as much time as we’d have liked on the property itself (1270 acres/514 ha), though I did have some fun walking around the orchard and vegetable beds, as well as climbing the hill to visit the temperate rainforest which is a place of great enticement for a birdwatcher. As is the large reed-fringed dam beside the house. We spent the first afternoon visiting Waratah Bay and Sandy Point on the western side of the promontory, both gorgeous beach areas even on a cold day (see pics). We also went into the pleasant little town of Foster where you can get food and drink and basic groceries (the pub has an excellent bistro). It was good after this active afternoon to get back to Rhonda’s hospitality and the comfort of our guest lounge. On closer acquaintance we realised just how very well-equipped this was, down to the smallest detail such as tea, coffee and sugar in matching caddies, bowl of fruit and another of chocolates on the dining table in the guest lounge, home-made biscuits in the tin, lots of fresh milk in the ‘frig. The guest lounges have kitchenettes immaculately equipped for limited self catering and Rhonda will provide lunch and/or dinner for those who would like full board. Breakfast, of course, is included in the room price and it’s up to you whether you want the full cooked bacon and eggs and trimmings or just fruit and cereal and toast.
Despite the chill that evening we went on to the upstairs deck to watch the moon rise over the sea while sipping Rhonda’s rhubarb champagne. It seemed an appropriate way to end our first day. Next morning we were up early to enjoy a breakfast of eggs from Rhonda’s chooks before heading out to the national park. I’ve described this in detail elsewhere so it’s enough to say here that we had a great day exploring this very large wilderness area and were exhausted by dusk, when we returned to the warmth of Rhonda’s hospitality – and her roast pork. And more of the rhubarb champagne! The sight of four wombats feeding by the side of the road (not all together for they are solitary critters) was an added bonus because we don’t get these lovely animals in our part of Queensland.
Next morning, before leaving, we did a tour of Rhonda’s edible garden. Though it was winter and the garden not of course at its best, the size of it and the variety of fruit and vegetables grown in it is impressive. The climate of South Gippsland, or at least this part of it, is mild enough, yet cold enough, to grow an amazingly wide range of things; Vietnamese mint flourishes here, and citrus, but so do gooseberries (real English ones as well as the so-called “cape gooseberries”), raspberries, blueberries, greengage and other plums, nectarines, peaches, apples and pears. Some of the latter have been espaliered along trellises by Rhonda’s skilful hand. Vegetables include Jerusalem artichoke and its relative the Yacon, a root cropping plant from montane South America which looks like some kind or radish and has the same crunchy texture, but is juicier and sweeter with a faintly earth taste – it is in fact a member of the daisy (Asteraceae) family and kissing cousin to the sunflower. Bob and I had never tasted this root before and thought it very similar in texture and flavour to the water chestnut.
Rhonda loves her garden. It’s open and sunny and when she’s working in it she can look up and see the sea. The soil is good; improved by mulch regular composting and mulching – and a dairy farm provides plenty of rich manure! Guests love the garden too, especially those who are gardeners themselves and can appreciate how much love and hard work have gone into this one. And there’s a definite charm in strolling around tasting things and knowing that the produce you’re admiring in the ground is likely to be on the table that night.
All too soon we were on the road again because this is a good place from which to visit the small townships around Corner Inlet westward along the South Gippsland Highway, and so we still had some exploring to do. We left reluctantly though, having fallen in love with Wilson’s Promontory, with the rolling green hills of South Gippsland, and with A Fare With Nature and Prom Road Farm. It’s a long way from Queensland – but we’ll be back down there as soon as we can! If you want to check this lovely place out for yourself, here’s the link to Rhonda’s very friendly website:
You’ll find we are not the only guests to give A Fare With Nature a rave review.
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