Modern country idyll

On their rural property near Gresford, Hunter couple Grahame and Cathryn wanted
to create a relaxing home with a welcoming vibe. Safe to say it’s got it in spades!

W hen making your way to Glenroy, a rural property near Gresford, it is advisable to pick a vehicle well suited for rugged country roads. There are potholes aplenty on the narrow road that is winding its way through rich pastoral land, lush and green from a rainy summer.

“We actually don’t mind the somewhat sorry state of the road,” Cathryn chuckles. “We love the peace and quiet, the serene calmness of this place. We have lived here for more than ten years now and I still run into locals who don’t know that our property even exists.”

Glenroy sits on what used to be Lewinsbrook, Alexander Park’s original land grant from 1826. Throughout the 19th century, the area had been dominated by landowners like Park, Charles Boydell and George Townshend, with the Paterson and Allyn Rivers and their tributaries making for rich farming and grazing land, ideally suited to raising livestock and growing wheat, maize, barley, tobacco and wine.

Yet, by the beginning of the 20th century many of the large estates were subdivided and sold off at public auction and dairy farming became the dominant use of land. Lewinsbrook was no exception.
In 1912, Thomas Hyland, whose father had probably been a long term tenant farmer of the Park family, purchased three lots of the Lewinsbrook Estate subdivision, and turned it into a Jersey dairy stud. Around this time, the property became known as Glenroy. It is assumed that the Glenroy homestead was built in the early 1920s, but no records exist of the exact date. Thomas passed away in 1948 and his sons Kenneth and Percy took over, operating two dairy farms side by side.

Following their deaths in 1971, Clem and Jenny Varley bought the property which had by then been unoccupied for several years and fallen into a sorry state of disrepair. “The Hyland family must have been quite well off,” Grahame says.

“Glenroy was really built as a farm cottage, but the craftsmanship and use of high-quality materials is impressive with Australian red cedar for the awnings, Oregon timber lining boards and they even laid tongue and groove pine flooring. While a few hundred acres were sufficient to sustain a dairy farm in the first half of the 20th century, by the 1960s bigger operations were needed to remain commercially viable. Today, a single dairy farm is still operating on what used to be the Lewinsbrook estate.

“In 1999 we purchased our first lot of 500 acres in this area and then kept adding to it,” says Grahame. “We first lived in another farmhouse and finally bought Glenroy from the Varleys when it came on the market in 2007. With the property now encompassing about 2,400 acres, we run it as a commercial farming operation with around 550 head of cattle.”

“I grew up on a cattle farm on the New South Wales North Coast and that’s where my affinity with the land comes from. My company is based in Newcastle and Thornton, and Glenroy is a manageable distance to commute so we have the best of both worlds.”

Since purchasing Glenroy, the couple have carried out renovations, one room at a time. They wanted to be respectful of its heritage and “get to know the house” before making any changes.

Read more in the Winter issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography by Murray McKean