A true testament to its name, the accommodation buildings are set inside the earth with native plants covering the roof to the extent that an aerial picture will show only the roadway. The north apartment meets with a steep drop into natural bushland and the south apartment meets with another steep drop to open pasture and protected bushland spaces.
Native birds and animals seem oblivious to our presence within their environment. Guests may explore the entire property and, with a suitable light, take a night walk. We live as sustainably as possible and have developed large vegetable garden and orchard areas.
Graham and Debbie Blackley are the owners of Down to Earth Farm Retreat, which covers 53 undulating hectares and is south facing with three paddocks and fenced off natural vegetation and bush areas. Vegetation is varied and includes native grasslands, a peat wetland and the steep areas of the property are covered mainly by box-ironbark forest comprising of white (Eucalyptus microcarpa) and red (E. polyanthemos) box gums, red ironbarks (E. tricarpa), red stringybarks (E. macrorhyncha) and wattles (Acacia spp.).
Wildlife known to inhabit the sanctuary includes eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus), swamp wallabies (Wallabia bicolor), bare-nosed wombats (Vombatus ursinus), short-beaked echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus), brushtail (Trichosurus vulpecula) and ringtail (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) possums and sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps).
The property also supports an abundance of bird life including crimson rosellas (Platycercus elegans), Australian king parrots (Alisterus scapularis), galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla), sulphur-crested cockatoos (Cacatua galerita), rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus moluccanus), black-cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus spp.), pied currawongs (Strepera graculina), wattlebirds (Anthochaera spp.), eastern spinebills (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) and wedge-tailed (Aquila audax) and white-bellied sea (Haliaeetus leucogaster) eagles.
This sanctuary is featured in Wildlife Lands 19!
Our south-facing property sits at the base of the foothills of the Great Dividing Range just ten minutes from Bairnsdale in eastern Victoria. Our 53 hectares fall steeply away to a gully where water runoff enters the nearby Nicholson River 10 km from the Gippsland Lakes. The entry to the property follows an elevated timbered ridge-line that features ironbark, red box and stringybark trees. The steep ridge terminates soon after entering the property and it at this vantage point that we have constructed earth-sheltered buildings.
We live as sustainably as possible with little need for heating and none for cooling. The buildings are fire-proof, invisible from above and nestle seamlessly into the surrounding environment. The roof is a vast native garden that provides food and shelter for birds, lizards and echidnas. We continue to revegetate areas of the property that had been cleared in the past and do so in a way that maintains links with other natural bushland.
The Burrow studio apartment opens to native bush that drops steeply. The black wattle understory provides food for sugar gliders and the ground cover of bracken and sedge grasses gives cover to wombats and wallabies. Birdlife is abundant. The Lakeview apartment features breathtaking views over the Nicholson River valley to the Gippsland Lakes. There is a steep drop across pasture to another sanctuary area below, where we grow organic food in our large vegetable gardens and orchards – fitting with our ethos of sustainable living and care for the land.
Beyond the gardens is a dense wetland. Here there is a forest of giant sedge often called ‘cutty grass’ which provides great wildlife habitat. These grasses grow to almost four metres and are impenetrable, protecting birds and animals from predators. We are fortunate as custodians of this very special property with its disparate environs and have only recently begun to share the experience of living here with guests. Learn more and book your stay at: www.downtoearthfarmretreat.com.au