660 Majors Creek Road, Jembaicumbene
**Please note entry to Millpond farm is to an area of the property not including the garden.
From the wisteria-wrapped veranda of the farmhouse, the sun glints off the pond like a mirror and the four-storey mill stands to attention in the background.
Ancient pines and specimen trees throw long shadows across the garden and the nearby 1840s timber barn and stables give the impression the carpenter just recently downed his tools.
It’s easy to assume this 200-acre Jembaicumbene property has been immaculately preserved since young entrepreneur Charles Dransfield first made his fortune growing wheat and selling gold leases here in the 1850s. But eight years of hard graft have gone into researching and faithfully restoring every detail – from the Gothic revival bargeboards on the farmhouse to the mill’s sash windows, which were handmade by Amish craftsmen in Pennsylvania to match the only remaining original.
Owners Antony Davies and Antony Gow laugh when recalling the original state of the house when they first moved in. ”It was so cold in winter that if you left water in the sink overnight, it would be frozen by the morning.” Not to mention the possums who called the roof home. ”We kept catching and relocating them, painting their tails to make sure none were returning, and couldn’t believe it when we got to 26!”
Having been exposed to the elements for more than a century, restoring the 1859 flour mill has been a “labour of love” that has seen the new windows fitted, the roof restored, floors straightened, the removal of shearing sheds and the addition of a new date stone commemorating the mill’s opening. Future plans for the building include a cafe and five luxury farmstay apartments on the upper floors, which will also be available as artist-in-residence spaces. Currently the Mill houses the Wheatfield Gallery and the farm runs a series of seasonal traditional crafts courses. (see www.millpond.com.au).
The couple are working with friends Kate and Peter Marshall to rehabilitate a 25-acre wetland on the property and planting has begun to create a sprawling arboretum of 25,000 trees. A bird-watching trail with views to the Tallaganda and Budawang ranges is under construction, allowing visitors to discreetly view migratory birds, waterfowl, platypus and wallabies.
Both Antony and Andrew are committed animal lovers and their menagerie plays a large part of Millpond Farm’s charm. Their flock of fine wool alpacas graze contentedly in the front paddock and several new lambs arrived just before spring. There are also carriage horses, goats, an elderly lama and two dogs – including an ancient wolfhound – who enjoy nothing more than a trip into Braidwood in one of Antony’s vintage cars.
While they admit the garden remains a work in progress, Antony and Andrew have researched the layout and have begun selectively clearing a sweep of land near the house, where a giant sequoia planted in 1853 still stands. There is a newly constructed courtyard with granite stone walls and four large raised beds surrounding a circular water feature and there are plans for colourful flower beds in the Mill forecourt.
On the weekend of the Open Gardens, visitors will be able to wander a section of the property and for a gold coin donation, view an art exhibition on the lower floor of the Mill and inspect the stables and wagon barn, where Antony – an antiques dealer and valuer – houses his collection of horse-drawn vehicles and vintage cars, including a 1925 MG, 1927 Sunbeam and 1913 Republic truck.
On Saturday, members of Braidwood’s two vintage car clubs will have some of their early vehicles on display. On both days (11am and 2pm on Saturday and 11am on Sunday), Landcare is hosting talks in the Mill by industry experts on the Scarlet Robin Project, a 10-year program aimed at recognition and protection of eight woodland birds’ habitat in the south-east of NSW (one of the target sites being near Braidwood).