Integrating an English-Style Parkland into an Iconic Australian Bush Setting

When Annie and Chris Jones bought Glenrock, they inherited a splendid garden. They’ve devoted considerable effort to improving the legacy.

For most of her adult life, Annie Jones lived in subtropical southern Queensland and read garden books that inspired dreams of plants she couldn’t grow. All that changed in 2016, when Annie and her husband, Chris, bought Glenrock, a 200-acre (80-hectare) working farm near the historic town of Tenterfield in the New England region of northern NSW.

Called by country - Glenrock

The move to the pastoral industry was a return to roots for Chris as he grew up on a sheep and wheat property at Narrabri in the NSW north-west. For Annie, who grew up in Hobart, it was a chance to return to a temperate climate, where there are four distinct seasons, albeit with perhaps greater summer and winter extremes than in Tasmania.

A career in nursing and occupational health and safety lured Annie to Brisbane in the late ’70s, where she met Chris, who was embarking on a significant business career that ranged across accounting and financial planning for irrigation and pest- and weed-control companies. Annie moved between nursing and assisting Chris with their business ventures while they raised their daughters, Ally and Madeleine, and lived in various homes on Tamborine Mountain and the Gold Coast hinterland.

Glenrock is a block from the district’s original holding, Tenterfield Station, which was established in the early 1840s by Sir Robert Ramsay Mackenzie, who went on to become the first colonial treasurer and later premier of Queensland. It then passed into the hands of Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson, who, in 1856, became briefly the first premier of the colony of NSW. The main station homestead was also the venue for A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s marriage to local lass Alice Walker in 1903.

Glenrock home

Of course, there were many buildings and outstations on the station, which in its heyday covered more than 140,000 acres (56,658 hectares). They included the original 1892 four-roomed cottage that forms the core of the present Glenrock homestead. Constructed from bricks made from clay collected from Tenterfield Creek, which borders Glenrock, its distinctive red colour is a signature of many historic buildings in the town and surrounding farms.

However, it wasn’t the house, but the garden that entranced Annie and Chris when they first inspected the property. It had been owned for almost 25 years by landscape designer Carolyn Robinson and she was responsible for integrating an English-style parkland into an iconic Australian bush setting. She divided the 10-acre (four-hectare) garden into terraces and rooms with drystone walls and created 10 lakes from Goslings Gully, an otherwise mostly dry watercourse that runs off Tenterfield Creek.

Glenrock splendid gardens

“I was sold from the moment I stepped out of the car,” Annie recalls. “I was practically in tears, I was so excited by the garden. When the real estate agent asked if I wanted to look at the house, I thought, ‘oh,yes, I suppose we should see inside’. But Chris said he knew we were going to buy it from the look on my face, regardless of what the house looked like.”

In fact, the homestead needed a renovation to open it up and make it more accommodating of contemporary living. Annie was hands on with a chisel and mallet and used her orthopaedic nursing skills to chip back layers of cement to restore a fireplace in the kitchen/sitting area, while other fireplaces have been restored to working order to provide welcome respite from the challenges of the winter, when temperatures often drop to -7°C. Local builder Tony Hickey and Coffs Harbour interiors architect Tarina Dorz helped with the works, which involved completely rearranging the interior spaces while retaining the footprint.

Glenrock lake

The result is a light-filled open living, kitchen and dining area to one side of the entrance hallway and bedrooms and utilities on the other. A loft space upstairs looks out over the garden and provides splendid views for workouts, yoga practice, bookwork or even curling up with a good read.

“Outdoors, we’ve added a bit of bulk in some areas and thinned it out in others,” Annie explains. “With the area we have, there’s always something that needs attention. Our COVID project was to plant an orchard. As well as apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries and mulberries, we’ve planted citrus trees, up against the three 10,000-gallon water tanks for thermal mass to give them extra warmth during the winter.”

Annie and Chris Glenrock home

The Joneses have experienced the full force of nature since they moved in, with three years of drought, followed by the bushfires of the spring of 2019. “It was a miracle that we weren’t devastated,” Annie recalls. “The fire took everything up the garden boundary. All the farm fences were destroyed and even the irrigation pipes melted. If it weren’t for the fire truck and helicopters and Chris with his pump on the back of the ute, we probably would have been completely burnt. But nature is an amazing creature because we’ve recently received incredible rainfall, so everything has been able to regenerate.”

Chris and Annie may have intended the move to Glenrock to herald a change of pace from their urban lives but, in fact, the opposite has happened. Although the garden has always been opened to the public for regular weekends, they’re in the process of ramping openings up. When Australian Country visited, they were embarking on an ambitious foray into hospitality, with a spacious wooden pavilion, which will seat up to 140 guests for weddings and other functions, as well as a cafe on weekends. A restaurant is part of the long-term plan.

Glenrock Garden, gorgeous

Ally and Madeleine are frequent visitors to the property and both have roles in the business. Ally, who lives in Tenterfield and has a diploma in agriculture, is involved in the development of a nursery, which will sell plants found in the garden and species particularly suited to the local area. She also runs the B&B they recently opened in a restored cottage overlooking one of the lakes, while Madeleine, who lives closer to the coast in the Tweed region of northern NSW, looks after social media and marketing.

“It’s been pretty hectic, but we are loving living here and getting to know the region,” Annie says. “So far, the downsides have been few and far between. COVID complicated matters, and it’s been harder to spend time with my mother, who lives in Brisbane, and Chris misses sailing. But that just means we have to make the most of our visits to the city. We’ve been fortunate to have met lots of like-minded people and are delighted with how easily we’ve made the transition to the country.”

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By Kirsty McKenzie, photography Ken Brass

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