I'm a redheaded mama with four lovely daughters. We're based in southern Australia and travel in a small, colourful housebus — meeting inspiring people, learning lots and re-thinking everything. I feel passionately about spirituality, good design, alternative education, discussing death and conscious parenting.
Our next stop after visiting the Zig Zag Railway was just over the tracks. We opened two gates (simultaneously so we could drive through without straddling the railway lines) and took the steep driveway through a pine forest to Clarence House.
The old homestead on several acres has been in my extended family since 1956. My grandparents raised their family here after moving from Portland and then my mother’s cousin Ian de Beuzeville bought the property in 1985.
David and Babette Byles (my grandparents) bought Clarence House in the 1950s.
Clarence House is a grand old dame.
From the side approach, Clarence House hasn't changed much over the intervening years.
Ian and Erica still own Clarence House. They restored the homestead and ran it as a bed and breakfast until 2001. Now retired, they maintain an active lifestyle based around their hobbies and grandchildren.
It's been lovely to get to know our fabulous hosts, Erica and Ian de Beuzeville.
In returning to Clarence House, I wanted to relive some of the memories I had of visiting my grandparents in this house and spending happy mornings watching Sesame Street while we stayed in the other house on the property — The Oaks. Of course, I knew some things would be changed, but I hoped enough would be familiar so I could point out memories to David.
Although we were unexpected, Ian and Erica welcomed us warmly.
Erica showed the girls the playroom — full of toys that her daughters used and that are now played with by her grandchildren — and the play started.
Erica brought out the playdough for our girls to play with. She often looks after her grandchildren, so she keeps home-made playdough ready in the fridge.
The girls were lured away from the exciting playroom only by the toys also available outside.
Calista felt comfortable enough to fall asleep on a loveseat in the kitchen.
We've been invited to stay in one of the beautifully decorated bedrooms.
There are enough spare beds for all our girls too!
It was lots of fun looking around the property. I’ve taken many photos to show my mother and other relatives when I next see them, and so am only sharing a small portion here.
Down in a back room of the house, graffiti remains on the wall — written by my mother when she was a schoolgirl putting on plays with friends.
Other unrenovated rooms reveal relics of a bygone era. Apparently these posters dated from my grandfather's time.
Out the back, we discover an old weathervane in need of restoration that bears the date "1879".
The back verandah has been closed in since I was last at the house.
Kangaroos graze on the back lawn. Ian says they make the perfect pets — they keep the grass short and don't require any other care.
There are several mother kangaroos that are carrying joeys in their pouches.
Each afternoon, Ian feeds the lingering kangaroos a small amount of specially-formulated pellets.
Although they were willing to come up close to us to get the pellets, these roos are definitely still wild and flighty.
The Oaks is the other house on the property — situated across the bottom paddock.
Now in disrepair, The Oaks once served as the guest cottage for the property.
Inside The Oaks, few of the original fittings remain.
The side verandah fell down in a big storm earlier this year.
The timber house was built over a hundred years ago, so it's done well to last this long.
An old water pump rusts by the laneway.
A large male kangaroo keeps watch from beside a magnificent pine tree planted by my grandfather.
It's the season for waratahs to bloom. The waratah is the New South Wales state flower, but I haven't taken note of a waratah bush before.
Ian likes to collect many things, and this small collection of skulls decorates one of the out-buildings.
In his shed, Ian continually works on his Model A Ford utility. He drives it whenever he can — even using it to take trips to the rubbish tip — and so it continues its life as a working vehicle.
Ian's shed is a den of treasures. He has many interesting signs that he's found along the way or has been given.
This mummified cat was found under the floorboards of The Oaks. It probably died after eating poisoned rats.
Ian and Erica use coal to run their boiler which heats water in the house and through radiators, providing a nice internal temperature even on chilly nights. We're amazed to find ourselves coming across multiple stories of everyday, relevant coal use so soon after sighting the coal mines out the back of Mudgee.
Beautiful king parrots feed outside Ian's shed.
Clarence House is in a beautiful part of the Blue Mountains. It’s chilly here — the altitude keeps the temperatures low — and the smell of the pine trees is distinctive and reminiscent of my childhood. We love seeing Australian native animals so close to the house, and every now and again we hear the whistle of the Zig Zag Railway to remind us of our fabulous ride yesterday.
When David accompanied Ian and Erica to church in the morning, many people commented on how he must be related because of his similar looks to Ian's! (I think it's just the beard.)
It was lovely to become reacquainted with my second cousin Simone and meet her husband Anthony. Shown here with their fourth child Taskott, Simone is also pregnant with their fifth baby.
Erica says it is a real treat for her to have someone else prepare a meal in her kitchen!
We’re thankful to be here. Part of our electric system needs replacing, and we hope to buy parts in Lithgow once the weekend is over. Erica and Ian have welcomed us warmly, and the girls are so happy to be fully immersed in fantasy play in the well-stocked toy room!