Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Enjoying the sounds of silence

A Strathbogie retreat is a city visitor's dream

CATHY WALKER January 14, 2014 4:20am

Halcyon Hideaway is popular as an artists’ retreat; the artists have no shortage of scenery to paint.

When the native birds briefly stop chattering, the visitor to Halcyon Hideaway is immediately struck by the noise. There isn’t a sound.

It’s that solitude that has attracted guests to this eco-friendly retreat, where solar replaces grid electricity, water is from a spring-fed dam, the windows are placed to catch the breeze and the view of the Strathbogies goes on forever.

The property is the brainchild of 24-year-old Amy Dainton, who first thought of a country retreat when her city friends came to visit the family cattle property Seven’s Creek Wagyu and enjoyed chores such as feeding chooks and livestock, picking fresh vegies and stocking the firebox.

‘‘They were things I took for granted but people loved it,’’ said Ms Dainton, who, with her vision on its way to completed now describes herself as ‘‘a glorified house cleaner’’.

Halcyon is set in a valley on a 25ha corner of the cattle stud and, with the exception of a few beefies grazing, there’s not a neighbour in sight.

Her father Boyd helped Ms Dainton design and build the timber guesthouse that is a prototype of sustainable living and includes timber milled on the property.

It boasts wide decks upstairs and down to capture the view, and Ms Dainton has a few hand-reared sheep and weaner cattle for visitors to pet, plus a henhouse and a vegetable garden that’s a work in progress.

‘‘My goal is to have enough vegetables that people can pick their own dinners,’’ she said.

She’s been amazed by how fearless the city kids can be, picking up chooks and carrying them around, even taking them inside.

‘‘It’s like they have an instant rapport.’’

With her background as a journalist, Ms Dainton has put her skills to work marketing the property, including online and by contacting schools and other groups in Melbourne such as Writers Victoria where she had to give a speech. ‘‘I was trembling in my boots,’’ she said.

As it’s evolved, there are often groups of ‘retreat’ people at Halcyon during the week, and families on the weekend, in the four-bedroom house that sleeps up to nine.

But Ms Dainton said her love of animals may dictate further expansion. Foundations have been laid for a wildlife sanctuary, while a new horse makes two.

‘‘The real motivation was I always wanted to have a zoo,’’ Ms Dainton said with a smile.

Not sure if she was joking.

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