About Us

Interview with SEQ Catchments blog

I loved it from day one.
I was at a point where I was looking to get away somewhere that was quiet, well away and off track.
That was about 18 years ago.
I saw the advert one day for the property at Mt Barney and thought “that sounds pretty good”. I knew it was time to move on from my life in IT, but I thought, what am I going to do?
I had a look at the place, and it was overgrown and with an old shed, but I knew I wanted to put in an offer. It seemed like the perfect fit.
It’s surrounded by National Park and is home to the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforest.
It’s a pretty special place and the idea came about to build a small eco-tourism venture here.
What attracted you to the property?
In some sense the land chose me and I didn’t choose it.
My dad was English, he was a school teacher and came out before the war.
I was nine when we moved back to the UK and I stayed there until I was 18 in the Lake District, a mountainous region in the north of England.
I always loved the mountains and I was happy to get back to them.
So how did the eco-tourism venture idea come about?
I thought I’d build up some cabins and that’s how it started. That was about 18 years ago, and it’s been a fantastic journey.
I had some basic plans. I imported three safari tents from South Africa and put them up with platforms. And of course, then the first big blow that came through blew them over so that set me back. So, I thought, I better get something more structured.
So – I got a master builder, Sam Sommerland that had built a lot up in the North West Cape and was used to building in high wind areas. He built these fantastic cabins. We milled all the timber from the block.
And then it was built green of course – and the rest of the stuff I got from recycled places around Brisbane.
So, what kind of plants and animals can you find here?
No one has ever lived up here so it’s in relatively pristine condition.
A good friend of mine did a flora and fauna study some time ago.
It’s home to the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforest on the top of the ridges which is quite spectacular, as well as Eucalypt Forest.
And then you have all the kinds of animals you would expect to see. Wallaby’s, Potoroos, little Bush Rats, Gliders, the odd Echidna and of course you have all sorts of snakes as well.
Lantana (a shrubby weed) is there all the time. I had funding in the early days to remove it. But with focusing on doing the building work for the cabins it has come back. You really have to keep on top of it. Moth vine is a major problem as well.
What are the most special moments for you?
For me it is such a spiritual place and you just connect to the great outdoors here.
One of the things has been getting to meet all the different types of people that come up here. They are all looking for the same thing, at getting away because we all lead busy lives, doing walks or just chilling out.
It’s not a great deal what we are bringing in at the moment, but I look back at what I’ve got from it in terms of other things; sitting around the camp fire, looking at the stars, seeing the weather change, meeting all different types of people - it’s pretty special.
I wish I’d started this about 20 years ago because I still have so many ideas.
We also saw a moonbow one-time years ago, the equivalent of a rainbow but it is created by the moon. The rain was drifting up the valley and a friend of mine said “look at that” and you could see this pale, silvery bow of a moonbow.
The kids love it too. We had school holidays recently and brought the kids and their friends. At 10pm they were still outside playing hide and seek with torches and they just ran. The kids reconnecting to bush is just fantastic. They can’t play computer games and they’ve got to get back to some basic stuff.
It is not a big retreat. I can get about 25 people in the cabins. I don’t want to jam people in there, so there is opportunity for some solitude. And it’s perfect for groups as you can have the whole place to yourself.
Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee are one of your new neighbours – can you tell us a bit about that?
Up until recently, the next door neighbour ran cattle on the neighbouring property but recently it was purchased by Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee (B4C), one of Brisbane’s very active catchment groups.
When B4C came on board that was like my prayers were answered; they’ve got the numbers, the skill and the experience. They’ve helped me so much and provided me with that knowledge of how to look at the landscape and remove the weeds and things like that.
As Mick from B4C once said to me, “you’re our perfect neighbour.” And that feeling is very much reciprocated.
What kind of people have come to stay with you?
All different types of people have visited here. I’ve had professional photographers such as Ben Cooper and Stuart Jones that collect some outstanding imagery and I’ve also had some ecologists visit, as well as school groups.
A friend of mine runs an ecology business and brought these students out from America and we invited Aboriginal Elders and there were about 20 kids from America – that was pretty special.
It just goes on and on.
What kind of legacy would you like to leave behind?
I was one of the first people to get the Nature Refuge status (land protected for conservation). I wanted to make sure that I’ve done my little bit, and 80% of is now nature refuge.
So it means that when I pop off no one can come in and build a condominium or take out timber or anything like that.
How do people hear about it?
In some sense I am a one-man band, I develop my own marketing, my own website and my mail outs.
When I first started, I thought I’d try the traditional way of marketing, handing out flyers, but now the main way I get the word out there is through word of mouth.
A good indication is always return business. I had someone come up by himself in a Toyota. Then he came back with his wife. Then he came back with his family. Then he came back for his wife’s 50th birthday. And they came back 2 weekends ago for a Christmas in July.
Have you had any help along the way?
One thing is for sure. I couldn’t have done it without help from my friends and family. Being a Townie, this is my first experience of country life. I didn’t even have a screw driver when I started.
I’ve had a friend help build this magnificent rock oven for example and I’ve had other friends who are good with timber.
I try to get up there every weekend. I have an agreement with my wife (Mally) that I don’t take work up there with me so that we can chill out together. We’ve been married over 49 years, so we are fairly comfortable in each other’s company.
I couldn’t have done it without her. She handles the finance and paying the bills etc - that would have driven me mad.
If there was one take away message for people what would it be?
It translates in some sense to doing nothing. All of us lead very busy lives and it is getting busier and everything in a large city is busy and commitments.
To get away from here you can do nothing if you want to. You can boil a billy, go for a walk – all the same things that have attracted people for many many years at camping grounds, but I think mine is a little bit different.
Every day is different here and you don’t know what is going to happen - it can be covered in cloud one moment and then beautiful sunshine the next.
If you are looking to get away from it all and connect with nature, you are very welcome to come along and check it out.
There are a wide variety of beautiful spots just like Ben's to check out all across South East Queensland - time to get out and explore!
Visit Ben's or other accommodation that takes advantage of world heritage and wilderness experiences

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