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A beautiful open garden for a worthy cause

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From 24-25 October, Old Graham homestead and its abundant estate will open its doors to visitors to raise money for Graham Bushfire Brigade and Hovells Creek Landcare Group.

This historic homestead is the perfect COVID-safe outing for families and green thumbs alike—and provides the perfect chance for a picnic in the countryside.

But first, some history.

A decision to take “the scenic route” during a drive in the Hilltops region in 1991 saw John and Liz Baker stumble upon something that would spark a new chapter of their lives—and provide a challenge that would consume the better part of two decades.

Somewhere between Cowra and Boorowa, the Bakers found an old homestead—Old Graham—a derelict, stone house with holes in the roof, broken windows and sheep grazing around it.

“John and I had been away in Dubbo for a few days,” says Liz. “We took a back-road home, and just came across a house, that looked really interesting. It was all falling down, so, we stopped to have a look at it and that’s where it all started.”

But ‘having a look’ didn’t exactly go to plan.

“The owner was actually there, and she saw us down near the house and thought we were trying to steal something,” laughs Liz. “We had a good chat with her, and she asked if we wanted to look inside, so we did.”

Continuing the drive back to Canberra, John and Liz talked of how they’d always wanted to take on a project like that.

The next day John realised they had no way to contact the owner of the house, so he drove all the way back to Old Graham, asking along the road until he found somebody who could give him a phone number. John rang her that night.

The owner said she might be interested in selling it but that she was shearing and to call her in six weeks. “Eventually we were able to buy it on its original block.”

Originally from the UK, John and Liz embarked on what would become a great adventure of restoration and collecting in order to bring Old Graham back to life, but as Liz puts it, “it was only the beginning!”

27 years later and Liz and John have filled Old Graham with items that would have been found on the property of the time, mostly found in antique shops—but one of the most exquisite facets of Old Graham is surely the garden.

While the homestead itself is a charming step back in time, it’s the surrounding one acre garden that elicits gasps from visitors.

The garden of Old Graham.

Liz’s green thumb and encyclopaedic knowledge of plants saw her transform an open sheep paddock into a lush garden with stone walls, paths, a sunken garden, a pergola as a framework for her planting of roses, irises, a pond and bog garden and a range of native shrubs.

Trees she planted 27 years ago are now maturing and include White Cedars, Elms, a Tulip Tree, a Bunya Pine and a Bull Bay Magnolia.

Then there’s the ‘sculpture park’—the surrounding hills and valleys of Old Graham dotted with around 75 strategically placed sculptures—the vast majority from Canberra or regional NSW, with 20 created by students from the ANU School of Arts.

“We had been keen art collectors for many years and reached the stage where our walls at home were full of paintings, so we drifted into buying some sculptures which we started to take out to Old Graham,” says John.

“There we started to position them around the house garden and in the house paddock. Things slowly got out of control as we bought more and more sculptures.”

Old Graham’s standing stones.

It’s this garden and these sculptures that you can tour when Old Graham opens its doors from 24-25 October to raise money for Graham Bushfire Brigade and Hovells Creek Landcare Group.

With entry just $7 per person, you’ll know that your money is going to a great cause and a tour of the gardens will make a wonderful COVID-safe day out for the family, art lovers and green thumbs alike.

While homemade jams will be available to purchase at the homestead, there won’t be any refreshments or other food available to purchase, so visitors are encouraged to pack a picnic.

A map of the sculptures at Old Graham.

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • There is no mobile phone coverage at Old Graham and the nearest petrol/diesel, ATM and shops are in Cowra and Boorowa
  • Good toilet facilities available
  • The phone number at Old Graham is 02 6345 2412
  • Detail of the sculpture walks are available on the day
  • Dogs are welcome, however, they must be on a lead and owners must bring pickup bags
  • Click here for detailed directions

THE ESSENTIALS 

What: Open Garden at ‘Old Graham’
When: 24-25 October from 10 am – 4.30 pm
Where: Old Graham, 3021 Frogmore Road, Hovells Creek, NSW (around a two-hour drive from Canberra, via Boorowa)
More information: Click here for directions and more information.
See also: myopengarden.com.au

 

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