Black Springs Bakery, Beechworth review: The French connection

Read our writer's views on this property below

Heavenly smells and a charming cottage herald your arrival in Provence-like countryside, writes Sandy Guy.

Occasionally you chance upon a place that is so special you find it difficult to pack your bags and drag yourself away. That's how I felt after two tranquil days at Black Springs Bakery, made up of three historic stone buildings near Beechworth.

Set amid 3.4 hectares of fragrant gardens, orchards and pastures, the old bakery is home to a cottage of such Provence-like charm that you imagine you've landed in the French countryside, without having to take a long plane journey.

Built from 1877, the bakery's mellow granite buildings and park-like gardens give it a relaxing ambience.

Once the centre of a small gold rush town established in the 1850s that consisted of several hotels, a blacksmith's shop and a state school, Black Springs Bakery, which closed in 1942, is the last remaining fabric of the community.

Accommodation is in a cosy refurbished stone barn listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. Ideal for a couples-only getaway, the two-storey cottage has been decorated with elegant yet unpretentious furnishings by owners Anthony Flahive and Fran Coburn, a former accountant and an administration manager respectively, who opted for a tree-change from Melbourne almost five years ago.

Painted in muted hues of honey, the living area is unfussy yet relaxing and features comfortable Belgian linen lounges, French lamps, a little cast-iron stove that radiates a surprising amount of heat and a television tucked away in the corner for the unlikely event you want to find out what's happening outside Black Springs.

Steep stairs lead to a spacious loft-style bedroom that overlooks a parade of green-blue hills and mountains to Mount Buffalo. The comfortable queen-size bed is dressed with heavy cotton linen and a goose-down doona and the contemporary bathroom stocked with lavish French body products and soaps.

The compact kitchen has stone benchtops and a modern stove where you can cook a long, lazy breakfast whenever you feel like it, from the breakfast hamper included in the tariff. In the fridge are free-range eggs, smoked salmon, baby tomatoes, Jalna yoghurt and homemade jam. In fitting with the old bakery, a loaf of crusty, fresh-baked Milawa bread is delivered in the morning.

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Morning also brings the chirrups of birds flitting through the towering gum trees dotted across the property. Sipping fresh-brewed coffee from big French-style cups on the plant-filled patio, which is draped with mauve wisteria, we watch a flock of guinea fowl careering across the garden.

A big attraction of Black Springs is the delight of having exclusive use of the property's extensive gardens. After breakfast we wander across the grounds which have sweet-scented freesias, lavender, bluebells, cyclamens, flowering clematis, climbing roses, purple irises, white daisies and an old Virginia creeper planted when the bakery was first built.

A network of tumbled dry-stone walls separates areas of the garden that include a small maze, a wide lawn and an orchard of quince trees. From the orchard we stroll across a rock-strewn hill past thin pencil pines to a lovely olive grove.

Although the original stone bakehouse fronting the Beechworth-Wangaratta Road stands empty, Anthony and Fran, who live on-site in renovated stables with their young son, William, say they are reluctant to open further accommodation at Black Springs, so guests can continue to enjoy private use of the property.

Black Springs is five kilometres from Beechworth, where we explore some of the town's growing array of stylish shops Divine Linen, designer garments at The Ardent Alpaca, contemporary fashions at Rebus and Kathryn Hammerton, Beechworth Boudoir, Salisbury & Maude homewares, Tremonti Fine Gems and Jewellery, and Frances Pilley, run by Anthony and Fran, that sells luxury French toiletries, ceramics, linens and enamelware.

Although Beechworth is home to a number of fine dining options including The Bank Restaurant, Gigi's, Bouchon at Botanicals and Wardens Food & Wine we decide to dine in one night.

In Beechworth we buy chicken fillets filled with spinach and ricotta from the local butcher, fresh vegetables, a wedge of flavoursome Milawa cheese, delicious chicken cabana from Bright's Country Smokehouse, a few bottles of Ben Krause's excellent Beechworth Beer and a bottle of very good Wood Park chardonnay, produced in nearby Markwood and cook ourselves a feast.

While we feel like we've landed in the French countryside at Black Springs, after an evening drizzle of rain the heady scent of eucalyptus from the gnarled blue gums around the cottage is uniquely Australian.

Sandy Guy was a guest of North East Victoria Tourism Inc.

FAST FACTS

Getting there

Black Springs Bakery is at 464 Beechworth-Wangaratta Road, Beechworth, 260 kilometres or a three-hour drive north-east of Melbourne.

Staying there

Black Springs has a minimum two-night stay. Rates are $220 a couple a night Monday to Thursday (excluding public holidays) and $265 Friday to Sunday and public holidays and include breakfast provisions for the first morning of your stay. Phone 5728 2565, see blackspringsbakery.com.