Clonturkle Sanctuary, Yetholme: Stepping out, bush style

Read our writer's views on this property below

Antony Lawes swaps work shoes for walking boots to explore the forests of a former farm.

NATURE is a dirty word in some quarters of our house. Or, rather, it was until we spent a weekend at Clonturkle Sanctuary, just off the Great Western Highway, near Bathurst. In the past, the merest mention of the B-word (bushwalking) could bring forth groans and an explosion of ailments.

But by the end of a two-day stay on this 200-hectare property, the most ardent practitioner of all-things-indoors, our 10-year-old, said the experience of walking bush tracks with Clonturkle's owner, Andrew Bolam, was quite informative.

Bolam, a former lecturer in geography, has built four cabins on his 100-year-old farm as a peaceful retreat for city folk seeking to be closer to nature. And while a little wooden sign in the paddock between the cabins calls it a "Gaian ecohamlet", this is about as hippy as it gets.

Bolam takes guests on a walk to explain the history of the farm, the unique elements of its forest and how the trees and other plants grow the way they do.

However, he is less interested in pushing his own ideas than he is in wanting guests to explore Clonturkle for themselves and letting Mother Nature work her magic.

We get to the sanctuary after dinner on a Friday.

The property is higher in altitude than Katoomba and has had four big dumps of snow this year, the last only a few days before we arrive, so it is cold. But when we step into our cabin it is already toasty warm, courtesy of a wood heater Bolam had fired up earlier.

The cabin is comfortable and cosy, with an open-plan kitchen and living room that looks out across the paddocks to the bush, while the two bedrooms at the rear sit either side of a large, modern bathroom.

Designed in the style of a pioneer's cottage, with a wide verandah, vaulted ceilings and wood-panelled walls, it was built with the same materials and techniques that were used on the early houses in the area.

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The front wall is made from slabs of river red gum taken from an old cattle yard in Forbes, side walls are corrugated iron, the architraves and posts around the doorways are made from rough-hewn logs and what looks like a tree trunk doubles as a support beam through several of the rooms.

It's authentic, rather than a designer space tricked out in the latest furnishings, and we settle in as quickly as if we are at home.

At night we read, play games (there is no TV) and, strangest of all, talk; the second night we make a bonfire in front of the cabin and toast marshmallows.

There's plenty to do in this part of the central tablelands. We take the kids to Bathurst to the Fossil and Mineral Museum for its amazing collection of fossils and gems from across the world, including a cast of a 10-metre T-Rex skeleton, billed as the only one in the country. The old gold-rush towns of Sofala and Hill End are also just a short drive away.

But it's the bush just outside our door that is the standout. Aside from a few paddocks around the cabins, the entire property is given over to it.

Bolam has spent 11 years replanting after the property's long history of grazing and logging. But even before he began, it was one of the most undisturbed places on the Lambie high plain.

We explore 11 kilometres of tracks one afternoon, taking a route through rainforest past a clearing to the ruins of an old cottage and then back up the other side of the valley, along the way spotting a wombat, several kangaroos and black cockatoos.

It's a sublime place and we don't see another person the entire time. Coming from a city of 4.5 million people, it's good to be able to do that once in a while.

The writer was a guest of Clonturkle Sanctuary and Tourism NSW.

Trip notes

Where Clonturkle Sanctuary, 160 Eusdale Road, Yetholme, (02) 6337 5226, enquiries@clonturkle sanctuary.com.au

Getting there Take the M4 and the Great Western Highway over the mountains. Turn left on Eusdale Road, which is at a truck stop 36 kilometres past Lithgow, and follow the road until you see the entrance on the right.

How much At weekends, a cabin is $160 a night for a couple, each additional person is $25, and children two to 12 years are $15 extra. During the week, it's $120 a couple, each additional person $20, children $15.

Style statement Mountain charm meets pioneer simplicity.

Perfect for Anyone who wants to awaken to the sound of birds and loves putting on walking boots, not work boots.

Don't forget All your food and drink. There's a service station for bread and milk not too far away but for groceries it's about a 30-minute drive to Bathurst.

Shame about The windows, they could have done with a clean.

Kudos The bonfire in the paddock, a great way to end the day.

Take the kids Absolutely, there's hundreds of hectares for them to explore.