When Jim and Sue Spencer moved from the comfortable surrounds of suburban Valentine in Lake Macquarie to a 450-acre working farm in Coneac Valley two years ago, they called it their "semi retirement" plan.
But for them, work is fun.
The Spencers have built and breathed life into businesses before, including an independent retail baby clothing and furniture story, a real estate business and a motel on Norfolk Island.
Jim scouted the Barrington area for almost a year before finding a property that met his criteria. The property is well-fenced, with paddocks for grazing beef cattle and horses, and includes a modern one-storey home. It's about 20 minutes from Gloucester by paved road, just off Thunderbolts Way on Curricabark Road on the floor of Coneac Valley. The scenery is beautiful, with rock outcrops and tall timber on the ridgetops, and rolling pasturelands on the valley floor.
One of the main attractions for the Spencers was the property's extensive frontage along the Manning River. Of course, it's not as wide as it is at the mouth of river near Taree, but it's certainly stunning, dropping over a metre as it passes by the property.
Although Jim suffered a health setback only six months after the couple had settled in, it did not detour them from their plan to build three luxury glamping accommodation units along the river.
After a year of drought, the Barringtons were hit by floods early in 2021. The flooding created a minor setback for the Spencers, damaging some of the landscaping they had done along their riverfront on their property.
Finally, after methodically sourcing materials and skilled labor, and doing considerable work themselves, and meeting all legal requirements, the three glamping units are now ready.
Christened as Amaroo Escape, it is now taking bookings.
"We are catering for adults-only luxury glamping. There's nothing like it around," Jim says.
"It is unique in the Barrington Gloucester region."
The units (it just doesn't feel right to call them tents, even though that is what they are, technically-speaking) are mere metres from the Manning River.
Inside, the five-metre by five-metre interior of each one includes a plush Balmoral king bed and super-soft sofa, reverse-cycle airconditioning, separate shower and clawfoot bath with beauty products, kitchenette with supplies including refrigerator, microwave oven, and a Nespresso coffee machine.
The three-metre by five-metre verandah includes a Weber barbecue.
There is a communal firepit with supplied firewood, of course. Mind you, communal might be a stretch: there will never be more than a total of six guests staying on the property (with only two to each unit).
But on the other hand, a girls' weekend away for six would be perfect.
Robes and slippers, check.
Champagne on arrival, check.
Continental breakfast, check.
Block out blinds, check.
The Spencers greet guests on arrival, but then respect their privacy.
The property includes extensive bush trails and abundant wildlife like kangaroos, ducks, bearded dragons, platypus and even the occasional koala.
A bit of exploration on the property will likely include finding one of the best bush swimming holes around.
And take note: there is no television, and limited mobile phone reception.
"It's completely made for rest and relaxation," Sue says. "We are encouraging people to disconnect from devices and take a digital detox."
That's right: Hollywood is out, stargazing is in.
With a minimum two-night stay, guests may well find themselves taking the 20-minute trip into Gloucester for a beer, coffee or bite to eat. It's a funky country mountain town with more to offer than you might think.
"We had the dream of creating something unique," Jim says. And despite the challenges of drought, rain and health, the Spencers are on track to make it happen. amarooescape.com.au
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