POSTCARDS

Duffys Forest Garden Sanctuary


Welcome to Blencathra.

(Photo Credit: Photographs courtesy of Burkes Backyard magazine)

Born from a storm which left the entire region desolate, it's hard to imagine the transformation experienced by this idyllic property, comprising nearly six acres of usable land. Winding down the driveway, the landscape is reminiscent of the Southern Highlands - a Bowral estate, perhaps. However this serene pocket is just 30 minutes from Sydney's CBD and only 15 minutes to the beach. Welcome to Blencathra.
Robinia and wisteria covered walkways meander through expanses of lawn, creating private lunch spots, an area to play petanque and plenty of pockets to practice chipping golf balls. Spring is in the air as the magnificent garden is in full bloom and three svelte dogs - two whippets and an Italian greyhound pup - bound around joyously.

Andy and Pam bought the barren land in Duffys Forest in 1991, after a severe storm cut a swathe through the bush from Hornsby to Barrenjoey. They originally sought acreage to enable Pam to keep horses, while being within commutable distance to the city and North Sydney for work. Beyond that, the garden was always their main focus.

 

"We didn't like the idea of building the house and then not having enough money to do the garden so we specifically designed the garden first," says Andy.

Their friend, Anne Burns, who had just finished a horticultural course, originally sketched out the main design and oversaw the planting and irrigation of the garden including a beautiful crab apple tree. This was later refined by Michael Cooke, a professional landscape designer.

"Michael is a genius when it comes to plants. He also uses a lot of unusual plants like the laurel hedge out the front, which is really gorgeous but usually is only used in the Southern Highlands. A few people said it wouldn't grow but it has done incredibly well,” Pam says.

Michael also helped to ensure the garden was low maintenance, relative to its grand scale and size. "We pay a garden maintenance company about a man day a week to maintain the garden, and we cut the lawns ourselves," Andy says.

 

The property comprises the main house, wrapped in verandahs, flowing to the spacious garden. There's also a garage, granny flat and a large swimming pool and spa. The surrounding gardens have created an exquisite sanctuary for Andy and Pam, as well as birds and native wildlife.

While Andy spent a lot of his youth climbing the mountain Blencathra in the Lake District of England, the word is also Celtic for Saddleback, befitting Pam's passion for horses. The equestrian features of the property includes a timber stable block, a shed for the horse truck, nine horse paddocks with shelters in each, a large sand dressage arena and a jumping paddock. Pam competes in eventing, showjumping and dressage, and rides her horses on the property six days a week. If nothing else, this demonstrates the freedom Andy and Pam feel within their own property, which has far exceeded their primary expectations as a place for horses.

"We are a decent nine iron away from the nearest neighbours, so there's a great feeling of space and privacy. We get sun all day and wonderful air, as we effectively live in the national park. All that and only 30km from our front gate to the middle of the Harbour Bridge," Andy says.

Now both retired from full time work, Andy and Pam relish their time enjoying the finer things in life. As well as walking the dogs through the stunning gardens twice a day, Andy plays golf around the corner at Terrey Hills Golf and Country Club and down the road at Elanora Country Club.

"There's something about being on the land that keeps you young and it's a privilege to care for such a gorgeous property," Pam says.