We woke to the gentle trickle of rain on the tin roof at Bellingen Farmstay, as the rising sun glowed a rosy hue beneath grey clouds.
The brief morning rain brought relief to the valley, which had been slowly drying out. Farmer Fiona had told me yesterday the animals and people alike grow restless and tetchy during long periods without rain.
So, this morning in the drizzle, it seems the birds were singing brighter, the cows grazing more contentedly, and the chickens clucking about excitedly.
We accompanied Farmer Fiona on her morning rounds, dishing out breakfast to her hungry menagerie. Upon hearing her voice, the cows meandered up to the fence and bellowed gently in protest as she took too long chatting to us while they waited. Dan the ex-racing horse nuzzled in close as we fed him carrot coins from our flattened palms.
It seems Fiona has a special way with children and animals alike. Each animal here has a story, like Miss Mary the sheep who literally fell off the back of a truck coming down the Waterfall Way, or the two fluffy ducklings she adopted only to be told by Dr Harry himself that they were indeed geese.
We visited the hen house to find we had interrupted one of the Brown Sisters mid-lay. Excusing herself politely, Fiona left her to it and apologised for the intrusion. We returned later to collect the eggs, which will make for a nutritious breakfast tomorrow.
The handsome rooster Zorro strutted about the yard as we entered the domed enclosure for a cuddle with the guinea pigs and Peter Rabbit. Master Four and Miss Two giggled excitedly as they held the small, furry bundles on their laps.
The gravitational pull of this place is strong. We stroll at a slower pace down to the river; we sit heavily in the comfortable couches overlooking the paddocks; we feel more closely connected to the earth.
Owners Brett and Fiona must have felt it too more than a decade ago when they visited the farm on holiday and decided right then and there to buy it, leaving their Sydney accountant aghast.
We will have to be content to visit often, whenever we feel the need to slow down and savour the simple things.
Bellingen town also stole my heart, with its organic wholefoods stores, shopping boutiques, café and coffee culture, and chilled out community vibe.
We visited the Green Grocer Café for lunch where the meals are made using fresh, locally sourced ingredients taken straight from the grocer’s shelf and prepped onto plates in the adjoining café. The Moroccan chicken salad was a vibrant standout.
Afterwards we tasted house-made gelato in the 1950s styled diner, then wandered around soaking up the excitement of the Bellingen River Festival, which celebrates the life and health of the river that lies at the heart of the town.
This trip has been a taste-tester for a very special part of the Legendary Pacific Coast. We’ve discovered such diversity – from the windswept beachside boardwalk of Urunga, to the waterfall-filled rainforests of Dorrigo, to the peaceful and eclectic community of Bellingen.
The only question remaining is, how soon can we come back?