The land has not always been a gracious host for Jenny Gardner and her ancestors.

Sheep farmers in Scotland, flooding forced Jenny’s ancestors to relocate to a small market village, Sheepwash in Devon, England. Jenny explains, “They were flooded again and decided to make a move to higher ground. This time it was Australia!”

Learning from the lessons of her forebears, Jenny and her family now safely reside at one of the highest elevations in the Goomburra area. Here, with her husband Ross, they operate Montrose Farm, a 170 acre working cattle property minutes from Allora. Farming appears to be in their blood.

The couple chose their treechange lifestyle in 2009 when they moved to the property. Since January 2016, they have been running a B&B called Sheepwash Cottage, offering guests an authentic farmstay experience. Jenny says the cottage was named in honour of her heritage, recognising her forefathers’ resilience as sheep farmers. Though they are both retired, Jenny and Ross like to keep active, breeding droughtmaster cattle

and tending to their homegrown fruit and vegetables. And, of course, providing their guests with the warm hospitality on which their venture has succeeded.

In a past life, the property was run as a commercial enterprise, Tarquin Lavendar Farm. “We were buoyed on by our local friends and family who visit and love the farm, our hospitality and country cooking that we should build our own authentic rural experience – hence the beginnings of Sheepwash Cottage.”

The property is run to be as self-sustaining as possible, offering guests a true farm-to-table experience. Meals are prepared using products from the farm wherever possible, including beef, vegetables, citrus and stone fruit ¬ “whatever is in season and whatever is fresh.” Produce is picked and prepared on site, or sourced from other local producers, ensuring a short journey from paddock to plate. Jenny and Ross also preserve seasonal fruit for yummy winter puddings and provide guests with their prize winning cumquat jam and relishes. Fresh bread and afternoon tea treats are baked on site.

Guests are encouraged to get involved, and are invited to collect eggs from the chicken coop and have their own herb garden at the cottage.

Jenny’s association with the Downs region is a long one, and holds wonderful memories. “My parents attended school at Scots PGC in Warwick during World War II. As young children we regularly came up from Brisbane to attend their school reunions. As we drove up Cunningham’s Gap there was always the game of who heard the bellbirds first and this tradition has endured for 50 years.”

So far, the land has been kind to the Gardners. From their high and dry vantage point, panoramic views across grazing land spanning the Goomburra Valley can be enjoyed, with the heritage-listed Main Range National Park in the distance. “Southern Downs’ colourful sunsets are a highlight for our guests,” Jenny says. These views, though, hold a more personal significance for Jenny, reminding her of her family’s roots in Montrose, a small coastal town in Angus, Scotland. “It seems like the Southern Downs is always drawing us back like a magnet.”

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