The Liverpool Plains
The Liverpool Plains is where I grew up. This prime agricultural land is surrounded by the Liverpool, The Great Dividing and Warrumbungle ranges. The area is home to the Mooki, the Peel and the Naomi rivers. The main crops include barley, chickpeas, sorghum, sunflowers, soybeans, maize, wheat and cotton. There are also beef cattle and sheep businesses in the area. It covers a space of 1.2 million hectares. I love every small rise of earth in this area and feel a deep sense of calm when I am there. There is a saying ‘ You can take a girl outta the country but you can’t take the country outta the girl.’
I am that girl. I might reside in the city but the country will always have my heart. I truly think that rural Australia is greatly underrated from a visitor’s point of view and overlooked as a destination for a trip. This suits me fine as it leaves it free for me to enjoy. Wide open spaces will one day be something everyone yearns for. We have hectares upon hectares of the stuff. Space. Wide and open.
These photos were taken from where they filmed Superman. The barn was purpose built for the movie. There were other buildings but were not in a condition to leave up after shooting. I suddenly become an amazing photographer (don’t you think?) when I have this place to capture. Look at the sky. There are people in the world who have only seen that in movies…. we have it nearly everywhere, and in places far more dramatic than here. The backdrop of the sky with the lines and the colours of this building are magnificent. I look at these photos and mistakenly believe I can take photos – the subject is the professional here.
A village regenerated
Willow Tree has become a hive of activity ever since the local pub has been refurbished and updated. Willow Tree is a village of about 150 odd people. It has some community tennis courts, a truck stop, a café, a railway and the pub. Here is an example of build it and they will come. And come they do.
10 years ago this pub was a relative dive and lacking in any atmosphere other than a cloud of filthy cigarette smoke. Ambiance did not exist. Willow Tree Inn was purchased by the Hanna Pastoral Group in 2009. Renovations were completed the following year. Follow their link for the whole story. In summary Charles Hanna is a successful business man having started and run a cardboard business for many years in Sydney. He bought a cattle farm in the area, Colly Creek, and had no where to eat when he visited the property. So, he bought the pub. The pub now serves his steak and he has somewhere to eat.
Luckily for everyone else in the region (and from further afield) they do too. I grew up in the carefree time when parents went to the club and you played into the gardens outside with all the other kids until it was home time. The Willow Tree Inn takes you back to that time. Out the back of the pub is a wide open lawn with shade down the far end, a play set to the right for smaller kids and you are transported back to a time when life was simpler.
I constantly have city people say to me. ‘There’s nothing to do there’ Yep. That’s kinda the point. Sit back, relax and enjoy people instead of things. Enjoy the air and the space instead of noise. Enjoy the meal and the surroundings. Enjoy the now and perhaps think about perception rather than perfection for a moment.
The menu is not elaborate. The selection is small. BUT don’t let that deter you – it should inspire you. You will eat an amazing steak, or whatever else you choose form the menu. You will be surrounded by groups of country people who have travelled from near and far to catch up and eat here. Some catch the train to and from and stay in the many cabins and rooms run by the Inn. If you have the chance – stay. The rooms can only be described as perfect. Here’s a small country village sitting on the Kamilaroi Highway and you may be led to believe the pub wouldn’t be great for food or accommodation. Well on the contrary, The Willow Tree Inn has put the little village on the map!