Adapting to disaster at Bluebell Hill Farm at Burrell Creek

Karen and Ian Gilbert in front of the large horse sculpture which attracts much interest at Bluebell Hill Farm.
Karen and Ian Gilbert in front of the large horse sculpture which attracts much interest at Bluebell Hill Farm.

It is hard to miss the big black horse at the entrance of Bluebell Hill Farm at Burrell Creek.

The metal sculpture certainly piques your interest as to what lays beyond the farm gates.

As it turns out, this is no ordinary farm.

Karen and Ian Gilbert purchased the property about two years ago with the intention to farm cattle.

Ian is an experienced farmer originally from Gloucester who met Karen, a nurse from the Northern Beaches of Sydney, three years ago.

Before their wedding the couple escaped the city to start a new life and a hobby farm on the 100 acre property.

Unfortunately it wasn't long before the lush green countryside, that had reminded Karen so much of her native England, turned brown and the realities of rural living kicked in for this city girl.

"It all went south," Karen said.

The drought was making cattle farming nearly impossible.

"We were spending $150 a day feeding the cattle," Karen said.

The pair knew they needed to diversify in order to make ends meet.

The couple listed the farm with the Youcamp website which links campers with private property camping around Australia.

On their beautiful property they were able to offer visitors a meadow surrounded by Bo Bo Creek as well as an enchanted forest, a magical cheese n' wine tree and even a koala trail.

They soon got happy campers and five star reviews for their efforts.

They also opened the land to horse agistment and Karen, who as well as being a nurse has a background in classical ballet, Pilates and wellness, was able to start offering fitness classes at nearby Tinonee.

But then came the bushfires which ravaged the region.

While the farm escaped the November 2019 fires, it didn't escape a fire four days before Christmas.

The machinery shed was lost along with all equipment, tools and most of Karen's personal belongings including mementos of her children.

"It was a nightmare," she admits.

Then came COVID.

"We're just getting started again now," said Karen last week.

The couple are confident the shed will be rebuilt in time for Christmas and future plans include hiring it out, possibly to artists.

They also hope to open a produce store and a coffee shop.

Karen is now offering her fitness classes at the farm three times a week which are proving popular.

There is no doubt she and Ian are determined to keep the dream alive.

"We nearly gave up," said Karen.

"But we thought 'no, we're going to do this!"

Karen is also keen to prove people wrong who called her a 'concrete cowboy' because she's from the city.

"I had no knowledge of farming whatsover," she admits.

"But I've learned so much in the last couple of years."

And if you're wondering about the metal horse, Karen and Ian purchased it in Tamworth. It was a bit run down and in need of some care but Karen and Ian breathed new life into it.

Just like Bluebell Hill Farm.

You can find out more about Bluebell Hill Farm or follow Karen's blog at wwwbluebellhillfarm.com.au. The farm is also on Facebook.