Thursday, March 14, 2013


Our Sister Slope

Three Peaks with its three hills and farmhouse

Far away on the other side of the world from Le Ripe, in another hemisphere and in another season, stands Le Ripe's Sister Slope, Three Peaks. Sister Slope, because linked by family ties. And because similar in its aspect, size and topography, if starkly different in its flora and fauna, and considerably different in its climate  (milder in winter than Le Ripe).

Black Angus steer calves eating hay

Home to passing kangaroos and resident wombats, the occasional koala and myriad birds, but also host to introduced species such as fox and rabbit, unlike Le Ripe, Three Peaks is an active farm where steers are raised for market. It contains a spacious one-storey home and its surrounding native garden nestled within 30 hectares of pastureland characterised by three hills which inspired the farm's name.

kangaroo photographed at Three Peaks

wombat photographed at Three Peaks

In this part of Australia, the nomadic indigenous people were quickly forced to cede their age-old territories to colonial farmers who, on arrival in the Goulburn river valley, observed how tame and pastoral the land appeared. In fact, the indigenous people had been farming it for millennia using a particular tool: fire. The harnessing of fire created broad swathes of grazing land where kangaroos and other game were easily hunted, and large, safe forests where undergrowth was fire-managed for harvesting.

For more on the aboriginals' ingenious land husbandry, see a fascinating new book, 
Bill Gammage's The Biggest Estate on Earth 

perfect for pasture

Le Ripe boasts a cave that sheltered partisans during the Second World War. Not to be outdone, Three Peaks witnessed its own share of Australian history. Not long after the farmers arrived the gold prospectors. Until a few years ago at Three Peaks, visitors would be intrigued by the remains of a goldmine, an apparently deep shaft blown into the side of the hill. It is not known how long the miners stayed here, but a rosebush and a nearby apple tree suggest a measure of permanency. The Victorian goldrush was at its height in the 1850s and '60s.The mineshaft was eventually ploughed under since it posed a danger for wandering children, and almost certainly harboured snakes.

gold prospectors in Australia, 1851 to late 1860s

Le Ripe shelters wild boar and possibly wolves, but few venomous snakes and one dangerous spider. Conversely, Three Peaks is the territory of innocuous marsupials, but home to the perilous Australian Black and Brown snakes and assorted venomous spiders. Fortunately these creatures are even more retiring than the wild boar and are rarely encountered. Yet it is wise to wear gloves and boots outside and be wary around piles of wood and stone.

brown snake
redback spider

Three Peaks is surrounded by pastureland where Le Ripe is surrounded by woods, vineyards and olives; Three Peaks enjoys sweeping views across the Goulburn river valley, and from its heights, around 360 degrees, while Le Ripe's views extend north, south and east but are hindered, from its hilltop, by thick vegetation.
Another contrast between the Sister Slopes lies in their use of names. At Le Ripe various sites on the property are identified by their historical/traditional/local names or purposes, where known. At Three Peaks, lavish and imaginative use has been made of names recording the property's recent history and those who participated in it; hence Somebody's Log, the Sleeping Tree, Blind Calf Gully, Viv's Wood, Fabio's Crossing, the Great Katy Face, Alex Peak and so forth.

summer morning; dawn of time
Yet the most striking difference between the Sister Slopes, at least in my view, derives from what might be called their intrinsic sense of History. Le Ripe is surrounded by echoes of centuries of 'civilized' past, from the Etruscans, Romans, Lombards to the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Risorgimento and, markedly, in our area, the wars of the 20th century.
Three Peaks' sense of History is entirely different.
There is of course recent colonial history, as mentioned above, but behind that, stretching back for millennia, is a venerable pre-History, conjured up by this ancient land and its apparently unchanged landscape which at certain times of day, in certain lights, evokes something quite primordial.


  1. A very small, even timid protest! Elegantly written, beautifully illustrated and comprehensive, this comparison of the two Sister Slopes nevertheless misses two points which minimally qualify Le Ripe's immense superiority in the historical department. The first is that Three Peaks, in terms of current proprietorship, is by far the senior of the two: it was acquired (and named) in 1990. The second point is that Le Ripe's blog is also a relative new chum, for an old-fashioned hard-copy counterpart (graced by the title Three Peaks Report) has circulated on a mostly weekly basis to family, and some others, for the last twenty years. (On the other hand, it has to be admitted that the TPR is not only unillustrated but altogether less lively and imaginative in its content.)

  2. Thank-you Agricola for these two pertinent points: taken!


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