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|
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|
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.