Mildura Weekly : Friday October 17 2014 Vol 8 No 50
NEWS 09 FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2014 MILDURAWEEKLY.COM.AU THE seed of an idea more than a decade ago to provide basic ameni- ties for campers around the pictur- esque Lake Lascelles at Hopetoun has grown to become one of the most unique forms of accommoda- tion in south eastern Australia. The Mallee Bush Retreat of- fers visitors the rare opportunity of spending a night(s) sleeping inside a wheat silo. That’s right, your com- mon, industrial strength wheat silo, among a raft of other similarly farm- orientated cabins facing the lake. The Retreat, an entirely volun- teer-run business, has its roots in the mid-1990s when Lake Lascelles was in the midst of being cleaned out and re-filled. A group of locals saw an oppor- tunity to provide basic accommoda- tion for campers and holiday-mak- ers to capitalise on the new-look lake. But the concept took a sharp left turn when a group of art, design and architecture students were called on for inspiration, developing a master- plan for the area. “Originally we hadn’t planned on the concept being so unique, such as the wheat silos,” Lake Las- celles-Corrong Committee of Man- agement member Bert Hallam said. “It was the university students that came up with the idea and we could see the uniqueness and origi- nality of it and felt it would be an advantage in attracting people to the area.” The first step was a communal kitchen/meeting area that visitors could hire out and camp around. After two years based around the communal kitchen, the decision was made to build two units, based around a traditional cow shed and stables, providing a strong farm- themed form of accommodation. The next step was the addition of two wheat silos and a grain machin- ery shed. As the concept grew and became more popular the plans were ex- panded to include a small caravan park and toilet block, to the point where there are now eight accom- modation units, with a ninth under construction. He said that while the commu- nity had been very supportive of the project, there were a few doubts during those early years, including a prolonged period when the lake was dry during the drought of the 2000s. “Despite the lake being dry, we kept at it and a lot of people used to say we were fools for keeping on with the project given the condition of the lake,” Bert laughed. “But we just thought, well, the lake’s dry, what else are we going to do? So we kept on building and ex- panding it. “Plus, we always had faith that Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water would come through with the pipe- line, which went in about 2010.” The Mallee Bush Retreat has proven a popular stop-over. Throughout the year, the Retreat averages a 50 percent occupancy rate, but is much busier during peak periods and special events. Bert said the wheat silos have proven the most popular of the var- ied cabins on the lake. Bert said the silos aren’t just lookalikes. They’re real Jaeschke branded wheat silos that have been fitted out for accommodation. Evidence of the way the commu- nity has embraced the project is the fact that the silo company owner at the time donated the labor costs in- volved in building the silos, but only after a little convincing that the con- cept had merit. “When we first contacted the owner of the company, he said, ‘You’re mad’,” Bert laughed. “Anyway, he went off to South America for a trip and he must have stayed in some pretty alternative types of accommodation over there, because we rang him up when he got back and he said he could under- stand what we were doing. “He was a great help and really supported us. Our group paid for the materials for the silo, but Jaeschke donated the labor.” While the cabins are positioned in a concentrated space, the com- mittee of management is actually responsible for the broader lakes area as well – roughly 2000 acres of Crown Land, including Lakes Lascelles and Corrong. The 12-member committee is totally volunteer-run, with members voted in every three years. All money raised through the accommodation is injected back into management and upkeep of the area. However, Bert said members of the Hopetoun and surrounding area who aren’t committee members of- ten donate their time to the Retreat as well, including the local angling and water ski clubs, who he de- scribed as great supporters. “The best thing about it for us is that it’s right next to town, which makes it easier to manage” he said. “For example, I’m a farmer and I might drive past the lake late in the afternoon, particularly during summer when it’s lighter for longer, and I might just duck in there, spend an hour on the mower and then go home.” Bert said the majority of people who stay at the Retreat heard about it through either word-of-mouth or were return visitors. Very little adver- tising has been needed. “We get a lot of people from Mildura going to Portland and Warrnambool, because it’s a conve- nient stop along the way,” he said. “There are also a lot of reunions involving people from Mildura, as it’s a handy spot to hold these types of events, plus it’s also very cheap, so that’s attractive as well.” Accommodation prices start at $30 a night. All cabins feature mat- tresses and reverse cycle air-condi- tioning. The ‘shearing shed’ features a fully functional kitchen, fire place, television, tables and chairs. For more information or to make a booking call 0439 529 973. A DAY IN HOPETOUN Journalist BEN PISCIONERI and photographer PAUL MENSCH recently spent time exploring Hopetoun and surrounds. They returned with a number of interesting stories, among them this expose on a unique accommodation complex. We will publish more stories from Hopetoun in coming weeks. Mallee Bush Retreat success 16001820141253 Staying Mobile and Independent A free community forum about staying mobile as you get older RoadSafe MILDURA COMMUNITY Thursday 30 October 2014, 9am – 12:30pm Mildura Seniors Citizen’s Centre Tenth Street, Mildura Free morning tea and light lunch RSVP before 27 October for catering purposes by phoning Jeni Snadden on (03) 5018 8240 or Sunassist on (03) 5023 1906.
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