By Kylie McDonald
We Aussies are an adaptable mob. Particularly in times of hardship. We are known for it; we are inquisitive travellers and lifestyle hunters. Historically during times of recession, Aussies haven’t been afraid to move to where the work is, and now we aren’t afraid to uproot our families to seek affordability and a better lifestyle. The migration statistics within Australia during the last recession reinforced this, and the migration indicators throughout this year are telling us our response to the COVID-19 crisis is no different.
Glenn Rea, Principal at McKean McGregor says, “the statistics coming out of realestate.com and Domain both tell us that Bendigo is the second most researched regional city by Melbournians. Second only to the Warrnambool area. MM has seen high demand for property in Bendigo from Melbourne buyers for some time, and COVID-19 has increased the demand. Lockdown restrictions haven’t deterred genuine buyers from Melbourne. Our team has worked to provide them with information and digital inspections. So many are buying without having physically been to the property.”
It’s not surprising that rural acreage properties are popular with tree changers. Those who go to the effort of making the transition from urban sprawl to rural life are attracted to space, privacy, tranquillity, friendly neighbours - at a friendly distance, and wide-open vistas. We had a chat to a couple of Axe Creek locals about their experience of this trend. One a fifth generation Axe Creek local and farmer, and the other - a professional from Brighton who packed up his family to trade the urban sprawl for 20 acres of tranquillity – and hasn’t looked back.
Brian Edwards was busy carting hay when I called to chat, after all the sun was shining. He agreed to meet at the providore for a cuppa before his 4pm ‘appointment’ on the golf course. The Axe Creek farming lifestyle has obviously kept this 73-year-old fit.
Brian has lived in the Axe Creek area all his life, his farm – mainly merino wool, has been in the Edwards family for five generations. Like so many family farms over the past few decades it has had to grow and evolve with the dramatically changing nature of farming life. Part of this change has seen Brian sell some of his land as 20-acre lifestyle parcels to Melbourne migrants such as Andrew and Janet Purton.
Andrew Purton grew up in Brighton, his wife Janet is also a Melbourne native, they are both busy professionals at Bendigo Bank and parents to two active young boys, Joshua aged five, and Lachlan three.
I ask Andrew the obvious, “What brings a Brighton boy to Axe Creek?” Andrew says he has always been a bit of a frustrated farmer. He would have gone the full rural mile and bought a farm but Janet, perhaps understanding the demands of raising two little boys while they both manage busy professional careers was hesitant. “So, we compromised on 20 acres,” shrugs Andrew. “It’s great, we have landscaped around the house, we have a pool, garden and green lawn all irrigated from the dams; we have huge water tanks. Water isn’t a problem.”
Andrew has made a career from property, so he did his ‘due diligence’ before deciding which part of rural Victoria he wanted to settle his family. He said, “I like surfing and the coast, so I initially looked to the surf coast beyond Geelong, but the links to Melbourne aren’t as convenient as Bendigo. Ballarat is too cold and I didn’t feel the same vibe, north-east Victoria just seemed a bit remote. So, this area on the Melbourne side of Bendigo ticked the boxes for us.”
Brian says, “the Axe Creek/Sutton Grange area is the best of both worlds. It’s only 20 minutes into Bendigo with all the medical facilities we need and it’s only 1.5 hours to Melbourne.” This neighbourhood is now home to, “good community minded people, who love living where they live,” says Brian.
Andrew and his family have adapted well to rural life, he runs some of Brian’s sheep on his property to keep the grass down. Brian helps him out with some firewood and the neighbours are all on hand to loan each other tools and equipment.
You get the sense from talking to Brian and Andrew the Axe Creek residents enjoy their community and lifestyle. Economic peaks and troughs, such as the one we are experiencing now, come and go, but a lifestyle that allows you to be surrounded by family and a good community – now that’s the golden fleece.