27 Jul 2023 | 5 mins

Tennis court, private gorge: a trip to Melbourne’s ultimate weekender - AFR

Tennis court, private gorge: a trip to Melbourne’s ultimate weekender - AFR

When nightlife ground to a halt during Victoria’s strict COVID-19 lockdown three years ago, aspiring DJ Tommy O’Sullivan decided to practise his craft at home. Improvising a DJ deck using his mum’s ironing board, Tommy lugged his gear outside and set up.

However, this was no ordinary backyard. Aside from those viewing his set online, Tommy’s audience comprised rock wallabies, platypuses and peregrine falcons nesting in ancient basalt rocks bathed in afternoon sunlight.

Tommy, who now works at an investment bank in Texas, is one of Victorian couple Karen and Martin O’Sullivan’s four sons and had the privilege of growing up on a farm that includes Barfold Gorge – the state’s only privately owned gorge.

Located about an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the 500-acre (202-hectare) farm outside Kyneton is now on the market for the first time in 15 years guiding $6 million to $6.6 million.

Along with a five-bedroom farmhouse complete with pool, tennis court, and sauna, the property’s drawcard feature is the dramatic natural landform. At 100 metres wide and 80 metres deep, Barfold Gorge is home to soaring basalt columns dating back millions of years, and two waterfalls.

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Tommy O’Sullivan performs his DJ set online beside Barfold Gorge in 2020, during Victoria’s lockdown.

“The expression that comes up a lot is that you have your own Kakadu in your backyard,” Karen says. “You feel like you’re in the Northern Territory, it’s so special and so secretive and so hidden.”

Located in the Mount Macedon region, the gorge – which includes a lava cave, amphitheatre and a natural colonnade – was formed when the Campaspe River carved a channel through the region’s last lava flow 4.5 million years ago.

Karen, a former TV journalist, has no regrets swapping Port Melbourne for the Kyneton tree change.

“The expression that comes up a lot is that you have your own Kakadu in your backyard,” Karen says. “You feel like you’re in the Northern Territory, it’s so special and so secretive and so hidden.”

Located in the Mount Macedon region, the gorge – which includes a lava cave, amphitheatre and a natural colonnade – was formed when the Campaspe River carved a channel through the region’s last lava flow 4.5 million years ago.

Karen, a former TV journalist, has no regrets swapping Port Melbourne for the Kyneton tree change.

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Corumbene farm near Kyneton in rural Victoria has hit the market with a $6 million to $6.6 million guide.

“I have memories of the boys jumping off cliff faces into deep pools of water, and that’s given them a really good adventure spirit and to not be scared to get out and try something out,” Martin says.

During her time as Channel Seven News’ health reporter, Karen would commute the hour to and from Melbourne’s Docklands studio, while her boys took the bus from the end of the lane to their local school, before later boarding at Melbourne’s Xavier College.

Following her career at Seven, Karen authored a biography on local cerebral palsy sufferer Hayden Walsh, helped along by a tireless literary muse.

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The property comes with five-bedroom farmhouse, pool, tennis court and sauna.

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Corumbene is being offered with potential as a country weekender, permanent farm or ecotourism destination.

“I wrote a book and had it published last year, and I used my caravan and sat down by the gorge and used it as my inspiration to write,” Karen says.

Now their boys have flown the farm coop, the couple plan to downsize and travel, after they sell and farewell Corumbene.

Martin says the gorge, which has been the setting of many family events, is a natural mood booster.

“If you’re having a really crappy day, I just tend to go down and sit by the falls, and the nature just brings you back to life,” Martin says, touching on the increasingly mainstream concept of “forest bathing” which gives currency to the restorative power of nature.

Like all dwindling commodities, pristine natural environments are increasingly viewed as the ultimate luxury, and while Corumbene offers all the hallmarks of a blue-chip country escape, the gorge is undoubtedly the most valuable feature of all.

“You cannot build it, it’s irreplaceable. It doesn’t age, you don’t have to maintain it – so it’s nature’s masterpiece,” Martin says.

While the property has been run as a viable sheep farm, it has potential as an event site, an ecotourism destination or luxury accommodation.

The property is listed through Forbes’ Global Properties’ Tracey Atkins and Robert Fletcher.

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Big backyard: Barfold Gorge in the Macedon Ranges cuts through lava flows which date back 6 million years.

Corumbene joins a handful of luxury tree change properties now available on the prestige market.

In New South Wales, the recent circa $100 million listing of Southern Highlands estate Glenrock, owned by corporate adviser Charles Mendel, features a fully restored Georgian revival farmhouse, clock tower, stables and a private lake with Japanese boathouse and, like Corumbene, a dramatic private gorge and waterfall.