In the three years since purchasing the Armatree Hotel, in central western New South Wales, Ash and Libby Walker have worked hard to recapture its former charm and locals have lapped it up.

Story By Jenet Stewart

Utes with echidna-like aerials line up outside the Armatree Hotel, waiting for the opening time of 12 noon. Men lay on the bonnets in the shade of huge gum trees on the eastern side of the pub. “We’ve had a big night,” one of them says, looking like he could do with a few hours of shut-eye, a result of last night’s celebrations in nearby Gulargambone, 20 kilometres from Armatree.
Inside the pub, owners Ash and Libby Walker are putting the finishing touches on the clean up from a busy Saturday night, and now the Sunday trade is shaping up to be just as brisk. Ash unbolts the front door and within minutes many of last night’s partygoers pour in, drag up a pew and line up like thirsty cattle for a refreshing first ale of the day.
The Armatree Hotel was built in 1929 by William Macken, the last hotel to be established in the Castlereagh River area. Located next to the railway line, it dominated the small village of Armatree. Rain brought flourishing wheat crops and gave the surrounding farmers and graziers money to spend at the bar. Each year around harvest and shearing time the pub would come to life with contractors and teams all looking for a place to bed down for the night, have a feed and freshen up with a few ales.
Locals, Ted Charnley, Garry Fordham and Barry Malone – all second-generation settlers of soldier blocks whose families came to the area in 1951 – tell fascinating stories about the many great times, characters and publicans the establishment has seen over the years. Ted recalls a football match between the Armatree Angels and the Curban Counts, with the loser having to shout the winning team for the afternoon.

This story excerpt is from Issue #69

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2010