The Peart family has spent nearly 50 years turning their piece of brigalow country into a successful cattle station that operates in harmony with its natural environment.
Story By Don Fuchs
Rowan Peart sits on an exposed rock ledge about a third of the way up a dramatic sandstone formation called The Outhouse. From his lofty lookout the sweeping view continues over a wide valley rimmed by flat-topped, dark ranges. The mountains form a stark contrast to the golden grassland, interspersed by green islands of bush, at the valley floor. Only straight fence lines, distant dams, the occasional track and the symmetry of planted Leucaena – a high quality, long-living leguminous forage tree – add a human touch to the surroundings on Sunnyholt Station in the Arcadia Valley of central Queensland. It is August and the last, big catastrophic wet season lies a few months in the past. The grass, almost glowing green during the rainy season, is now virtually dried out. It is a day of unusual atmospheric turbulence, with a trough moving across the district. The unstable air masses produce a series of localised storms. One of them is heading towards The Outhouse, pushing a veil of rain in front of it. The rain front hits the rock tower and the valley disappears into grey nothingness.
The name of the valley evokes ideas of a rural paradise with its origins in Greek, meaning “ideal rustic paradise”. Like Greece’s Arcadia, a remote plateau surrounded by mountains on the Peloponnesus, ranges enclose the Arcadia Valley and it is a remote, stunningly beautiful place.
In the early 1960s the view from The Outhouse would have revealed a totally different landscape. Where lush grasses now fatten cattle and make it some of the best cattle country in Queensland if not in Australia, there would have been a uniform grey-green forest of wattle covering most of the valley’s 350,000 hectares. Today the area is divided into 16 properties and one of them is Sunnyholt, run by Wally and Helen Peart in partnership with Rowan, their son. “We were a bit taken aback,” says Wally Peart, remembering when he first laid eyes on the property. “We came from open country in New South Wales and we didn’t know about brigalow. There were a solid 600 trees to the acre.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #81
Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2012