We met in 2000 after we’d each raised our families and spent many years on our own – it has turned out to be a partnership made in heaven. We were living in Annandale, a lovely part of Sydney’ inner west, but thinking ahead to our retirement years, we felt we wanted a country change, and a new challenge.
Some sort of serendipity brought us to Dorrigo – it certainly wasn’t planned. But as soon as we arrived we felt we fitted in as though we had never been anywhere else. The friendliness and the immediate acceptance we found in this small community was wonderful. We have never regretted the move.
Mount Christopherson has provided us with a constant flow of interesting and fulfilling work. Alan’s greatest pleasure is to maintain and improve the property and be useful and practical – plenty of opportunities here to do that! Helen has loved organising the renovations, furnishing and planning the accommodation, and then developing the online systems to tell the world about this beautiful place.
One of the reasons we came to the country was to become self sufficient. Not quite there yet, but we’re certainly trying. Apart from the vegetable and herb gardens, the fruit trees and the chooks which you would expect to see in a country garden, we have Toggenburg and Anglo Nubian goats which we milk to make cheese and yoghurt. As well we have Alpacas, Boer goats, Dorper sheep and Highland cattle.
One of Alan’s other great pleasures is his movie library, and we’ve been lucky enough to have a beautiful basement which we have set up as a cinema. Once a month we have an interesting rare or arthouse film which people from Dorrigo come to watch together, share afternoon tea and enjoy a chat. These screenings have been running every month since October 2009 and attract anywhere up to 30 people.
Sadly, Helen died of pancreatic cancer in September 2015. Alan continues to manage the accommodation at Mount Christopherson and looks forward to seeing previous visitors as well as new ones.
Mount Christopherson – the beginning
After an acting career at Sydney University and in London repertory theatre, and then raising a family in Australian and Europe, Ralda Nash left homes in London and Switzerland to make a base back in Australia. She came to Dorrigo one rainy day and fell in love with the area. The first house she built is the one we still call Ralda’s Cottage. She lived here while she proceeded to turn the bare scrubby mountain into the place of beauty we have today.
You can see Ralda’s Cottage in the middle of the aerial picture, bare and open, as is the land on top of the mountain that would become her future home. Thousands of trees were planted, many eaten by wallabies before they matured. But the result, more than 30 years later is lush and green regrowth rainforest. The garden, designed by Hector Hood who came up from Sydney for a brief visit, was constructed at the same time as the house. Both have lasted well.
Voluntary Conservation Agreement
In 2001 Mrs Nash set aside 200 acres of the Mount Christopherson property under a voluntary conservation agreement with the National Parks and Wildlife service. Being adjacent to the Muldiva Nature Reserve, it contributes to a regional wildlife corridor that native animals can travel through, and is one of the few surviving examples of the Dorrigo Plateau vegetation before it was cleared for settlement and agriculture.
There are two lookouts from basalt outcrops on the ridge of Mount Christopherson. Both are within easy walking distance and give spectacular views of the Dorrigo Plateau. The conservation area offers wonderful opportunities for birdwatching and discovery of native flora and fauna.