Photo courtesy Eternity Springs
Tucked away in the Lismore hinterland is an extraordinary farm stay where you can let go of your stressful self and discover your artistic self.
It’s difficult to find just the right adjective to describe Eternity Springs Art Farm, but let’s begin by saying that it’s not your average Old McDonald kind of farmstay.
Even its founder and owner, Amanda Furze, admits she has trouble summing up the place. “Hmm, eclectic, unique, inspiring,” she says, of the place she established out of the desire to “make art accessible to everyone”.
My words - all of which came to me in the first half hour of being there - would include earthy, welcoming, lush (although this one easily covers the whole Lismore region) alternative, creative and relaxing.
As for the facts, Eternity Springs is a bed and breakfast with three styles of accommodation, offering workshops in drawing, painting, carving, leadlight, mask making, collage, sculpting, ferro and cement building and raku kiln. The workshops are also hosted by local artists Michael Taylor; Rene Bolten; Dennis Monks; and Nitza Flantz.
It is situated five kilometres out of The Channon, a village renowned for its monthly art and craft market. Once you’ve experienced this market, all other markets will sadly pale in comparison. They’re held on the second Sunday of the month and are an amazing showcase of the artistic talent that prevails in this region.
The villages surrounding Lismore make up a community where creativity and alternative living thrive. Eternity Springs Art Farm is a classic example of the way they can happily co-exist.
Amanda bought the old 20 acre dairy and pig farm in 1997 simply because she needed a place where her daughter could keep her horse and be within riding distance of the pony club. At the time, Amanda was considering offering art workshops under her house in Lismore.
An arts graduate of Southern Cross University who majored in sculpture, Amanda believes some people feel threatened by learning art in formal classroom settings.
“Everybody has the capacity to make something for their own enjoyment but sometimes there’s this kind of taboo aspect to art - like if you can’t make money from it, then it’s no good.
“I’ve never been interested in selling my work because I prefer to live with it myself. If you’re creating a piece that’s specifically for yourself, then it re-enforces something within you,” she reflects.
Once Amanda settled into the farm and began running the workshops, clients needed somewhere to stay overnight, and so her farmstay began.
Amanda says she also wanted the farm to promote the concept of an environmentally conscious, sustainable lifestyle.
“I feel very strongly that if you buy a piece of land you are obligated to do the very best thing by it, environmentally. This is why I went to such lengths to install a grey water system, a composting toilet, to plant trees and set it up for regeneration. It’s a whole lifestyle thing.”
Amanda credits the eco-aspects of her farm to an ex-partner, Paul Joseph, who was at the forefront of the hippy movement with his part in the organising of the 1973 Aquarius Festival in nearby Nimbin, the alternative lifestyle capital of Australia.
“I insisted I wanted a composting toilet and he insisted he wanted a flushing toilet and that if we were thinking of opening to the public, city dwellers would insist on a 'flush', ” she laughs.
“So we found the solution in a system called Aquatron. Paul also got me thinking about exactly what I wanted to physically present to the public, like sustainable wet lands, ponds and waste water treatment. He also introduced our composting worms to the farm.”
There’s four different accommodation options. For those accustomed to apartment-style comfort, there’s the Lotus Cabin, a stylish, private, self-contained option with open plan kitchen, bathroom, music system and air conditioning. It’s the kind of retreat appealing to city types who prefer to remain independent.
Camping space is offered pretty much wherever you’d like to pitch your tent; or a tarpaulin is provided, along with a camp fireplace, where you can do your own bush cooking.
The Garden Cabin is a cute little bedroom set amongst the trees which sleeps four, with sleeping room only inside, a sunny verandah outside and a shared bathroom.
In the main house is a queen bedroom with a private bathroom and access to wide verandahs, where you can stretch out in a hammock with a book.
In the case of the latter two, your breakfast or other meals can be shared around a huge timber communal table on the verandah. Organic breakfasts are included in the tariff, and other meals can be arranged at your request.
If you’re brave enough, indulge yourself with the “starlit” shower or bath. Starlit - if you haven’t figured it out - translates to outdoor. The bath water is warmed by a fire beneath and sits overlooking a paddock. It’s probably the most amazing bath you’ll ever have, especially if you get a clear night.
If you’re looking for other things besides art classes or just relaxing to occupy your time here, you can always pitch in with the gardening or farm chores. Amanda often has WWOOFers staying with her(Willing Workers on Organic Farms) who help out.
A walk through the paddocks will bring you down to a secluded waterfall and swimming hole. On the way, you’ll see Amanda’s handmade seven-circuit labyrinth, which was a symbol of rebirth and protection in Bronze Age.
“As the labyrinth walker follows the single track, it symbolically leads them to reflect on their inner nature and to bring it back out into the world,” Amanda explains.
You can throw yourself into the workshops and organic farming for a few days; or you can use it as a place to completely unwind. Either way, you’ll find Eternity Springs rejuvenating, refreshing, unique....you know the words!
Gabi Rose, a friend who works at Eternity Springs, puts it another way: “People come here looking for the kind of experience they expect - but can no longer find - in Byron Bay,” she smiles.