For more than 70 years the Andrew family regarded the wet corner of their Longford farm as a wasted piece of land - a place to feed their stock in summer and little else.
“It was just a swamp at the bottom end of the farm and it didn’t really get much looking after,’’ Mrs Andrew recalls. “It didn’t seem very desirable to have and the family never quite saw the environmentally attractive side of it. We had to learn to value it and my husband has realised the great opportunities it has opened up’’.
After building their own house overlooking the stunning marsh that extends about 400 metres from the Latrobe River, Ann and husband Dallas discovered the true appeal of its natural qualities.
“Friends and visitors that came to our house kept saying that it was such a beautiful view and so peaceful, so I started to develop this idea of an accommodation business. I was a librarian at the hospital in Sale for about 30 years and decided I wanted to do something at home’’.
In 2004 the pair began building two self-contained cottages that soon became Frog Gully Cottages – a popular getaway for local and international visitors wanting to experience a “true Australian landscape’’.
“It’s just a spectacular spot because we face the north so you get some beautiful sunsets and sunrises,’’ Mrs Andrew says. “I love it in the winter because you get the mists across the valley and wetland. There is really something special about the light coming through.
“There is a fantastic amount of waterbirds that feed on the wetland so it’s great for bird-watching. Not to mention all the frogs, wallabies and wombats. There’s a lot to offer and it appeals to all sorts of people.
“People drive onto the property and feel like it is a privilege to be there. It is great for us to be able to share it and help educate people. We were spoilt having it all to ourselves’’.
The 400 acre property, with about 2km of frontage along the Latrobe River, still supports sheep and cattle. Mrs Andrew says the wetland has kept the farm alive.
“It’s always provided all the water we need and the natural flooding is a bonus to give us feed in winter. We’d be in dire straits now if it was all dry land – it’s definitely been a godsend’’.
She says despite the last 10 years of drought, the wetland has had a unique ability to survive.
“One time the ground became all cracked and I really wondered if we’d lost the water plants. But during the next flood the seed came straight back and it just regenerates’’.
Worried about erosion on the Latrobe River’s banks, the Andrew’s have fenced off their farm frontage so they can continue to enjoy water-side picnics into their retirement.
“If it wasn’t for the wetland we’d probably find that the property wasn’t a goer. I couldn’t live anywhere else and the kids tell us we can’t sell the place because it’s what they’ve grown up with’’.