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TRAVEL AND TOURISM
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Poppys
Poppy's Cottage is an award-winning bed and breakfast ... a journey through the Armidale, New England area of Northern NSW.
Popping in at Poppy's

06mar04

If you do nothing else on your stay at Poppy's Cottage near Armidale, you must go for a walk with Jessie and Miffy.

The two extraordinary little dogs abandon their bones at the sight of any new guest and quickly communicate that they want to show off their hill.

Poppy Abbott says: "Even when we haven't been here and guests have arrived, the dogs have taken them for a walk."

So it was on a cool and gusty late afternoon that the farm gate was dragged open and the dogs eagerly scrambled through.

The track leads across a meadow of creamy-coloured grasses and curves up around the back of Arthurs Seat – an extinct volcano stump topped with blackberry briars, ferns and a scattering of rocks.

The dogs' glee at showing strangers their walk is obvious.

They scurry back and forth, occasionally looking up to get their bearings in grass which is as tall as they are. But their priority is to show their guests the way.

Jessie even stopped at one place to stare pointedly at a fallen fence wire, making sure no one tripped.

The climb up Arthurs Seat and back can easily be done in 45 minutes.

From the summit the New England Tablelands stretch out in all directions: the blue of the bush-covered national parks on the horizon; the neat lines of trees planted as windbreaks. Graziers have been replanting trees across this rolling country to combat erosion.

This is the domain of the merino. New England wool is in the 18-19 micron range, meaning the sort of high quality used in the most expensive designer suits from Italy and Japan.

The landscape is quite different from anything in Queensland. Like the ranges further north towards Tenterfield and Stanthorpe, the plateau has a beautiful brutality to it.

With its heavy skies and cutting winter winds, there is more than a hint of Jane Eyre about the district – echoes of the windswept moors of Britain.

Even in February, after the stultifying heat of Brisbane, the cool drizzle and hilltop gusts which tug at hats and coats are a pleasure.

Armidale is five hours' drive via Warwick and Tenterfield from Brisbane, or a quick hour's trip on the Sunshine Coast-based Sunshine Express airline.

With the manses of both Catholic and Anglican bishops in Armidale, this community of about 25,000 people calls itself a city. It has a Toowoomba feel to it, with interesting homes, lots of big trees, multiple training colleges, boarding schools and the University of New England.

You can ride a helicopter down the wild river gorges from Armidale, or be guided to places where bass, brown and rainbow trout await. You can take a horse trek, or drive the scenic Waterfall Way eastwards towards the Coffs Harbour area.

And what you shouldn't miss is the New England Regional Art Museum.

This gallery's pride is the impressive Howard Hinton collection: a mix of privately collected art which includes fine examples of the work of Arthur Streeton, Lionel Lindsay, Edith Cusack and others.

Poppy's Cottage is an award-winning bed and breakfast farmstay just 10 minutes out of town.

Poppy and Jack Abbott keep a farmyard menagerie of ducks, geese, chickens and a tame sheep, and guests stay behind the house in a cosy "Settler's Cottage".

This very private sanctuary is stacked with books, games and puzzles, and is divided into two rooms, with ensuite bathroom. It would suit two couples or a family with children.

The country walk up the hill is recommended because Poppy's evening meal deserves a healthy appetite. The food is better than in some highly regarded Brisbane restaurants, and our hostess clearly enjoys this aspect of her business.

Poppy first served a ricotta cheese tart made with oven-dried tomatoes and basil from her garden and pastry made with eggs from the farmstay's hens.

Main course was chicken fillets in a delicious bacon, garlic and rosemary sauce, with sauteed potatoes, steamed artichokes and caramelised carrots. There was just enough room for a superb dessert of small fresh strawberries in a caramelised Sambuca Galliano sauce, topped with clotted cream.

Breakfast was another feast of fresh fruits and berries, cereals and croissants, and Poppy's keenness in promoting local produce was evident in the packed lunch, which included rolls packed with smoked trout.

Just the facts:

Poppy's Cottage, just off the Dangarsleigh Rd, Armidale. Bed and breakfast is $115 a double, $50 for an extra adult and $40 for each extra child under 12. Dinner, with a complimentary bottle of wine costs $40 a person. Tel: (02)67751277.



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