On the outskirts of Nowra is a remarkable property whose owners have shaped a small universe with passion and purpose.
In this neighbourhood, the place names themselves are music, echoing the sounds of fast flowing streams: Yalwal, Barringella, Bamarang, Coolendel. If there is magic to be found, this is the right place. For Pauline Brewer, passionate horsewoman, nature lover, yoga devotee and teacher (with a dash of the magician about her), it was all meant to be.
The brief for finding the property was simplicity itself: a place to ride a horse for a day in any direction – without meeting a fence. And there it was, waiting. A property of 65 hectares (160 acres), rising from the flood plain to a majestic escarpment populated by a forest of tall trees and timeless granite rocks – sculptures of the natural world.
From the moment the pale orange steel gates of Ridemoor swing slowly open, there is a sense that this place is separate, quite removed from its immediate environment. Winding up the hill towards the dark angular outline of the main house, stark against the cliff, there are glimpses of activity: sweeping tails of peacocks, stylish spotted black and white guinea fowl, the bustling of the chickens.
Each part of the property has its own story. For their first year here, Pauline and her partner Darryl camped by Saltwater Creek, learning the lessons of living close to the ground. Pauline’s six horses were a presence here from the beginning, roaming across the lush paddocks by the creek, seeking shade under the ancient Manchurian pear trees or being ridden over stony ground uphill to where there is a view to the coast.
Horses are an important part of Pauline’s life. For many years, she was an endurance rider, one of a rare and hard breed who take on challenge after challenge. She rode the annual 400-kilometre Shahzada Endurance Ride and competed in many 160-kilometre rides including the Tom Quilty Gold Cup Endurance Ride. Darryl became an expert strapper and together, they and the horses lived an adventurous existence.
During this time, they established “The Shed” as their home, fashioned in 10 days from two site sheds placed together, its windows secured from the recycling section of the local tip, and the whole supported by sturdy wooden poles. For Pauline, it had everything: “access to riding, privacy, and its own feeling”.
It was riding that shaped their next step. Pauline had a bad fall, which ended her riding days: “You ride, you have falls,” she says philosophically. Typically, it sent her down another pathway, one that has become as important in a different way.
This new pathway is Iyengar yoga, which Pauline studied first with Alan Goode at the Iyengar Institute in Canberra and later, with the Iyengar family. “It transformed my life,” she says. While she had always been to pilates and yoga classes, taking up the practice designed by B.K.S. Iyengar meant a change which Pauline embraced with passion, eventually becoming a teacher. Iyengar yoga is known for its detail and precision, designed to give strength and mobility, be accessible to all and with a focus on “quieting the busy mind”.
After eight years, she and Darryl decided it was time to graduate from The Shed to a house. The site was obvious: further up the rise, with the backdrop of cliff and forest, and from a distance, floating above the meadows of the river flats.
They engaged Sydney architect Barbara Burton, who also “understood yoga”. Their home, completed in 2012, is the embodiment of tranquillity, shaped by experiences of other places and memories of other homes.
There is a large cantilevered veranda, reminiscent of childhood, when kids slept on mattresses in the fresh air, protected by a makeshift flyscreen. In this home, the screen is the finest black steel mesh, the couch an Indonesian antique, accompanied by a random scatter of rugs and cushions, creating the atmosphere of a luxurious Bedouin tent. There are simple treasures in this house at every turn: a personal collection of more than a hundred scarves forming a drift of colour on a plain wall; a black sculptural bowl, lined with gold; rows of glass beads; two dramatic artworks in a starkly simple bedroom. Around another corner, mounted on leather straps are the buckles, prizes from Pauline’s endurance riding days.
From all aspects of this house, there is seamless movement outdoors. A reminder comes from the colour splash of a vivid violet outdoor table, the ochre walls along the walkway, the glimpse of the still pool filled with smooth pebbles. And then there are the sounds: of peacocks swooning, kookaburras, chickens, and the tiny clicking noises as three small Italian greyhounds run through the house on elegant toenails, warning each other that a goanna is nearby.
With their move to the house, The Shed was freed for a new life. An almost total makeover inside and it has become the customized space for Pauline’s yoga classes. Its pale walls are festooned with long straps to hang from, an open cupboard houses rows of navy blue bolsters, blocks and chairs for support, a wooden trestle for balance. And from Sydney’s now demolished Australia Hotel is its drinking bar, a kind of leaning post, supported by two elephant heads – “excellent for stretching”, Pauline says. She leads five yoga classes each week with students coming from as far afield as Jervis Bay and Falls Creek.
Although Pauline no longer takes part in endurance rides, her six horses still live here, (now lovingly called paddock nags) with room to roam, ready to come at her call. And while Ridemoor is a place of calm and beauty, a lot of energy remains, ready to be called into action. The next big project, some way in the future, involves Saltwater Jack, who owned this property when it was 400 hectares (1000 acres) acres strong and who is rapidly becoming a legend. There is a legacy here and Pauline and Darryl are just the ones to make it part of a living history. But that is another story.