Whether you are a local living in South Australia or have recently been acquainted with the magic and beauty of this rich region of food, wine, and culture, then you absolutely need to know about the little gorgeous town of Lobethal, which is nestled in the Adelaide Hills. It may have only been six weeks since the devastating bushfires wreaked havoc in our beautiful Hills region, but what is important to remember is that there is a very small but supportive community that experienced it all first-hand and is here today to share their horrific yet incredible stories of how they got through one of the worst natural disasters in its recent history.
In a bid to inject back a sense of busy-ness through their community-driven economy and to essentially show up with an empty Esky and #BookThemOut, I would like you to get to know Kim and Sam Pearce, who are a couple running the 1965 Lobethal Bed and Breakfast and experienced the bushfires that temporarily crippled their beautiful little Hills business and home, but were prepared enough to take precautions in anticipation of the dangers and warnings that were being issued by the State Government.
“Our Bushfire Action Plan has always been to leave and so that it what we did on December 20th when the Cuddlee Creek Bushfires threatened the town of Lobethal. There was far too much to do to feel fear. Adrenaline coursing through our veins and minds focused, we packed photos, laptops and enough clothes for a couple of days. We soaked the garden and moved flammable items like wooden furniture away from the house.”
When the bushfires intensified, they knew that everyone’s safety was priority, even if it meant closing the business for the day(s to come).
“We had guests scheduled to leave our BNB that day and so alerted them of the fire and the safest roads to take home. My parents are elderly and no longer drive. They live locally and so we assisted them to evacuate too. We left Lobethal in a 2-car convoy. The sound of sirens, helicopters circling and a huge cloud of black smoke shadowing the township created a sense of urgency. I remember thinking, ‘we may not have a home or a town to return to.”
If you live in Adelaide / South Australia and have been since at least December 2019, then there is no doubt that you’d vividly remember the outpourings of emotional posts, statuses, and messages popping up across news outlets and social media platforms asking for assistance and reports about the unfurling of the aftermath of the bushfires in the Hills. I distinctly remember that weekend following the bushfires and how helpless I felt at how much was lost, damaged, and destroyed within a matter of hours. It was daunting to see everything unfold and take note of the level of destruction across people’s homes, businesses, and lives. Kim and Sam recount returning to their livelihoods after being evacuated:
“When we did return a few days later, we were confronted with scenes of devastation. It felt surreal. The place we live had changed irrevocably. The air was heavy with the acrid smell of smoke, the bush was eerily silent and the landscape blackened. Houses on the perimeter of the townships burnt to the ground, resembled warzone images from the TV. Slowly the heart breaking stories emerged of lost homes, burnt farms, impacted livelihoods. Long time friends had a vineyard & winery totally destroyed. People were hurting and our community was collectively in shock. But there was also a sense of camaraderie in the Hills community.”
It was quickly evident how important and instrumental it was to get people united as a community to start the long road to recovery…together.
“We had been under siege and survived. In Lobethal, within 24 hours and prior to any official response, a group of local volunteers had mobilised and set up a relief centre to support those in immediate need. Some people had lost everything and our community came together to support them. People helped in whatever way they could.”
So what happened to Kim and Sam’s B&B?
“Our Bed and Breakfast ‘1965 Lobethal’ in the main street of Lobethal wasn’t directly impacted by the fires, which gave us the opportunity to make it available to a family who had lost their home whilst they organised something more long-term. There is definitely a sense of pride in Lobethal about how our community responded to the fires.”
In a bid to get to know a bit about their business 1965 Lobethal, here’s what Kim and Sam had to say:
“A relatively new business, we first opened 1965 Lobethal in July 2018. We knew from talking to local tourism and hospitality businesses in the area that there is a demand for accommodation in the northern Adelaide Hills. Lobethal is currently undergoing a quiet renaissance with a number of funky shops like Hunted Home and Vintage, Emma and Ivy Cafe and Tracey Prior’s Ethical Designer Clothing. Two exciting new businesses that opened recently are Hugel Wine Bar and Lobethal Fodder Store, which are both very hip and on trend. Fabrik, the emerging Arts and Heritage space at the old Woollen Mill is also creating a bit of a buzz and the Lobethal Bierhaus is always popular. It was time for the town to offer accommodation.
1965 Lobethal is all about nostalgia. Guests are invited to unplug and unwind. They can step back to a time when life was much simpler and they could take the much-needed moment to slow down, immerse themselves in the mid-century decor, and explore the beautiful Adelaide Hills. The house was built in 1965 and so the decor is retro using original furniture and fittings from the 1960’s.”
Its ideal location along the main street allows its guests and visitors to explore the small town with ease. Surrounded by quality vineyards and wineries, along with premium dining options, you can’t help but feel spoilt for choice by the many incredible local businesses that call Lobethal their home.
So what’s in store for 1965 Lobethal this year?
“1965 Lobethal is launching a new Adelaide Hills experience this year. We will be offering tours to local cellar doors and other attractions, retro style in our 1965 Chrysler Valiant Safari Wagon. It will be a boutique tour that caters to a maximum of 4 people. Sharing our local knowledge, we will be taking guests along the roads less travelled to some fabulous lesser known destinations, accompanied by a curated soundtrack of 60’s tunes. A number of local cellar doors we plan to visit were directly impacted by the recent fires however almost all of them have since reopened and are welcoming visitors.”
“Driving to destinations within the fire scar can be confronting, as you see the surrounding landscape (which appears almost apocalyptic). However, the Australian bush is resilient and already the signs of regeneration are there. After the recent rains, the grasses are reappearing, tree ferns in the gullies re-establishing and, best of all, blackened tree trunks are sprouting new growth. It is awe-inspiring to watch trees that appeared black and lifeless revive and rejuvenate. It has also been awesome to watch our town come alive after the fires. The support for our local businesses has been fantastic, with many more than usual visitors to our town, which is exactly what our local economy needs to rebuild.”
And what can we as South Australians do to help with the Adelaide Hills rebuilding and recovering from its recent tragic events?
“There are a myriad of other opportunities to support the hills community to recover. Wineries have been holding working bees to restore their vineyards, Blazeaid is working towards rebuilding fences, Landcare groups are growing native seedlings, weeding bushland, building feed stations, and nesting boxes etc. All of these initiatives will need volunteers to help and will continue to need help over the next couple of years.”
Kim and Sam will be participating in the upcoming Gathered SA Market this weekend (February 8 + 9, 2020) – we briefly spoke about what their anticipations are with the Market being in a pristine location like the Old Woollen Mill:
“The state heritage-listed Onkaparinga Woollen Mill is an absolute treasure and if not for the significant efforts of the CFS. it would have been lost. The iconic red brick buildings and sawtooth roof have such a strong presence as you enter Lobethal. It’s so exciting that Fabrik is located there and hosting the Gathered SA Markets. Fabrik is becoming a vibrant destination with a focus on textile arts, which reflects the heritage of the old Onkaparinga Woollen Mill.”
What are Kim and Sam hoping from their participation at this weekend’s Market?
“We became involved with Gathered Markets because we were keen for the markets to showcase the main street businesses of Lobethal in some way. December is a major trading period for our small businesses and the fires took a lot of business away. Jenna was really supportive of this concept and Gathered Markets responded by inviting main street traders to be featured on a ‘main street trail’ map. Our main street traders responded positively and are extending their hours and have special offers on or have worked with Fabrik to organise workshops. 1965 Lobethal will have a presence on Mill Square, where Carol (our 1965 Chrysler Safari Wagon) will be promoting our new Retro Tours of the Adelaide Hills. She looks forward to meeting potential guests.”
Kim and Sam would like to pay homage to the CFS and other members of our community, “who fought the fires and saved our town, our homes and our businesses. We are in awe. It’s great that Gathered Markets have nominated the CFS as their chosen charity to support through the Re-Gathered event in Lobethal. We invite people attending the Re- Gathered Markets to join us in expressing gratitude to the CFS by making a generous entry donation.”
Kim and Sam Pearse from 1965 Lobethal will be participating at the Gathered SA Market in Lobethal on February 8 + 9, 2020.