Horse lovers enjoy their natural life at Coutts Crossing
WHEN Paul Jones and his partner Cherrie Davis moved their horses on to their Coutts Crossing property, the horses were ecstatic.
After living in town in stables, yards and borrowed paddocks, they have 60 hectares (150 acres) in which to graze and gallop, shady trees to laze under and the lovely Blaxland Creek to slake their thirst and cool their fetlocks.
A natural life for their horses is important to Paul and Cherrie, both lifelong horse lovers and riders.
Paul has been the president of the Clarence Valley Trail Riders Club for more than 25 years.
The retired stockman and farrier has spent his life riding, training, breaking in, shoeing and working horses.
Cherrie, a former endurance rider and a retired vet nurse who transitioned from people nursing, still helps out at equine dental clinics.
Since 1998 her Grannies on Horseback group has raised $45,000 for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service through their annual week-long sponsored packhorse camping treks.
Paul and Cherrie are also local section co-ordinators for the Bicentennial National Trail, which caters for walkers, riders and cyclists and stretches from Healesville in southern Victoria to Cape York in far north Queensland.
"We keep the trail open and check on the people riding it," Paul said.
"I know the trail like the back of my hand and where they can get feed and water for their horses."
He also leads rides of up to 20 people several times a year along parts of the trail.
Cherrie volunteers at Grafton's Westpac Rescue Helicopter op shop every week.
She and Paul appreciate the helicopter more than most.
In spite of all Paul's careful preparation and their safety precautions, they have had to call for its help when a rider became injured in a remote location.
"I never travel without at least three people, even with an EPIRB," Paul said.
Since buying 'Yeramba' five years ago, he has fenced off wetlands with the help of Landcare grants, cleared blackberry, privet, camphor laurel and thickets of lantana and is seeing young native trees springing up to add to their new plantings of red cedar and hoop pine.
While they have a site selected for a future homestead, they have a creative interim solution - three shipping containers.
Arranged in a U shape, with various sides and ends cut out for windows and doors, the containers make a snug house, covered with a common roof and using exterior shade cloth to deflect the heat.
Paul said recycled materials made up every part of the structure, except for the roof sheeting.
Although they have mains power, a rooftop solar panel and a small solar cell battery provide all their lighting. Paul is now in the process of installing a grey water system "to replace the sawdust system.
"We're nearly up to painting."
His next project will be a tack room, so the bridles, saddles and pack saddles have a secure home of their own.
Age has not wearied this pair, both 69 - Paul still surfs, educates horses and riders about wilderness travel and is planning his next packsaddle ride in between baking 'smoko' treats and tending his beehives of native and European bees
Who knew that honey bees had delicate digestions?
"Bees can get toey, cranky and they can get diarrhoea when they are on certain trees," Paul said.
He said grey box and spotted gum were among the blossoms that could upset his bees.
Cherrie is busy looking after her veggie garden, feeding horses, riding horses and helping Paul.
Weed control is an ongoing battle and the deep-rooted garden escapee Mickey Mouse plant is proving a tough adversary, but they have even managed to create a creekside camping area for visiting friends and their horses.
"People ask me: 'what do you do all day out there -aren't you bored?" Cherrie said, laughing.