93 Gorge Road property at Lilydale.
93 Gorge Road property at Lilydale.

After 102 years, family property stays in local hands

ONE of the valley's longest held family farms was sold for an impressive $1.765 million dollars last month, and the emotional sellers didn't have to look to far afield to find a buyer.

Malcolm and Shirley Hughes have called New Farm home for 47 years, indeed the Hughes family have held a large stake in the Lilydale area for 102 years. The initial purchase by Malcolm's grandfather, William Malcolm Lucas Hughes, was from W.A.B Greaves, the district surveyor.

The Hughes estate once encompassed more than 4000 acres and ran from the Lilydale bridge (where New Farm sits today) all the way to the Heifer Station, not far from The Clarence Gorge.

Until 1999 the Hughes family owned the historic Newbold property - legendary for its cattle production and stately manner. This property, which includes and air strip, has changed hands twice since then.

"There are definitely a lot of emotions involved in letting this place go," said Malcolm of his and Shirley's 530-acre property at 93 Gorge Road, Lilydale. "So many precious memories and such an amazing lifestyle we've had bringing up our three kids here"

Malcolm and Shirley have worked hard and have built upon their original two bedroom cottage to make it the seven bedroom homestead it is today. Now they are looking forward to moving south to be closer to grandkids on just a couple of acres.

Selling agent Terry Deefholts from Elders Grafton said the property received a lot of interest from near and far. Offering amazing river country with the potential to carry up to 200 breeders across all seasons with the right management, Mr Deefholts said many inquiries came from across the range where rainfall had been scarce for a number of seasons.

But it was a local that saw the greatest potential.

It was too good an opportunity to miss for well-known Pulganbar cattle producer David Dent.

Mr Dent said he was looking forward to downsizing from his 5000 plus acre property to something more manageable.

"You've got to be on that river country to be able to downsize and still run a good number," Mr Dent said. "Currently it's really only running at half capacity ... I couldn't let it go."

Mr Dent, his partner and Shirley and Malcolm had become friends over the years and had been visiting one another recently. But the purchase came as a surprise to the Hughes'.

"They never said anything," Mr Hughes said. "I think they were unsure until they thought they might miss out on it."

But, like any auction campaign, it was a bit of a roller coaster ride.

While interest was strong early, there were only 2 registered bidders on auction night.

"When I heard the figure of $1.3m from the floor without any further bidding I thought 'I may as well go to the Indian restaurant'," Mr Hughes said.

"As it turned out we reached an agreed figure after lots of tooing and froing and we ended up all going out to Indian together - with champagne!"

Mr Deefholts said he was honoured to be involved in the sale and saw it as testimony to not only the strength in the rural market at the moment but also the power of a well run auction campaign.