February 25th, 202040-year anniversary at Boomerang Ranch
THE Boomerang Holiday Ranch on the western edge of Daylesford has been around for so long it has practically taken on the status of local cultural treasure. Since 1978 when it was carved from a bush block by Jim Gull, it has played host to countless kids and adults looking to experience horse riding on trails through Hepburn Regional Park.
Back in 1985, Jim Gull’s son Rodney invited Theresa Cook and her husband Noel, who passed away in 2016, to go in partnership with them. While they were keen to be involved with a horse-riding ranch, Theresa and Noel thought they may stick at it for three years.
But by 1992 the Cooks had taken over the running completely, expanding the site and adding more accommodation so they could take groups of up to 80 people. “At the beginning it was set up mainly for city families to come up and enjoy the country life and give their kids a chance to work with horses and learn to ride,” says Theresa.
“But over time larger groups such as schools began to visit. Other things have changed a little bit too, we used to take 30 horses out at a time but that is limited to 15 these days in the Regional Park. We have areas we are permitted to go into and we make sure it is looked after. And we are very lucky to have that beautiful bush out there to ride in.”
Son Brendan now looks after the day-to-day running of the farm and its 65 working horses and ponies. There are also six other staff who come and go depending on how busy things get. And it does get busy – besides weekly school groups, there is Easter which has always been active. Then there are the families who have continued to visit on long weekends for the last 30 years. Or kids who came on camps returning when they have grown up because they remember the good times they had.
And, especially over the last few years, an increase in day visitors just coming to have an hour’s ride before going off to have lunch somewhere. “It’s definitely seven days a week,” says Theresa. “It’s a lifestyle, it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle.”
Late last year the ranch marked its 40th anniversary and the word was put out that they would be having an open house celebration. “People came and went all day,” says Theresa. “We even had one family that was at the original opening of the place back in the 70s.
“The atmosphere was like a big reunion and everyone just came, reminisced, had a laugh and caught up with one another. There was nothing special organised, we just said December 9 is our 40th, come along. If they couldn’t make it on the day, people rang us and said we will come and see you later, so the occasion actually stretched out for several more weeks.”
Now that the celebrations are complete, 2019 holds no big plans, The Boomerang Holiday Ranch will simply continue the way they are going and welcome everybody back. That said, was there any concern about the recent Hepburn fires and did they have to go and move all their stock?
“Everything was fine. We actually picked up a couple of horses that were closer to Hepburn and brought them here. Even though we are in the bush we’ve got a lot of firefighting equipment, so we were not worried. I mean I didn’t even know about it for a while, I had people in for dinner and had finished doing things about 7.30pm. I came out of the kitchen, looked down the gully and said to my grandson ‘I think there’s smoke at Hepburn’. Later everyone was ringing up asking if we were OK. Maybe I’m a bit blasé but I’ve lived here for 40 years and I knew we were safe.”
Words & image: Anthony Sawrey