On the spectacular slopes of Gardners Bay in Tasmania’ south, with Hartz Peak looming in the distance, a vineyard now stands where whole families once worked harvesting small fruits.
Above rows of pinot noir grapes, seven rustic pickers’ huts stand alongside a meandering 19th century convict-built road which leads to the Hartzview Vineyard Café and Cellar Door.
Although the huts hint at a rustic agricultural, the café and cellar door provide an opportunity for visitors to imbibe the current fruits of the slopes in modern comfort.
Rob and Anthea Patterson are the owners of this idyllic rural utopia and small business, and they see themselves as custodians of this little piece of Tasmania’s agricultural heritage.
“We’re really proud to own the huts, and because we recognised their historic significance we nominated them for inclusion in the Tasmanian Heritage Register,” Anthea says.
“The huts are now heritage-listed, and we have gone to great pains to conserve them so future generations can see how the picker families lived during the harvest season. “With the assistance of an $80,000 grant from Tourism Tasmania in 2008 and conservation advice from Heritage Tasmania, we’ve been able to restore the pickers’ huts so visitors can get a glimpse of an agriculture lifestyle that no longer exists in Tasmania.”
Family groups working as teams would stay in a single hut from December to May harvesting blackcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries and strawberries before moving on to apple orchards elsewhere.
“Sometimes there were as many as eight family members living in the humble vertical board timber structures, cooking on the open fire and sharing the small, basic space. There were no luxuries and all the pickers had to share the washhouse and outhouse.”
Despite the hardships it seems to have been a good life.
“Often people come to visit the café who recall living here during the harvest as a child. It is amazing how many people have a direct connection with the huts and they always seem to have really happy memories of working here.”
Life at picturesque Hartzview with its gentle slopes and wooded hills seems a million miles a way from the rest of the world.
However, during the Second World War, the Australian war cabinet allowed the employment of Italian prisoners of war as rural labourers.
“They worked and lived here picking fruit during the war filling local labour shortages. Many subsequently settled in Tasmania, calling it home,” Anthea says.
The slopes at Hartzview were highly productive and by the early 1970s the property produced 40 per cent of the national gooseberry crop.
Rob and Anthea pay homage to Hartzview’s berry fruit past.
“We produce our own fruit liqueurs using small fruits that were once grown at Hartzview including, blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry and raspberry,” Anthea says. “We are very grateful to Les and Lillian Polley for establishing the small fruit farm in the 1920s.
“We’re also really proud of the fact that we run a family business here and are only the third family since the 1930s to work this land. Our daughters have all been involved and continue to help running the place.”
Hartzview Vineyard and Café is open 10 am to 5 pm. For further information call Hartzview on 6295 1623.
Words: Robyn Shaw
Images: Simon de Salis and supplied by the Polley family