Green Valley Farm – Distinctly Australian
It seems incongruous that anything could lie at the end of the dusty road that our car jolts and shudders its way down. Scared sheep scuttle away like cockroaches at our passing. A cloud of dust follows in our wake.
The grass here is no less brown-gray than that lining the road out of Tingha, nor are the trees any less stunted or twisted. In fact, were it not for a hand-painted sign at the side of the road, you’d be forgiven for not even knowing Green Valley Farm existed at all.
But sure enough, our car crests a rise and the park sprawls out before out like the bush oasis it purports to be. In place of the sparse grass fit only for sheep and cattle, a lushly manicured green lawn spreads out around the motley collection of attractions that constitute this dinky-di Australian ‘theme park’.
Entry to Green Valley Farm is a modest $10 for adults ($5 for children under 13) – although additional fees of $2 for mini golf or $6 for the water park apply as well.
But before you can hand over your cash you’ll need to navigate your way through the labyrinth of dusty display cases and cast-off antiques that constitute the museum. There are a few gems hidden among the discarded Coke bottles and household appliances. A small menagerie of two headed farm animals lie in glassy coffins and a few kitsch toys and leavings from a bygone era can be sifted out from the strange assortment on display.
The original park – built from scrap metal by a grieving father after his teenage daughter’s passing – still exists largely unchanged.
The lady manning the ticket booth is happy to see us, but it’s not because the park is doing bad business. The camp ground is full and the car park is approaching the same level. The place is full of families exploring what might be the strangest theme park in Australia.
She lets in my foster brother for free. He’s heavily handicapped and in a wheel chair. She assumes he won’t get a full experience out of the park. I’m sad to say she’s right.
Our posse comprises myself, my three brothers, my foster brother, my brother’s girlfriend, my mother, and a Japanese exchange student who no doubt finds the little bush amusement park a far cry from the high tech wonderland of Tokyo.
It’s a strange menagerie that makes up the area known as the playground. Vaguely equine creations, things resembling oversized kitchen implements, and one thing that looks suspiciously like it’s original purpose was sexual torture are scattered about the lawns like toys discarded by an angry child.
But the love that was put into their creation is evident. While some of them might not function in a way that makes sense, they were all welded together and created by a grieving father. It’s a playroom built from the materials that would have been at hand, and the laughter of children is a fitting tribute to a daughter taken too soon.
We brave boys are quick to launch ourselves at whatever is at hand. Hiro clambers aboard an impossible big rocking horse…
…while I slide down a ‘slide’ whose descent is marked by metal rollers rather than the traditional slide.
Dom, his girlfriend, and Izaak step onto a bizarre three way see-saw that Dom manages to dominate with his superior weight.
Leigh soon spies an immense metal spinning top that looks like too much fun to turn down. Izaak, Bronte, and I join him and begin to make the steel monstrosity spin around. Bronte screams every time it lurches violently in a new direction, and I somehow give myself a nasty friction burn in my attempts to harry the poor girl further.
It’s exhausting work. Tingha lies on the very edge of what constitutes the New England and the sun beating down overhead is strength sapping.
Eating in the Valley
Despite having only dined on leftover Chinese food a scant ninety minutes earlier, the boys are famished. We make a pilgrimage underneath the monkey run and to the quaint cafe where an assortment of fairground fare is available.
A cornucopia of candy and toys likely to make a child’s eyes light up are scattered around the space, but we restrict ourselves to the basic fairground food groups:
- Hot dogs
You know, the foundations of a healthy diet.
We take our meal at a table that has seen better days. I imagine those better days may have preceded my birth.
While the family hungrily scoffs down their artery coating meals, my mother and I snatch up my camera and go exploring.
Perhaps more impressive that the ingenious collection of playground toys that are Green Valley’s primary draw are the well tended and manicured gardens that surround a quaint artificial stream and lake. It truly is a seemingly implausible oasis in the heart of rocky, dry land.
The walk takes us past a number of cages in which various Australian birds chatter happily. A foursome of Sulfur Crested Cockatoos screech cheery hellos at us as we pass and the monkeys scamper overhead to reach the peanuts being offered up to them by children who clearly can’t read the sign.
Once we’re past the cages, it’s lawns and quiet nooks along the artificial stream that feeds the equally artificial (but no less serene) lake.
A small footbridge takes you across to a modest zoo in which a sole Wedgetail Eagle, deer, ostrich, and yak are joined by a small collection of kangaroos, emus, dingoes, and bush pigs. It’s hardly the most exhaustive zoo, and some might even say it’s a tad depressing, but it’s about as close to non farm animals that your average country boy is going to get without a lengthy drive to Sydney, Brisbane, or Dubbo’s Western Plains Zoo.
The Water Park
Arguably Green Valley’s most popular attraction is its relatively new water park. In what is dry and warm country, the prospect of a truly gigantic water slide and a blessedly cool pool at its foot was enough to have brought us on the 45 minute drive through some of Australia’s most uninspiring terrain.
The slide itself, a colossal thing requiring a not entirely OH&S compliant climb up slippery steel steps, is a blast. I lost count of the number of times my brothers and I hurried up to the top and hurled ourselves back down only to do it all over again.
There’s also a newly built and brightly colored water park full of fun fountains and the like to keep kids occupied. My foster brother got a kick out of playing beneath the tipping buckets and in front of the spitting turtles.
By the time we’d grown tired of plunging face first into the pool it was close to 4pm and the park had begun to empty out. But the park’s two ‘thrill rides’ remained untouched and I couldn’t let that stand. Onwards, I say!
The ‘Thrill’ Rides
Green Valley boasts two rides that I guess might classify as thrill rides.
The first, a huge slide down which you can fly on a tattered piece of hessian, holds many terror filled memories for me. We older siblings decided against risking the scorching hot tin and the moment of terror we recalled all too well from our childhood at which point your ‘bounce’ on one of the slide’s humps took you dangerously close to plunging the 6 or 7 meters to the rocky ground below.
Not that it ever happened, but the heart in your throat moment sticks with you.
We did, however, brave the park’s most unique attraction – a hand built ‘roller-coaster’ that needs to be push started and upon which only a battered old tire stands between your enjoyment and a painful tumble. There’ll be video of the whole affair soon enough, but suffice to say it’s one of the loudest and most enjoyable 15 seconds of your life.
It’s totally worth the minute of sweating and grunting it takes to get it back to its starting point.
Loud and enjoyable fifteen seconds. Sweating and grunting. This is all sounding a little inappropriate.
Our quick and dirty ride down the ‘coaster would call an end to our day. Exhausted and just a little sun-burned, we put Green Valley Farm to our backs and made our way home for an evening of BBQ and ice cold beer.
Not a bad final day with the family.
Go there, right now!
I hope I’ve done Green Valley Farm justice. While some of my observations might be sarcastic or paint it in a weird light, it’s that weirdness that I found so thoroughly charming. It’s not the kind of glossy, picture perfect place we generally like to present to our tourists – and it’s all the more authentic because of it.
Not many people include the New England on their Australian itineraries, but the place is littered with quaint and quirky places worth a look. Green Valley farm is just one of many strange and beautiful places waiting to be discovered.
Green Valley Farm is located 15 minutes drive outside of Tingha in northern NSW.Their website has detailed directions from several NSW country towns.
Entry is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 13 years of age. An additional $2 is charged for access to mini goal and an additional $6 for access to the water park.
There are also cabins and camp-sites on site, a tennis court, a pool, and a stage for live music.