January 30, 2020 / By Nicole West
Barrington coast has made quite a name for itself as a foodie hotspot in recent years, with its abundance of fresh produce, farm raised meat, local cheeses and wines, and of course fabulous seafood.
So we recently caught up with Donna Carrier from the award-winning restaurant, Bent on Food located in Wingham, to discuss the impact of the November bush fires and what is special about this region.
What do you love about living in Wingham?
Wingham is known as "the friendly town". When I started my café here 15 years ago, I was well supported by the locals from the beginning - it’s a very community minded place with so much diversity. There are many creatives living here so there is a strong sense of connectedness and wellbeing. There are traditional farmers along with small farms that belong to tree changers. The access to local produce is fabulous with some great farmers' markets nearby.
How was Barrington Coast affected by the fires?
We lost an incredible amount of wildlife, along with some very old bushland. Businesses have been affected due to the downturn in the local economy and there has been a definite decrease in tourists this season. One hundred and twenty five homes were lost along with farmland, fences and infrastructure.
Driving around, you can see the devastation in the blackened landscapes, however the towns are still open for business and welcoming visitors. Because we rely on both agriculture and tourism, I am concerned for the food bowl that has been lost. We were in severe drought when the fires struck, but we are resilient and our community is strong.
How is the community recovering from the fires?
We are lucky to be a close community with many people willing to volunteer their time. We have also been humbled by the generosity of people from the city who have jumped in and helped from the start. We are working together to ensure our recovery is as cohesive as it can be. We have formed a Manning Valley Recovery Committee to allow all stakeholders to meet and discuss their needs.
Fundraising efforts have been successful, and local businesses and community groups have been generous with funds and time. A fabulous group of volunteers from Blazeaid are repairing fences for farmers. We help each other and hugs are abundant. Even though our fires were in November, we still have lots of work to do. Right now we want to ensure that there is some focus on our region as tourism is way down and the economy is suffering.
Where are your favourite places to visit in the region?
We are blessed with so many beautiful beaches and lakes making us a fabulous nature-based destination. Seal Rocks is a stunning spot with beautiful lighthouse cottages that can be rented as accommodation. This is a perfect mini break for me. The coastline there is breathtaking.
Forster-Tuncurry is a great place for families to connect, with its laid back atmosphere. I never tire of driving over the Forster-Tuncurry bridge seeing dolphins frolicking in the water.
Inland to the Hinterland, Wingham and Gloucester are perfect country towns where you can experience local produce and country hospitality. In winter, it snows in the Barrington Tops National Park, and you can swim with dolphins on the coast in the warmer weather.
Any hidden secrets for people visiting in summer?
Crystal Pools at the back of Blackhead Beach is just as the name suggests, deep blue crystal clear pools. You will only find out about this from a local. There is also a pool at the top of Ellenborough Falls that only locals know about. I will be in trouble for telling anyone about it.
Where would we find you at 10.00 am on a Sunday?
If I am not in the café making coffee, you'll find me at home up-cycling a piece of furniture or enjoying a coffee on my deck.
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