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Rural village thrives through pandemic


Far from the hustle and bustle, a groundbreaking project in the Lower Hunter has created its own “little self-isolating hub” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Shepherds Ground, which promotes sustainability through all aspects of living and farming, aims to bring back social, economic, environmental and cultural vitality to day-to-day life through the renewal of rural village living in today’s world.

It sits on a 277-acre parcel of land at Butterwick, 15 minutes from Maitland.

Member Sally Maguire said the community had worked together to remain as safe as possible.

“We are in the best position we could be during COVID,” she said.

“We could stay on site, very few people left – everyone was either working from home or at the grounds.

“We have [hundreds of] acres out here, so it wasn’t difficult for us to social distance.”

For Sally, moving to the property during the pandemic was a “COVID coincidence”.

“My family and I fast tracked the move into our hempcrete home – we literally moved house the day that schools were shut down,” she said.

“My husband and I could see it was looking like we would lose a lot of our work due to COVID and, as we were renting down the road and had an almost complete house at Shepherds Ground, we just decided to make the move.

“It was the best decision ever for us – our children had space to run around and had lots of fun exploring the 277 acres around us, plus my husband and I had time to do painting and all the small things that needed to be finished.”

Sally added the community received a lot of interest from people wanting to move to the property during the pandemic.

Shepherds Ground member Sally Maguire at the village. Photo: Peter Stoop

Residents celebrated the village’s fifth birthday in March and, as of this month, it only has five memberships left of its original 27.

The community is now able to welcome back visitors as COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease.

It will host a small scale event on Saturday 25 July for its monthly tree planting, where people who are interested can give the grounds a visit.

For more information, visit the Shepherds Ground website or email [email protected].

All visits to the site must be organised in advance.

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