Belmont

For years, Belmont stared down on John Pooley twice a day, as he drove between his Coal River Valley farm and Hobart business.

By chance one evening he and his wife, Libby, enjoyed a glass of wine in the stone-walled courtyard by Belmont's blue-tiled pool. They fell in love with the house. When friends who were renting it mentioned the house might soon be sold, the Pooleys snapped it up before it went on the market.

Five years later, the Pooleys still cannot believe their luck as their stunning renovation job takes shape. And there's a sense of serendipity in that, from the converted stone stables, they are now running a cellar door for their award-winning cool climate wines at the property that was first built for Hobart wine and spirit merchant Benjamin Guy.

Belmont is set on a sandstone hillside that is itself heritage listed, because it is from here that all the sandstone that built Richmond village and its famous bridge was quarried.

Guy bought the land in about 1833, and around four years later the handsome home was built for his family, which included at least eight children. Only three years later the home and its forty acres were advertised for lease, as the family left to visit Europe.

Belmont has since had several owners; strangers frequently make contact with the current landholders to recount their own tales of growing up in this fine Georgian home, while many more find a visit to the cellar door a very pleasant excuse for a closer inspection of the property.

What so appealed to the Pooleys that evening by the pool was just how light, bright, liveable and positively Tuscan this place felt, a sense that was only enhanced by its glorious outlook over the productive Coal River Valley.

The home's spectacular outdoor areas include the walled courtyard that spans the width of the home to the old stables, the centrepiece of which is a stunning

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solar-heated pool surrounded by sandstone pavers, olive trees and lavender bushes.

Plans are afoot to create a large formal garden around the front terrace of the home, which commands views over Pages Creek and then to the township of Richmond. Meanwhile, at the back entrance, a new sandstone patio has been positioned to catch the evening sun.

The house has always been in good structural condition, but it had a distinctly seventies feel to it when the Pooleys moved in. The kitchen is now the latest in design and three elegant casement windows face onto the delightful courtyard and pool area. It also leads into a dining room that features immaculate cedar joinery and built-in cupboards, and which looks out onto Richmond through French doors.

Unlike a great many houses of the era, this one was built to capture both the views and the sun; so much so that when former owner Eric Gray lived here, a crystal bowl apparently burned a hole in his dining-room table, so intense was the sun shining through.

The sitting room, with its marble fireplace, is yet to be redecorated—Libby is leaning towards bright yellow and white stripes to enhance the lightness of the room. Also on the lower floor is a small study, and an old kitchen that has been converted to another cosy sitting room. Its massive fireplace incorporates an intact baker's oven that will be used to learn the art of wood-fired pizzas with the help of a local chef.

Upstairs there are four bedrooms and two ultramodern bathrooms, his and hers.

Outbuildings include an old laundry, stables and blacksmith shop, now converted to toilets for the cellar door which are, according to most visitors, the only ones they've ever used with a fireplace and lounge.

The Coal River Valley produces some of Australia's finest wines and the Pooleys are one of its longest-established winegrowers. When John's father, Denis, retired in 1984 from the car business they had established together, he felt lost. Action had to be taken, and so Denis and his wife, Margaret, bought land next to John and Libby's Coal River Valley farm.

A founding member of Hobart's Beefsteak and Burgundy Club, Denis Pooley wasn't up for farming beef but decided to give the wine a go. Half an acre of vines were planted at the Cooinda Vale Estate vineyard and they couldn't have grown better.

John says it added ten years to his father's life because every year there was another vintage to look forward to. Margaret still runs the Cooinda Vale cellar door and, aged ninety-three, is the oldest female vigneron in Australia.

After he moved to Belmont, John also planted vines on nearby Butchers Hill, and 2007 saw the first vintage of pinot produced. Pooley Wines consistently wins awards; its rieslings and pinot noirs took home no fewer than twenty-two medals and trophies at the 2007 Tasmanian Wine Show.

These days, as they enjoy an evening glass of wine from their own cellar door in the beautifully designed courtyard, John and Libby marvel at their good fortune in living here. They also feel strongly that they are simply caretakers of this magnificent property for the next generation, in this case their son, Matthew, who is now running Pooley Wines, and his wife and children.

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