As I drive away from the buzz of the city and away from the stresses of everyday life I can feel myself relax. The buildings become trees and the cars become horses as my vista changes and the colour palette outside transforms from greys and blues to earthy browns, rusty reds and vivid greens. The Perth hills in winter are a lovely sight. I am headed towards Belara Springs, a property firmly nestled in the Bickley valley. Bickley is situated near Kalamunda, approximately an hour away from the Perth CBD but what a difference an hour makes. Tree lined tracks and picturesque horse paddocks fill my windscreen and I can’t help but think that this would be the perfect place to spend a weekend. A peaceful little getaway close enough that you don’t need to spend hours in the car but far enough that you really feel you have escaped the hustle and bustle of the buildings behind you.
Belara Springs is an 18 acre property owned and run by Tristan and Sonja Nottle. It is primarily a pilates studio where instructor, Tristan, runs many weekly classes and sessions out of the leafy oasis. There is also a massage room on site where patrons can have their muscles rubbed and squeezed after an intense session using the pilates machines and equipment.
Separate from the pilates studio there is also accommodation at Belara Springs. A Forest Chalet provides sophisticated rustic accommodation underneath the trees. The modern chalet is well appointed, clean and new. For $295 per night Friday to Sunday or $250 per night Monday to Thursday, guests can enjoy a tree change and a relaxing break. The chalet contains a queen bed and 2 singles and a cot can be provided upon request. There is a full kitchen and a bathroom with a tub overlooking the rural vista beyond the windows. If you are wanting to get away for a little while and catch your breath; Belara Springs would certainly fit the bill.
Tristan and Sonja’s home is also on the property and they love the lifestyle that running their own business can bring. “It really is paradise out here.” Sonja says, “I think we are lucky to have found the home we want to stay in forever.” Tristan and Sonja have a young son who loves exploring the magical nature playground at his doorstep. The wildlife is abundant; birds, lizards, frogs and marsupials can be seen amongst the bush.
Tristan has always had a natural affinity with the hills. He grew up in Kalamunda and then later moved to Sydney where he spent a lot of time in the Blue Mountains. He fell in love with the undulating landscape so upon moving back to Perth was really happy to be back among the hills and the valleys. “Some people need the ocean, I need the forest,” he says with a smile.
Tristan and Sonja are fond of their natural surroundings which is evident when looking at the trees and native plants that cover their large property as well as the rare and exotic trees they have planted. The flora flourishes in Bickley as it is a micro-climate unto itself. “It is approximately 4-5 degrees warmer in summer and sometimes 9-10 degrees colder in winter,” Tristan explains. “It is extreme Bickley!” he says and we laugh. When asked which season is their favourite Sonja and Tristan both agree that they like autumn. “I love the cool weather and the magical feeling in the air as the leaves start to change. Autumn really showcases the hills nicely,” says Sonja. Tristan adds that there is “less work in autumn as it starts raining regularly, the paddocks are green and the valley is crisp and fresh. Everything feels like it’s slowing down after the frenetic energy of spring and summer; the trees are preparing to go into hibernation. In autumn it feels like everything takes a breath.”
It is clear that respect for the environment is at the forefront of thinking at Belara Springs. The chalet is eco-friendly: the drinking water is rain water, the power is partly offset with solar panels on the property and the waste water is recycled, treated and used to irrigate the trees.
The chalet itself looks out onto its own mini orchard where guests can see apple and pear trees growing. The rolling hills beyond the fruit trees lead down to the bottom of the Nottle’s property. Guests can enjoy a barbecue on their deck, do some birdwatching, read a book or simply just sit and enjoy the absolute quiet that is so rare today in a world of noise and distraction. The barbecue and full kitchen in the chalet allows guests the ability to cook their own meals with no need to venture back into the rat race. Little touches in the chalet make the stay even more enjoyable: for each group of guests the chalet is equipped with a large bottle of milk, glad wrap, oil, salt and pepper. There are also DVDs available to borrow from a list which can be organised prior to a stay and will be in the room upon check in. The check in and check out times are flexible. “Guests can check in as early as 1pm and check out as late as noon.” Sonja tells us.
The chalet is built using elements from the hills: local Jarrah wood, corrugated iron, local metal works, hand tumbled clay bricks and terracotta tiles. Tristan and Sonja designed it to fit in with the landscape. “Everything feels like it just came out of the Earth,” they tell us. “The hills don’t need to be floral and paisley” Tristan adds. “Accommodation out here can be sophisticated and still be rustic.”
So if you need to get away from the city for a few days or even just a night, why not escape to Bickley Valley for a tree change and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Belara Springs Forest Chalet.
Have a look at our gallery below for some more photos of the chalet and photos of Tristan and Sonja.
You can check out the Belara Springs website here.
Do you need a tree change? Have you spent any time in the Perth hills and if so did you find it relaxing?