When it became apparent some years ago that his and other nearby properties in the Bylong Valley were in a coal miner’s sights, Richard Johnston decided it was time to up stumps and move elsewhere.
His “Bylong Park” thoroughbred stud property was duly snapped up in 2012 by the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), and Mr Johnston and his wife Christine cast their eyes further afield.
They found what they were looking for in the Martindale Valley – another branch of the Upper Hunter – in “Bay Meadows”, then (and since 1975) the home of Jim Bartholomew’s Barador stud.
The 137 hectare (340ac) property ticked the boxes for its abundant water, its horse-friendly terrain, its proximity to leading studs and its soils rich in limestone leached over centuries from the surrounding escarpments.
Originally it formed part of the Martindale Estate of the White family, before its breakup after the First World War.
It has a long history of thoroughbred breeding, and cattle breeding and fattening.
Since its purchase by the Johnstons, “Bay Meadows” has lived up to expectations as an ideal breeding-ground for quality yearlings and a low-stress home for the stud’s highly-regarded broodmares.
Among the stud’s breeding successes have been the Group One winners Mosheen, Driefontein, Luger and Psychologist.
But now the Johnstons are ready for a change of gear, and a shift of focus towards the pointy – that is, racing - end of the industry, and a large broodmare operation has become surplus to requirements.
They have listed “Bay Meadows” for sale by expressions of interest with thoroughbred specialists, Inglis Rural Property, and offers are expected around $2.5 million.
Situated 17 kilometres south of Denman and 69km from Scone, the property is thoroughbred “heartland”, two of the nation’s leading studs - Coolmore and Darley – being within 15 minutes’ drive.
The property fronts the permanent Martindale Creek.
The country rising from alluvial flats to gentle slopes of free-draining red loam soils, mostly arable, and sown to improved pastures including phalaris, Rhodes grass, clover and lucerne.
Average rainfall is about 600mm and a major feature of the property is that 75 per cent of it can be serviced by travelling irrigators, drawing on a 170 megalitre entitlement from Martindale Creek.
An electric pump on the creek drawing from six spear points delivers water for irrigation to an underground main that runs the length of the property, and thence to 19 strategically located hydrants.
Stock water is likewise sourced from the creek, and pumped into two tanks on high ground from where it is gravity-fed to paddock troughs.
The property is subdivided into paddocks ranging in size from just under 3ha to 16ha with a gently sloping main central laneway of 800 metres well suited to pre-training and working of horses.
Equine facilities include 14 post-and-rail day yards, two stallion yards with shelters and double-fenced stallion paddocks, a 20-box stable complex with feed and tack rooms, vet shed and horse walker.
An attractive three-bedroom country-style home, built nine years ago and currently used by the manager, has open-plan living area, reverse-cycle air conditioning, combustion heating and covered verandahs.
It is complemented by the original three-bedroom weatherboard homestead.