At the end of the Second World War, the White family’s vast Belltrees Station in the Upper Hunter Valley was an obvious target – like other large pastoral spreads - for soldier settlement.
But, as Judy White tells it in her book, ‘The White Family of Belltrees’, some shrewd advice from a local surveyor who was a friend of the Whites “rescued” the station from a wholesale carve-up.
He advised A.H. White, the managing partner of the historic station, to take pre-emptive action and offer a sizeable chunk of land to the Closer Settlement Board under the Voluntary Promotions Scheme.
That was how an area of some 12,000 acres (4800 hectares) came to be sliced off “Belltrees” in 1946, to furnish four blocks for local returned soldiers (selected by White).
One of these blocks, an 1800-acre section flanking McDonalds Creek and named “Mandalea”, was settled by a former artilleryman, Ian MacCallum.
And today “Mandalea” – now a substantial holding of 2849ha (7027ac) following the later purchases of adjoining “Ardroy” and “Oakendale” – is hitting the market for the first time in 70 years.
The property is owned by Ken MacCallum and his wife Doon, and it is being offered for sale (of course!) by MacCallum Inglis of Scone, whose co-principal, Peter MacCallum, is Ken’s brother.
Ken and Doon bought a smaller property, “Jocelyn Park”, closer to Scone last year, to which they plan to relocate after selling “Mandalea”.
The offering of “Mandalea” has generated strong interest due to the property’s scale, its prized location adjoining the renowned “Belltrees”, and the scope if offers for further development.
Situated 40 kilometres east of Scone, where it occupies a private valley of McDonalds Creek, “Mandalea” rises from fertile creek flats to natural grazing slopes of basalt and loam soils and timbered hills.
About 480ha of the total area is considered arable and suited to pasture improvement or fodder cropping.
Average rainfall is 675mm and the property is watered by a piped supply from the Hunter River, pumping to header tanks and paddock troughs, plus a bore, the seasonal McDonalds Creek and 31 dams.
Under present ownership “Mandalea” has been managed as a diverse cattle breeding and fattening and woolgrowing operation, carrying at its peak 700 cows and calves, heifer replacements and 1500 Merino sheep.
Carrying capacity in average seasons is estimated at one cattle breeding unit to 10ha, or DSE equivalent.
The property has been progressively destocked over the past 12 months in preparation for sale, and paddocks have “greened up” following rains in October.
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Structural improvements are extensive, reflecting the property’s progressive build-up, and include a main brick homestead of four bedrooms and four three-bedroom cottages.
The main homestead dates from the 1970s and features a gauzed verandah and family room.
It has a split system air conditioning and a garden setting with views over the property.
Working improvements include two steel machinery sheds, a three-stand shearing shed with steel sheepyards, three sets of cattle yards, hayshed and silos.
“Mandalea” is being marketed by expressions of interest, closing December 6, with recent Upper Hunter sales indicating a likely bidding range from $2625/ha to $2875/ha ($1050-$1150/ac).