Idyllic Wedding Venue Exudes Natural Beauty
When you work in the wedding industry, you’re bound to hear stories of love at first sight. So it seems fitting that was precisely how Gabrielle Dal Bon and her partner Chris Browning felt when they came across the picture-perfect Wollombi property they have transformed into one of the premier wedding venues in the Hunter Valley.
Above: Photo by Ken Lue Photography
Sitting near the eastern boundary of Yengo National Park, with the splendour of the World Heritage-listed wilderness right on its doorstep, historic Redwood Park is a stunning 100-acre property featuring natural bushland, expansive park-like grounds, a large tranquil lake and a renovated 140-year-old barn converted into self-contained accommodation. “We have owned the property for 16 years and are the fourth owners since 1880,” Gabrielle said.
“We were first attracted to the property because of its location in the Lower Hunter and proximity to Wollombi which is an easy drive from Sydney and was still relatively undiscovered at the time. “Secondly, it was the natural beauty of the property that initially caught our attention. After looking at several properties in the area in 2004, the moment we saw this property, we just knew it was the one for us. “The 100-acre property has 40 acres of manicured grounds and rolling lawns, bordered by Wollombi Brook, which provides endless Summer entertainment for our son Oscar and his friends. “The centrepiece of the property is, without doubt, the large lake flanked by a cantilevered pavilion over the water and the beautiful sculptures we have managed to acquire over the years from some leading artists.” While it had potential to be a fantastic family home and a prime source of income thanks to The Barnstay accommodation, the idea of capitalising on Redwood Park’s natural beauty and built assets to create the perfect self-contained wedding venue wasn’t even on the radar when the couple purchased the property in 2004. Further renovations to the barn and an extensive landscaping project saw the couple transform the property into an even more magnificent destination, and it was this labour of love that unexpectedly set them on the path to becoming one of the Hunter’s finest wedding venues. “Weddings were the furthest thing from our minds when we bought the property… they happened quite by accident,” Gabrielle said. “After having spent six years designing the gardens and planting thousands of trees, we were approached to host a marquee wedding which was subsequently covered by White Magazine. This led to more opportunities and started an entirely new business for us taking us to where we are today. “We are very much a family operated business and proud of that fact. The property has been a labour of love, and it’s been a real team effort to have achieved what we have in the past 16 years. “The landscape has undergone quite a transformation over that time, with over 6000 trees planted and everyone – Chris, both sets of parents, our son Oscar and I, have all played an important part, and continue to do so.
Photo by Eurphora il.
“It has not been the easiest path, but it has been very rewarding, and nothing is more satisfying than to show couples through the venue and know that they want to get married at a property we created. All that hard works melts away and puts a smile on our faces.”
While the marquee weddings were beautiful, the family decided to step things up a notch by creating a bespoke wedding and event space that would provide happy couples with even more choice and versatility when it came to planning their dream celebration. “The Woodhouse was completed on August 19, 2018, and was the culmination of a vision to build something truly unique in the Hunter Valley,” Gabrielle said. “The Hunter Valley has so much to offer, and we felt that despite there being so many amazing venues, there was something still missing. “That missing piece was something genuinely stunning that still offered the flexibility that couples value, which was frankly not available at many venues, where it can be quite restrictive.
“The building design was a collaboration between myself and an architect friend and the vision was always very clear – to build a building that would pay homage to the humble shed but translate that into something more modern and timeless. “It was also essential to use natural elements such as beautiful Australian hardwood and to preserve and reuse bridge timbers from our local Williams bridge, which we rescued when the bridge was torn down and are now the centrepiece of our outdoor undercover dance floor.
Photo by Ben Howland Photography
Photo by Stories with Mel
“With the completion of The Woodhouse in 2018, we morphed from doing marquee, DIY weddings to full-service weddings. It completely changed our business model and target market.
“Following the launch of The Woodhouse, we knew it would be inevitable that we would need to seek outside help at some stage. “That occurred this year when we hired our first Event Manager, Michelle Horner. She has been a breath of fresh air and a real asset for our couples. “Michelle comes from event management at the Hilton Hotel so is well qualified to deliver outstanding customer service, advice and guidance to couples of The Woodhouse.” The Woodhouse is a true masterpiece with a rustic but refined European elegance, from the striking geometric lines of its architecture to the sleek, high-pitched Colorbond roofline and the stunning golden tones of its timber-clad exterior. Exposed timber beams have been used as a feature of the covered outdoor dance floor as well as in the main event space inside, providing a beautiful natural texture that adds to the country-style authenticity of the building, while the soaring 7m-high ceilings and 4m-tall windows add drama and grandeur with plenty of natural light. Every detail has been well thought out, from the Robert Gordon black pottery plate ware, the custom-made 3.6m steel window behind the freestanding fireplace and the bespoke bar to the outdoor firepit with integrated lounge seating and the extensive courtyard. The fully licensed venue uses in-house caterers Fennel & Co. It can accommodate up to 150 people for either sit down or canape-style weddings or events, which are individually designed to suit every couple following the venue’s mantra – ‘your day, your way’.
Photo by Kevin Lue Photography
Hosting weddings on site since 2010, Gabrielle said it was impossible to single out any one event as her ‘favourite’. “It is hard to single out any one particular wedding as each wedding is memorable, but what is and continues to be memorable is seeing how each couple approaches their wedding in their own unique way,” she said.
“This reinforces and rings true to us, our ‘your day, your way’ philosophy.
We are not a cookie-cutter venue that offers little choice for couples to make it their own. We pride ourselves on our flexibility and service, guiding every couple along the way to ensure they are not overwhelmed.
This flexibility is enhanced by the lush grounds of Redwood Park, which offer numerous wedding ceremony, drinks and spectacular photography locations to choose from including amongst the paperbark trees, the pavilion, under the casuarinas, one of many lakeside spots or the courtyard of The Woodhouse. With on-site accommodation, which has been lovingly renovated and incorporates bespoke handmade natural elements, Redwood Park ensures your wedding package truly caters for everything. The Barnstay can accommodate up to 16 people within four bedrooms and a queen loft, making it the perfect place to spend the night before the ‘Big Day’ with close friends and family. The bedrooms have been created in soft colours with a clean Scandinavian feel, featuring linen curtains and doonas, and natural sisal floor covering. The Barnstay has a fully equipped kitchen with a sleek concrete benchtop and premium appliances, including a coffee machine. There are also two lounge rooms with flat-screen TVs and DVD players, as well as a stereo system with iPod dock.
A fan-forced slow combustion fireplace adds extra cosiness during the colder months, while a large deck and a five-burner gas barbecue provide a casual option for the night before your nuptials.
Gabrielle said they were hoping to expand their accommodation offering even further, with a luxe bridal suite to be added in 2021 and plans to build premium accommodation suites. A sideways move into the corporate event space is also on the horizon, making the most of the property’s versatile spaces and natural attributes. “For us, there is not just one standout feature that makes the venue special. It’s the combination of the extensive landscaped grounds, rolling lawns, sculptures from award-winning international artists, the Woodhouse, the privacy and our on-site accommodation that all makes for a successful destination wedding venue,” Gabrielle said. “For us personally, it is also special because we created it. We used to work five days per week in Sydney and then drive up every weekend and work our butts off. “Looking back at what we have created and what we will continue to create makes us enormously proud.” Visit www.thewoodhousewollombi.com.au to see more of this stunning property.
Photo by Eurphora il.
Photo by Kevin Lue Photography
Photo by Captured Frames