My only source of knowledge about polo, prior to visiting The Creech in Tasmania, is the Jilly Cooper novels I’ve read. The impression I have from those is that people who play polo are usually Argentinian, born into landed gentry, or live in the English Cotswolds.
I’m not qualified to play in any sense, then. But I’m still keener than mustard to get on a tin horse and try things out from the vantage point of a saddle, when I visit The Creech on a tour with my farming friends from Tasmanian Women in Agriculture. These ladies have definitely swung their leg over a saddle and mustered some unruly livestock, so maybe they can show me a thing or two.
But first things first. On this fresh day in the Fingal Valley at Mathinna, we gather round Justin Couper who has owned The Creech for a couple of years. His aim is to bring the polo fraternity to Tasmania, combining their love of the sport with their habit of travelling the world to play it in outstanding locations, the kind on everybody’s bucket list. ‘Tasmania’s a great fit with polo,’ he says.
He’s been working quietly and assiduously to create a profile for The Creech and a curiosity about it. Slowly it’s building as an enticing retreat at which one can brush up on stick technique, house one’s polo ponies or just sit about with a steaming coffee in a pair of comfy jodphurs with one’s mount tethered outside.
The grounds, formerly a dairy farm which employed many a local in its time, are scattered with heritage building which draw in the golden Autumnal light and offer bucolic views through paned windows. There’s accommodation in cottages or small dormitory rooms in old stable blocks and there are well equipped commercial kitchens in which you can gather with friends for culinary adventures.
All the rooms have an immensely comfortable workaday charm about them. This is exemplified by the vast milking shed, now replete with leather sofas, all coffee rings and woollen blankets, inviting easy lounging with a snifter of single malt after a game. It’s all very enticing.
In the distance across the stock yards there’s a house, brick chimneys rising elegantly into the misty air between the autumnal leaves, a hint of old world elegance and charm. It’s probably draughty as hell and monstrously expensive to heat, but still, one imagines Justin lounging there in the evenings, socked feet up on a leather pouffe and half a salmon smoking on a board up the chimney for dinner. Or maybe that’s Jilly Cooper getting the better of me again.
Justin’s own polo credentials are immediately obvious as he saunters around with his plaid shirt and husky vowels – (stop it Jilly) – demonstrating the art of the polo swing and ducking out of the way of misplaced shots. Soon we’re all mounted on tin ponies, belting polo balls at the side of a barn. I fully expect to dislocate a shoulder when my stick makes contact with the ball, but after a few shots I can sense that practice would soon build your core strength and tighten up connecting muscles you never knew you had.
We all take pictures of each other, mounted and sticked. I’m photographed mostly from the back by someone standing on the wrong side of me, but that’s what you get when you give your camera to someone else. It’s reassuring to see that I’ve still got a waist.
Putting us all to shame is Gerard Woods, professional photographer, who clearly loves The Creech. ‘It’s pretty everywhere you look here,’ he says, and rightly so. Gerard kindly takes a very decent photo of me, looking pretty darn hot in the saddle, thus proving what a talented photographer he is.
After exerting ourselves in the saddle, we head off to the open sided shed for thick soup and crispy thin pizzas from the brick oven. Justin and Gillian bustle around as if they’ve leaped straight from the pages of Country Style magazine. Gillian can be seen stalking across the grounds with steaming cauldrons of soup, her waterfall mohair cardigan artfully tied to keep it out of the pot.
All too soon we’re off. I’m heading home to redesign my interiors. I’ve got bare floorboards and huge vases of Autumn leaves in mind. But I’d like to come back sometime, and stay in one of those sunlit cottages with their views over misty paddocks and horse yards.
As our coach rolls away up the driveway, Justin and Gillian wave us farewell, grouped in the warmth of wood burner in the open sided shed. It occurs to me that The Creech is yet another of those hidden gems you find tucked away in Tasmania, up a lane here or over a river there, misty and magical places where a landscape of possibilities suddenly opens before you. Visit soon, on any pretext!
Been to The Creech? Leave me a comment below! Leave a comment even if you haven’t been! I’d love to hear from you.