Highlights on the Highway

Liveringa Station, Great Northern Highway, West Kimberley, WA

In 2021, the Kent Saddlery Catalogue contained an account of Lyle and Helen’s cancelled outback Trip, due to covid travel restrictions.

In addition, it featured a less than positive report of the hardships being experienced by the people of the Granite Belt community following the 2019 bushfires and ongoing drought.

As the 2022 catalogue goes to print, its great to be sharing more positive news.

Lyle and Helen drove out of the Kent Saddlery grounds on March 15 2021 and within a week of their departure, long awaited rain fell across the Granite Belt and beyond! Dams filled, water restrictions and people’s spirits were lifted and for the farming community in particular, hope was restored.

This weather event was an added bonus for Kent Saddlery and other Stanthorpe businesses which ironically, because of covid, had already benefitted from an influx of out-of-town customers who, when permitted to leave areas like Brisbane, were keen to travel to rural tourist destinations, such as Stanthorpe.

Throughout 2021, Kent Saddlery was grateful for urban visitors and tourists who were enthusiastic about and keen to purchase Kent Saddlery handmade products. Kent Saddlery’s handsewn leather belts, along with Akubra hats and Henk Berg bags and purses, remain as some of the most popular items of choice.

Coinciding with this welcome turn of events, an exciting highlight on the highway was the appearance of a new structure, gradually being incorporated into the Kent Saddlery landscape.

Years before, the windmill project had begun In Lyle’s mind, with a dream to bring a symbol of the outback to Stanthorpe and to draw attention to the Saddlery on the New England Highway.

Negotiations for the purchase of a mill began around August 2020 and under the supervision of windmill expert Gary Haines, the Kent Saddlery Comet was dismantled at Barkly Downs Station on the Northern Territory/Queensland border, near Camooweal.

The dismantled pieces were then trucked to the saddlery where they were placed on the ground like a huge jigsaw puzzle. The realisation of the dream took longer than hoped and a few months of inactivity followed as we waited for the arrival of new parts for the mill. In February 2021, the reassembled 30 foot sails of the Kent Saddlery Comet Windmill were lifted into place and bolted to the 50 foot tower and now it’s exciting and satisfying to see the Comet fully operational with water being pumped into a nearby corrugated iron tank.

In keeping with the historical significance of the Comet, the tank is supported by a heritage iron bark tank stand, its detailed construction completed by Frontier Furniture owner and operator, Ryan Fisher.

Currently, across many outback cattle stations, windmills are being replaced by solar powered pumps and these majestic wind-powered structures are being dismantled and shut down.

At best they’re being sold to interested buyers and at worst dismantled, pulled down, sold as scrap metal or left in a heap on the ground where they once stood, tall and proud, rhythmically catching and harnessing the wind in their circular sails.

For years they’ve been monumental landmarks on the horizon, direction keepers for the lost and symbol of the promise of life saving water for thirsty animals and humans.

For Lyle and Helen, it’s been sad to observe their demise and they are satisfied that they’ve been able to preserve ‘The Comet’ as a significant, working symbol of a life giving, amazingly designed piece of Australian heritage equipment.

In 2022 further plans for additional covered picnic tables are underway and the imminent creation of an outback mural by artist DRAPL will be a guaranteed attraction. Kent Saddlery is looking forward to meeting and welcoming more locals, tourists and travellers along the New England Highway to Kent Saddlery and we hope that the Saddlery will be seen as a destination, with the attraction of various animals to see and feed, ample parking, a horse spelling yard, picnic facilities and the Retail Store. Here, visitors are warmly invited to “come on in, smell the leather” and browse among the comprehensive display of Kent Saddlery’s handmade products and other items.

Kent Saddlery at Stanthorpe; it’s a Highlight on the Highway!