To call Rosalita’s Rest a place of healing would be to misrepresent the down-to-earth, planet-loving hosts who have built this boutique holiday property on their 120 acre biodynamic farm in the Byron hinterland, but to leave out the healing aspect would be to neglect a crucial pillar of the Rosalita’s Rest experience. As well as the vintage-inspired, lavender flanked cabins and peace-inducing lily pond, Rosalita’s is home to a transformative kinesiology clinic, so guests can experience the incredible impact of this biofeedback-based healing modality, as well as the benefits of immersion in nature, and this inherently peaceful, lovingly created space .
During our two night stay, we did as our hosts Vince Hunt and Angela Bricknell recommended: we slowed down and took the time to observe the space that is felt in stillness. We woke early to the delicately complex dawn chorus: kookaburras and fairy wrens calling in harmony from the trees that have been planted by hand in the low lying paddock. We walked around the pond and sat on the yoga deck as dragonflies dipped to drink and the water lilies unfurled their purple petals to greet the day. We read on the grassy bank as the beehives buzzed quietly and a cormorant sat on the jetty watching a family of ducks send ripples across the water that reflected the deep blue of the morning sky. We watched the sun set over the hill from the rustic cabana and ate dinner in the warmly lit bush arbor as the sounds of the crickets began to fill the warm, early summer air. We brewed herbal tea from native bushes planted by previous guests, and drank it from mismatched mugs stored on shelves between antique lamps and densely coloured oil paintings of the hinterland. After dinner, we took baths in the clawfoot bath as the sky above us filled with stars.
On the Thursday afternoon, after a kinesiology session in Angela’s clinic, I sat down with Angela and Vince to learn about the Rosalita’s story.
Collectively, the two of us are so many things: farmers, artists, dreamers, gardeners and healers. We brought our lifetime of passions to watch them grow on this land.
Back in Sydney, where we were living before, we spent a year creating a big permaculture garden. It was incredible to see it come to life, for an empty space to turn into a living, breathing organism in such a short amount of time, and after that we started to feel as though we needed more space to express ourselves. The Byron area is the permaculture capital of New South Wales, and it’s also a very energetically spiritual place, and we were drawn here for so many reasons.
The impact of the permaculture space in Sydney was quite remarkable. We were only there for fifteen months, but by the time we left, you could walk down the boardwalk on the side of the house and there were bunches of bananas hanging over the walls and pawpaws, it was like the garden of eden. This sustainable space added so much value to the property, we had turned a lawn into a food forest that people could live from. We knew we needed more space… we didn’t think we needed 120 acres, but here we are.
We knew when we bought the property that we wanted people to be able to share this place. We knew we’d be doing lots of growing, because it’s something we both love, but we wanted to be able to share that with others. We had to work out what sharing it would look like, and part of that was having the clinic on site, but it’s also about giving people the opportunity to just be still in nature.
We could see the potential here: the blank canvas. We both think very creatively, so we let ourselves pursue the ideas that came to us: every idea was always underpinned by the intention to grow food, and in that way, the design formed organically.
We created Rosalita’s Rest as an antidote to nature deficit disorder, which is something that’s affecting so many people just by dint of the way we live now. It’s about coming back to nature, really connecting with it in the way that we’ve evolved to.
With supermarkets in cities being so easy to access, a lot of people don’t really have a connection to nature, and people often don’t actually get their feet on the grass or their hands in the soil. There’s this mindset that “we’re the humans, and that’s all nature – out there”. But we are nature , we are what we can see: the trees, the ocean, the soil. When we die, we don’t become an iPhone, we become part of the earth, we are of this land.
We all use the phrase “disconnect to reconnect”, but that is easier said than done. Sometimes, it’s about pausing, observing, touching. Just spending time appreciating nature. We’ve sat for hours watching spiders form their webs, watching the lilies unfurl and open up to the sunlight in the mornings. There are so many ways to witness life and nature if you just pay attention, and here – immersed in nature, with the pond and landscape constantly changing – it’s much easier to do that.
We don’t tell people to live a certain way, but we facilitate that connection and encourage curiosity.
We wanted to regenerate the land so we became regenerative farmers, but we wanted to give our guests the opportunity to regenerate it too, because the essence of regeneration is its cyclical nature: once you begin to regenerate, the cycle keeps going. We want to give guests the opportunity to leave the place better than they found it, and physically one way of doing that is by planting, by co-creating with nature and helping life forms to grow.
Plant It Forward is our initiative that allows guests to plant produce for future guests to enjoy. For so many of our guests, the experience they have of planting a tree or transplanting seedlings into one of our wicking cells (the WaterUps permaculture plant beds that Vince helped to design) is a unique point in their connection to nature, to giving back. The way the wicking cells are designed means we won’t have to water them every day for them to thrive, so the planting really is the most important step in this particular small-scale gardening practice. Lettuce, for instance, doesn’t take long to grow, and from one action you could feed people for months. Plant It Forward is a way for our guests to really connect with the impact that their actions can have later down the line. Everything that we use usually comes from living things, and until you plant something, until you’re responsible for giving some other living organism life, you’ve really just been consuming, regardless of how sensitively you’ve been doing it.
We’ve also worked with guests to plant trees, and in 2020 alone we planted 2020 trees on the property, with the help of guests and friends.
Wildheart Dreamer is a place to dream with a wild hearted nature, from an open hearted space. We used to have this table which we’d painted with lovely colours and beautiful words on each side: words like love, happiness, gratitude. Similarly, we wrote other lovely words on each of the chairs around the table, so you might be sitting in the seat of peace at the table of forgiveness. It was really interesting to see what the table brought up and the conversations it sparked, and the names for the cabins were inspired in part by that.
Wildheart Dreamer is a place that gives people permission to dream their wildest dreams. When people come on holiday they’re often in a time of change, and they’re wondering what possibilities there might be for them. We want people to allow themselves to dream their wildest dreams here, to open up to possibilities.
Capricorn Dancer is a song by a musician called Richard Clapton, and the “Rosalita” from Rosalita’s Rest comes from the Bruce Springstein song. The word rest was born out of a combination of a song that we loved and what we wanted this place to facilitate.
Can you tell us about the design and building process? Which companies did you work with and why?
The cabins were designed by Vince, with the intention that they would look old: timeless and well established. We chose the simplest of building materials and worked with a local carpenter for the lock-up, but a lot of this we built ourselves. We wanted it to feel like it’s been here for a long time, but it’s really the garden that’s going to make this place feel like it’s been here forever. In time, you’ll just about be able to see the cabins through the plants, but mostly they’ll be hidden away: entirely immersed in nature, but still with the sunlight coming through the windows on either side.
We collected the art and furniture over a few years, and every piece of furniture has a story. The brass bed in Capricorn Dreamer was brought across from Scotland by a lady who owned it for years, probably decades. The bedside tables come from America, even some of the trees come from family members and friends.
What about Rosalita’s Rest are you most proud of?
The energy by the dam is really special, it’s the heart of the property and you can feel that if you allow yourself the quiet and stillness to tap into it. It also represents for us the co-creation with nature: the way nature supports us and we support nature. The beauty of all this, particularly around the dam, is that we planted some trees and plants, but nature itself has planted an awful lot more. This microclimate around and in the water has formed itself, through rainfall and weather and migration and natural growth. The dam brings the habitat, it brings the birds, it brings this beautiful energy. It brings life.
Is there one particular memory that speaks to the magic of the space?
Again, it has to be related to the dam. When we started filling up the dam, slowly we’d start to see life there: a bird one day, maybe two the next. We started to see ducks arriving every now and again, and then one morning we woke up and it was as if every duck in Australia had come to our pond: there must have been seventy something ducks all gathered there, as if they’d all told their buddies and the word was out.
Another time, in the middle of the night we heard this noise, and a beautiful big goose had flown in and just spent the night on the lake.
It’s also so special for us when people really connect with nature, and they share that experience with us. We’re building something to facilitate people’s connection to nature, to allow them to slow down, and so when they tell us how relaxed they feel, or how they noticed a certain flower or the song of a certain bird, we feel as though we’ve done our job.
What would a perfect day at Rosalita’s Rest look like?
For us, we’d start the day early, watching the daybreak by the water. The fog often rolls in, and forms in these clouds that rise above the pond. In the mornings especially, it’s amazing to bring awareness to the soundscape: tuning in to which birds are singing and becoming familiar with their songs.
A perfect day unfolds slowly, and we’ve created different places to sit and rest: on the yoga deck or the jetty or up in the cabana. We’d eat outside, with as much produce from the garden as possible, and have a bath at night under the stars.
It’s simple, it’s about slowing down, just being in stillness.
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