Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022


Bridestowe Lavender Estate

7:34 pm

Photo of Wendy AskewWendy Askew (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to take the opportunity tonight to highlight an iconic Tasmanian tourist destination, Bridestowe Lavender Estate, in Nabowla, in Tasmania's north-east. Bridestowe is celebrating its 100th year in 2022, and I dropped in earlier this year to see the stunning purple fields during their peak flowering season. Bridestowe shot to worldwide fame in 2013-14, when numerous Chinese models and actors took to social media with photos of the farm's mascot, Bobbie the bear, and when Chinese President Xi Jinping was gifted one on his first visit to Tasmania, in 2014.

Bridestowe Lavender Estate owner Robert Ravens told me the farm's iconic rows of lavender had formed the backdrop of thousands of selfies on social media, with visitors often holding one of the business's famous purple lavender ice creams in their photo foreground. Mr Ravens purchased the farm in 2007, not knowing anything about lavender or how to grow and harvest the crop. He is a well-known and highly regarded member of the Northern Tasmanian community. As well as running the farm, Mr Ravens is a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia Small Business Finance Advisory Panel and was the 2022 Waratah-Wynyard Council's Australia Day ambassador. The farm itself has also won numerous awards, including the inaugural Australia China Business Council award for entrepreneurship and influence in China and the 2016 Telstra Tasmanian Business of the Year, and has been voted as one of eight must-visit destinations in Australia by travel website Webjet.

Bridestowe Lavender Estate is the world's largest privately owned lavender farm. The French lavender harvested from the more than 650,000 plants at the farm is used to create perfume, premium oil, cosmetics, teas, soaps and, of course, Bobbie the bear. I have purchased many such products as gifts and mementos over the years myself, as did my late mother.

The Bridestowe Lavender Estate is a very-well-established agritourism venture that draws tourists from across Tasmania, Australia and the globe. However, the 260-acre farm's original location was not at Nabowla. Bridestowe's lavender farm was established in 1922 at North Lilydale, almost a 30-minute drive from its current site. Keith Denny, who had previously worked as an accountant for London perfumery Cleaver's, dreamed of producing the world's finest lavender. His research showed Tasmania's climate and conditions were similar to those of Provence but the island state was free of contamination, which was an issue in France at the time due to World War I. North Lilydale was deemed the best location and Mr Denny planted seeds sourced from the French Alps, naming the farm Bridestowe after the church where his father was rector for 39 years. By 1924 Bridestowe was producing enough flowers to distil oil, and a sample was sent to London for analysis. The Tasmanian produced sample was considered of at least equal quality to French oil, and, in addition, it was low in camphor—the ingredient that can make some lavender scents unpleasant—showing Mr Denny was onto a good thing.

This quest for the finest lavender continues today, 100 years later, with flowers harvested at the optimum time in January for peak quality and oil production. I was able to watch the oil distillation process during my visit, seeing how Bridestowe's pure lavender oil is collected in the distillery. The Denny family designed a revolutionary curved rose to capture rainfall in a controlled-spill way which traps water for reuse and reduces erosion. This is just one of the efficiencies employed at the farm.

Today Bridestowe's other sustainable practices include: native plantings in areas not farmed to increase biodiversity and controlled pests; hand weeding with little reliance on herbicides; plant prunings, cardboard and paper composted and returned to enrich the soil; regular resting of production areas and rotational cropping to improve soil quality; solar panels, energy-efficient lighting and skylights to reduce energy use; and on-site flower drying using the sun.

Fortunately, the innovative working farm I have just described can be experienced by anyone. I walked between the rows of lavender like many of the tourists who visited on the same day I did. I also enjoyed a cup of lavender grey tea at Bridestowe's cafe and listened to the pleasant hum of families and friends enjoying their holidays and planning what they would do next. I topped up my stores of culinary lavender and tea while watching visitors pose for photos with the huge Bobbie bear in the gift shop.

Bridestowe Lavender Estate really is a wonderful example of Tasmania's agricultural tourism on show. Its purple fields are a huge drawcard for the state's northern region, and the Ravens family's commitment to innovation continues the legacy the Dennys began a century ago.