A Flood of Support for Hunter Wine Country
Just two years ago they faced threatening bushfires, and now the Broke Fordwich wine region, a sub-region of the Hunter Valley, has once again been in nature’s firing line. On July 6th the rural village community of Broke, located 20 minutes from central Pokolbin, experienced devastating floods, along with nearby villages Wollombi and Bulga. Home to a number of local wineries, the region is now in recovery mode.
It was the worst flooding the area had experienced in recent history, with all 100-year flood records exceeded. The small village itself was cut off and many locals experienced significant flooding and damage to their homes and properties, with over 50 houses severely impacted by the disaster.
The Local perspective
“The July floods was the first time I’ve felt scared for Broke,” says Garry Winship, Grounds Manager at Winmark Wines. “We’ve had fires, we had the March floods, but this was next level.”
Lisa Margan, Director of Margan Wines, also felt the immediate impact. Their Ceres Hill property in Broke is home to one of their vineyards, the winery, Margan Restaurant and their Cellar Door.
Our property has about 2 kilometres of river frontage with The Wollombi Brook, which is usually just a small trickle of water, but the volume of rain further upstream, as well as the fact that the region was still super-saturated from the March-April floods, resulted in unprecedented flooding. Our property flooded right up to the buildings. The winery flooded but fortunately the water stopped short of the restaurant and cellar door.
Flood waters inundated Broke village and residents were evacuated, the local hall becoming the epicentre for recovery efforts lead by the SES, RFS, Army, volunteers and Singleton Council.
Winmark Wines had staff members local to the village experience extreme flooding in their homes, while others were impacted in different locations of the Hunter Valley. Yet despite their own immediate hardships, the team pulled together in support of one another, and the community spirit stretched across the Hunter Valley.
The Margans and many others in outlying areas were cut off by flood waters and without power for days.
Most of our vineyards did go under, but they are in dormancy for winter, so fortunately no long-term damage there. Vineyard trellising was damaged, fences were washed away, and we lost chickens and sheep, including all the new born lambs.
“While we had destruction and damage to our property, our personal home was not flooded, but Broke residents were starting to return to flooded homes.”
Aerial shot of the village
A Collective Recovery
While Winmark Wines was safe on higher ground, Garry Winship, along with his family and a fellow staff member, were cut off and isolated by floodwaters. Despite this, he leapt into action to help those nearby.
Our first thoughts were the community and co-ordinating with SES and RFS. I immediately volunteered to be part of the rescues taking people out of dangerous flooding zones. I don’t mind saying it was pretty terrifying, and I’m just grateful we were able to get to people and get them to safety.
Once roads reopened, Margans also turned their efforts to the village, deploying their vineyard team to assist with basic emergency repairs and to help rebuild fences in the village so people could keep their pets contained.
Just down the road, Greenway Wines was facing their own challenges, their distinct red barn cellar door unfortunately not able to escape the flood waters. ADF personnel and Bulga Coal came to their aid in the days following, helping tidy, move stock and clean mud from the barn.
Community efforts didn’t go unnoticed, a local RFS Captain posting his appreciation to the team from Winmark Wines on Facebook,
You guys went above and beyond to ensuring the safety of the most vulnerable in our area. By very proud, and I for one will never forget the contribution you guys made.
Along with placing people in their accommodation during the immediate crisis, Winmark Wines recently auctioned off a painting from their on-site art gallery, with all proceeds going to the flood recovery’s Go Fund Me page. Felicia Aroney’s Wild Magnolias sold for $5,800, with the entirety of the funds donated.
Winmark Wines cut off by floodwaters
Show your Support
The local community is now getting back on its feet, but there is still a way to go and the wider community can help in the recovery efforts.
Those able to are encouraged to visit Broke, explore its Wine Trail of cellar doors, and buy local. With their cellar door temporarily out of action, the team at Greenway Wines had a stroke of genius and established a ‘pop up’ cellar door on their property, complete with a warming firepit and antipasto platters available.
If you’re a little further afield, you can show your support by buying Broke Fordwich wines online or in retail outlets.
You can also make an online donation to help in the recovery efforts via the Broke Region Flood Relief Go Fund Me Page, with all proceeds going to assist flood-affected families, or the GIVIT appeal.
Share the details with your family, friends and community and help get this beautiful region back on its feet. We thank Margan, Winmark Wines and others for using their voice to bring light to this issue and support their local community.
You can purchase wines online from the Broke Fordwich Wineries mentioned: Margan Wines, Winmark Wines and Greenway Wines, and find out more information about the region and its wineries here.