When Melbournians Annie and Shane Brereton purchased a termite-ridden church in Lexton, little did they know then it was only the start of their love affair for the Ballarat and Pyrenees region.
Having fully transformed the 145-year-old church into a charming retreat, the husband-and-wife duo are now the region’s biggest advocates.
“Without doubt the biggest surprise for us has been the thriving hospitality scene, Annie said.
“There is so much amazing food and wine to taste and enjoy in and around Ballarat and the Pyrenees and I feel that it is hugely underrated.
“We are doing our very best to help turn that around by encouraging our guests to explore during their stay and offering suggestions and recommendations to them.”
But sharing their newly-acquired local knowledge of the area with weekend retreaters is not all Grayling’s Gift guests are raving about.
From no single use coffee pods and locally purchased breakfast goodies, to an impressive collection of salvaged furniture, it seems the couple’s minimalistic and sustainable approach to renovating is proving quite a draw card among the growing number of sustainably-minded travellers and those simply looking to slow down for the weekend.
But don’t just take our word for it, check out these reviews:
“Graylings Gift is the ultimate relaxed, romantic space. We literally could not have been more in love with the entire stay. Homemade bread, brownies, gifted candles and bath salts, recipes and ingredients for scones, eggs and bacon for breakfast….our weekend was simply the best.”
“The space is so beautiful and waking up to the stained glass and all that natural light was so rejuvenating. Every detail was so thoughtful, from the beautiful bread and staples to make breakfast right through to that heavenly bed! If you have the opportunity to stay out there take it. So many wineries close by that you could have an outing and guaranteed you will just want to get back and sit under the trees on the swing and just relax. ”
“The perfect blend of luxury and simplicity. Annie is a generous host providing lovely produce and activities for use during your stay. I couldn’t recommend this home highly enough for a restorative break filled with design inspiration I will take home.”
We recently caught up Annie to talk more about how Grayling’s Gift came about…
What attracted you to the region?
The property was our first attraction to the region. A leisurely weekend drive to “watch” the auction ended with us returning home to Melbourne having bought it. Our subsequent trips back and forth to do the renovation have seen us fall in love with the incredible landscape of the Pyrenees ranges that we see on the drive into Lexton.
What do you know of the history of Grayling’s Gift?
St Mary’s Anglican Church was built in 1875 on land donated to the Anglican Church from well-known Lexton local William Grayling. Lexton was known during the gold rush period as the “crossroads” town as it became a central and pivotal location for the movement of supply to the newly discovered diggings in the surrounding areas.
The little church served the community until about 10 years ago. Our neighbour was the final parishioner for many years. She has served as a rich and wonderful source of information on the property and has been an ardent supporter of our transformation of the church.
What did the renovation involve?
The floors had to be replaced due to termite infestation. All the materials used in the transformation are secondhand or salvaged and the “new” floors are constructed of timbers removed from two different Melbourne properties slated for demolition.
The small kitchen is intentionally small and beautifully basic. Everything is designed to encourage our guests to slow down, live simply and embrace everything this humble, yet remarkable property has to offer. Shadows cast across the floor from the magnificent stained-glass windows at different times of the day create a sense of wonder and enchantment that is so unique to Grayling’s.
Talk us through the sustainable features of Grayling’s Gift?
Grayling’s was transformed with sustainability as the focus. Every building material is secondhand and even elements of the original church have been repurposed for alternative uses. The original altar bollards have been moved to the entrance to create a lovely sectioned entrance area.
The fireplace in the bathroom was almost completely destroyed by termites but we managed to salvage the corbels which were then used to recreate the original fireplace design.
All the furniture has been sourced from vintage stores and also most of our kitchen equipment is secondhand. This does not mean it is of lower quality but simply that we were able to source excellent gently used, and sometimes, never used, items without having to buy new.
Ongoing sustainable features include: Loose leaf tea to be mindfully brewed in a pot; stovetop espresso maker over a coffee pod machine; all our guest amenity items are sourced in bulk and decanted into refillable pump bottles; and, our breakfast provisions are all sourced from local Ballarat businesses.
What is it about Grayling’s Gift that your visitors tell you they love most?
The recurring words that come up in our reviews are “generous” and restorative” .
We aim to make our guests feel like they have been considered at every touchpoint during their engagement with us. That their needs have been met and all that is required of them to do is simply slow down and embrace the experience. We ensure our complimentary breakfast provisions are generous and of the best quality. We also like to leave unexpected touches that serve to surprise and delight our guests.
I think every guest has remarked that when they leave they feel refreshed and relaxed and for us that means we have achieved the vision that we created for Grayling’s.
You often visit Ballarat, what do you think is Ballarat’s best kept secret?
Without doubt the biggest surprise for us has been the thriving hospitality scene! There is so much amazing food and wine to taste and enjoy in and around Ballarat and the Pyrenees and I feel that it is hugely underrated. We are doing our very best to help turn that around by encouraging our guests to explore during their stay and offering suggestions and recommendations to them.