Discovering Hughenden: A Rural Haven through the Eyes of Mark Stafford.

Mark’s voice is measured and deliberate over the phone. You get the sense that each word has been carefully chosen and then delivered, in may ways it’s much like the tranquil pace of life in Hughenden. But Mark Stafford’s wasn’t always a local though, his journey to Hughenden is a tale rooted in family heritage, nostalgia, and a deep appreciation for rural living. Recently, we caught up with him over the phone and got a glimpse into his story. A story spanning influential decades and carrying us from Cooloongatta to Hughenden.

Origins, Family and the call of the outback.

“My family background is largely concentrated in south east Queensland and northern New South Wales although our grandfather began his working life and eventual successful business in Rockhampton and then relocating to Coolangatta establishing Bill Stafford Men’s Wear. He and his only Son A. A. ‘Bill Jnr’ ran the Store from after Dad returned from WWII into the 70s.”

Raised in a family with a rich history in South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales, Mark’s connection to regional Australia runs deep. His grandfather’s venture, Bill Stafford Men’s Wear, not only symbolised their family’s entrepreneurial spirit but also left an indelible mark on the community.

“We were a very prominent family well-known by Grandfather’s catch cry “come naked to Coolangatta and let Bill dress you”. Mark reminisces.

Mark’s early years were shaped by a blend of small-town charm and boarding school camaraderie. That camaraderie eventually played a pivotal role in the decision to migrate to Hughenden.

“Early Education for myself and my two younger Brothers was at Tweed Heads Primary School till year six. Then we were enrolled at boarding school, ‘The Southport School (TSS)’. Here we met and became friends with many rural boys attending the school. One of these families was the Westcotts – Drew, Bruce and Mark. All of whom are from Hughenden. Which leads me as to why we chose Hughenden.”

After receiving an inheritance the Stafford brothers were left with options. They’d always felt the allure of rural simplicity, open spaces and tight knit communities. So,they searched for something suitable from South East to North West Queensland.

“My (twin) brothers David and Paul, after we had received an inheritance, searched around rural Queensland from the Darling Downs North to Hughenden. Hughenden appealed to us and lo and behold not only did we know the local family the Westcotts, I had actually worked in and around Hughenden in the late 70s as a House Painter. Putting it all together we had no problems choosing to purchase a house with our inheritance here in Hughenden.”

Pic: Australian Hotel 1978 The same time as mark would have been painting in Hughenden.

Once the decision had been made to settle in Hughenden. The region opened up with the promise of a vibrant rural lifestyle, a steady pace and most importantly a community filled with familiar friends and neighbours, reminiscent of their upbringing.

“For us the benefits of rural living are the simplicity of daily life and just like our home town growing up had a small town feel where everyone knew each other and you would get a cheery ‘G’day’ and a ‘Hello’ from everyone as you went your way through the daily town activities.” 

“It’s the same feeling we have found in our new home here in Hughenden. Making us feel most welcome.”

The transition to life in Hughenden has been seamless for the Staffords. The warm embrace of the community and their shared values of camaraderie and kinship. Mark and his brothers are regulars in Hughenden too, keep an eye open for them walking the pooch or at the Urban Sketchers group.

Advice for anyone thinking about an outback change

Mark Stafford’s advice to those considering rural life resonates with his own experience in Hughenden. He encourages thorough exploration before making the move, highlighting Hughenden’s potential for growth and myriad opportunities, whether for retirement or even entrepreneurial ventures.

“The benefits of living in a rural environment,” Mark reflects, “lie in the simple and slower way of life. The only advice I could offer to people thinking of making the move to a rural life is to look around well and consider Hughenden… Over the next few years it will be a growing town and region with many opportunities. Whether you’d like to simply retire like ourselves or if it suits you, there are small business opportunities to be involved in.”

Hughenden and surrounds also have a plethora of secret spots and bigger tourism draw cards. So, if you’re wanting to dip a toe in it’s an ideal place to visit if you’re exploring and getting a feel for the ‘outback life’.

“The local area has many points of interest from Porcupine Gorge, Mt. Walker with its 360 degree views of the local pasture plains and surrounding Mountain Ranges of interest.” 

Mark admits the wind farms and solar power stations also have a certain allure, showing the commitment of Queensland’s increasing sustainability. 

For anyone considering the move Hughenden also offers; two Schools, a large town entertainment centre, library, The Flinders Discovery Centre and an impressive events calendar. For Mark “…the memorable moments of life in town are the annual Festival of Outback Skies, Rugby Sevens tournaments, Rodeo’s and more.” 

Capturing the Hughenden Recreational Lake.

Despite a full events calendar, an immersive history and much more, Mark’s favourite spot remains the man-made Hughenden Recreational Lake. With its scenic walking trails, BBQ and picnic areas, the lake epitomises the region’s tranquillity and natural beauty. For a number of years now, Mark has been capturing the dawn vistas on his camera. Finding serenity when surrounded by the rich birdlife, keen anglers and the early morning joggers. For Mark it’s the ideal way to start each day.

Early every morning like clockwork, you will find Mark Stafford perched on one the picnic tables by the lake with a ‘cuppa’ and his camera capturing the morning sunrise.

“I really enjoy the lake area especially during the dawn and awesome sunrises. The air is clean and fresh with an abundance of bird life. It’s truly spectacular. For those who love fishing the Lake is also well stocked with Barramundi, Cod and YellowBelly. The lake area is well utilised by runners, joggers and walkers and again, even though it is quite early in the morning, there is that all too familiar ‘G’day, how are you going’, from everyone you cross paths with. It’s a great way to begin each Day.”

Mark has been busy over the years capturing his early morning’s on camera. Each dawn offers a breathtaking outback panorama and he’s been kind enough to share some photos.

Mark Stafford’s journey to Hughenden embodies a deep-rooted connection to family heritage, community, and the serene beauty of rural living. From his grandfather’s legacy in Coolangatta to the tranquil landscapes of Hughenden, Mark’s path is a testament to his enduring ties to the region and its people.

Through his lens, we witness the timeless beauty of Hughenden’s dawn vistas, capturing the essence of rural life – a harmonious blend of nature’s splendour and the warmth of community. If you’re in the region early taking in the lake keep an eye and be sure to say ‘G’Day’.

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