HISTORY OF THE PROPERTY
The property is situated in Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsular, named “Glen Bower”. It was first settled in 1864 by Jenny McAuley’s great great grandparents Robert & Eliza Sheehan. It had had one previous owner, a Mr McKeown. The original land holding was much bigger than it is today. The original property was subdivided and parcels of land given to each son. John (Jack) William Holmes, Jenny’s grandfather, was given an area of approximately 70 acres. He and Annie-Sylvie Tallents were married in 1917. They spent their lives on the property farming. The cottage we live in was built by Jack in 1919. It is built of messmate timber logged from the property.
Jack and Annie-Sylvie established an orchard. They, like other local people, made a reasonable living from running the orchards. The most common fruit grown was apples but there were also cherries, peaches and apricots grown.
As a child Jenny visited the property on many occasions and grew to love the natural bush surrounding the orchards as well as the many varieties of mushrooms and toadstools that grew under the pines. The early settlers heavily planted the Red Hill area in pines and cypresses. These reminded them of the countries from which they had originated, provided shelter from wind and were an alternative source of income.
Jenny inherited the property in 2003. Jenny and husband Mike decided to experiment with growing the Perigold black truffle (melanosporum) because a lot of different varieties of fungus grew naturally on the property. The first planting of 300 trees was in March 2005 as an experiment.
The area was considered to be too warm to be ideal for truffle production. However Red Hill is 800 ft above sea level and has a microclimate that means that the temperatures are 4 -5 degrees cooler than on the coast and the area has a higher rainfall. In order for truffles to ripen they need the soil to get very cold. Therefore the best environment for truffles is a geographical area where there are a number of frosts each winter. Red Hill usually only has 2/3 frosts each winter. The average rainfall is conducive to truffle growing.
The trees planted were a mix of oaks and hazelnut trees. The original group of trees were sourced from Tasmania. The first truffle was found under a hazelnut in July 2010. It was relatively large approx 180 grams. There were further plantings of oaks in March 2010 and 2013. In 2015 a fourth section will be planted with 750 hazelnut trees for winter and summer truffles.
Red Hill Truffles was the first farm to produce truffles on the Mornington Peninsular.