Weather wreaks havoc on Edwina Bartholomew’s country hotel gamble 

The heavy rainfall that has battered NSW for the last few weeks has also taken its toll on Sunrise star Edwina Bartholomew’s heritage-listed renovation project.

“We have had a lot of storms in the area which very quickly revealed serious leaks in the roof,” Edwina told

“We sustained damage to our floors through a big leak in one of the skylights, we lost of couple of windows during a hail storm, and the plaster in one room is literally crumbling off the wall. As a result, we’ve had to up the pool of funds we allocated to cover anymore surprises!”

Just over a year after first stumbling upon the period property, the TV presenter and her husband, Neil Varcoe, have worked hard to turn their dream of transforming the rundown, former pub into a high-end, boutique hotel.

However, they’ve faced various stumbling blocks — from planning delays, to the recent wild weather.

But amidst the downpour, Edwina has managed to lift her dampened spirts by taking inspiration from fellow plucky renovators who have shared their own heritage projects with her and Neil.

“So many people have started reaching out to us after reading about the project on and through following our videos on social media,” said Edwina.

“From homes in France to pubs in the UK to historic homes in Melbourne, we’re now following a number of couples doing exactly what we are doing around the world.”

All smiles despite significant delays and wild weather. Picture: Supplied

One of these likeminded renovators are Julie and Vince Fodera — a couple who are nearing completion of their amazing 1850s house, Heatherbrae, in Caulfield, Melbourne.

“Just like us they are so passionate about saving historic homes,” Edwina said.

“I went to meet Julie and to tour Heathbrae and saw how they have renovated with such care for its history, but also with the consideration of turning it into a home where they can live comfortably with all the modern additions.”

Undertaking the renovation of any heritage-listed property is a real labour of love considering the extra layers of red tape. And in Edwina’s case, it’s not just the 1880s Saltash Farm that is heritage-listed — the entire town it’s set in is too.

“We have a lot of learn from Julie and Vince as this is about to be their tenth renovation of an historic home,” she said.

“They do a lot of the grunt work themselves, only bringing in specialist tradespeople where required. We can learn a lot from that.

“We are using a lot of the same suppliers as Julie and Vince, so it was fantastic to see the quality in the flesh. Julie has played around with a lot of colour and wallpaper with her project and that has also provided us with a lot of inspiration.

Edwina visited likeminded renovators Julie and Vince Fodera who are nearing completion of the 1850s house, Heatherbra (pictured) in Caulfield. Picture: Supplied

“Mostly, we were inspired by their love of history and what they are saving through the process of renovation. We are obviously creating accommodation, not a home, so there are additional factors we need to consider.

“If Saltash Farm turns out to be anywhere near as spectacular as Heatherbrae, we’ll be very lucky!”

Demolition finally underway on Saltash Farm

Freshly fuelled with inspiration, Edwina and Neil have another ray of sunshine in the form of recent permission to begin some of the demolition work in the main house.

With the go-ahead from council, the pair have began to strip architraves and cornices, rip up carpets, and test paint colours on walls.

“After more than a year of cleaning out the property it is nice to actually be doing some substantial work,” she said.

“It does feel a little like we’re fiddling around the edges, but I’m assured that once we are underway, we will truly get going.”

Some demolition works can finally get underway after months of delays. Picture: Supplied

Taking a ‘glass half full’ approach, Edwina says that the delays caused by the DA submission process have allowed more headspace to consider the various elements of the build, especially their budget.

“It has allowed us to get a full picture of the structural work ahead and amend our budget to fit,” she explained. “Making cuts now instead of further down the track.

“Having extra time has allowed us to be more considered when selecting interior fixtures and finishes, which has also made us realised that there isn’t one door frame in the house or cornice that is actually accurate to the age of the house, so they will all need to be replaced.

“This planning process will be complete by the beginning of June. By then, the project will be then fully costed and then we have to stick to the budget!”

Heavy rainfall has revealed serious leaks in the roof. Picture: Supplied

Just as the weather has gone from stormy skies to calmer, clear ones, after a tumultuous year of number crunching, structural reports and balancing budgets, Edwina and Neil’s Saltash Farm project is finally picking up momentum.

“We are getting there,” she said. “The community consultation on the project has now closed and we have received only a couple of submissions with easy issues to fix.

“Our plans are now in the process of being finalised — plans that show the three cabins at the back, plus a base for us, a commercial laundry to service the hotel, and plenty of shed and storage space. We are also currently finishing plans for the hospitality spaces to meet all relevant food safety standards.”

While even getting to this stage of the build has required a lot of sacrifice and upheaval Edwina admitted that the real hard yards are still to come.

“Once the DA is approved we plan to start work on the main house and then move onto hard landscaping works,” she explained. “Then, once we are through winter, we can plant the walled garden, orchard and front heritage garden to give it a good head start. Finally, it feels like we are getting closer to the start line!”

Stay tuned for the next chapter of Edwina’s renovation rollercoaster as we follow her progress on