When a Tasmanian couple couldn’t find accommodation for an extended family reunion, they decided to build it themselves in Derby, North East Tasmania
It’s become an international mountain biking mecca – and now the unassuming township of Derby in Tasmania’s North East is home to a new riverside getaway for large groups of people (24), the Dales of Derby.
Martin and Margaret Dingemanse are proud northern Tasmanians. They have fond childhood memories of camping in Derby, at a time when very few knew about this former mining town. Back then, it was all about the annual Derby River Derby; racing down the Ringarooma River on a handmade raft throwing rotten eggs, flour and food dye at fellow competitors to claim victory before large pots of soup were shared. Today, it is on the international mountain bike map for its network of trails through the spectacular Blue Tier rainforest foothills. It has twice hosted the Enduro World Series.
When the parents of three could not find suitable Tasmanian accommodation for a reunion with their overseas based extended family, the creative pair set about developing their own version on a patch of landscape close to their hearts.
“We saw the block when we were camping at Derby with the kids and it just ticked all the boxes,”
“We saw the block when we were camping at Derby with the kids and it just ticked all the boxes,” smiles Margaret. “The original scope was a scout hut style but nicer. It then evolved as we realised it had to be the next step up again. In one way it’s very simple, but because of the way it’s architecturally designed, it’s classy. It’s also affordable and if there’s extras, they can easily camp by the river. It’s about providing a place for families to reconnect and even though we’ve been open a short time the feedback indicates it’s doing just what we imagined.”
Margaret is a midwife and Martin an electrical engineer – both being very much hands on throughout the building process – particularly Martin. Even the children busily painted away during the weekends. The entire build was completed in February 2019 and took nearly seven months to complete, with Martin taking care of the electrical work, the driveway and landscaping.
The build offers a unique layout and earlier this year received the 2019 Barry McNeill Architect Award for Sustainability and the Commercial Architecture Award. It was Martin’s mission to ensure that the building was as efficient as possible.
“One of the challenges with commercial buildings is heating and hot water. We tried to think carefully how to provide a sustainable solution with large groups,” explains Martin. “We put solar panels the length of the roof. Our biggest usage relates to hot water so we installed a system that uses CO2 to heat the water. We have over 1000 litres of hot water stored under the building. This is heated during the day off the solar power that’s being generated. By doing so, we’re storing solar generated energy in the hot water rather than a battery. It’s the most efficient form of hot water heating, powered from the sun, rather than utilising expensive batteries.”
Dales of Derby accommodates 24 people and is suitably equipped with 4 queen rooms and toasty showers – the perfect place to recharge after a long day out on the trails for the adults – as well as bunk bed accommodation ideal for sharing the day’s stories. A roaring fireplace is the hub for conversation and gathering, while the commercial kitchen offers ample space and amenity for preparing a long-table feast. The Dingemanse’s have found that if extended families are going to go to the effort of getting together, they’ll want to stay a significant period of time. Their last booking was for a group of 20 settling in for 10 days at the Dales.
“We hope it’ll be a blessing for guests – the reconnection of people,”
“We hope it’ll be a blessing for guests – the reconnection of people,” adds Margaret. “Even if it’s just a bunch of school friends who all have kids now. It’s about making memories together where, say, four families come together. Some believe our model is risky, but for us it’s a patience game as word of mouth spreads. We want to create conversation and a culture of connection and feel the Dales provide space for this.”
The Dingemanse family are no strangers to solar powered projects. Martin was involved in two major projects in South Sudan through his primary business, Mode Electrical. Martin and his team were engaged to design, construct and install a complete power system for two rural hospitals in South Sudan. The whole family visited in 2014 to assist with everything from childbirth (Margaret’s domain) to solar panel operations and education for the local children.
For now, the family are taking it easy and looking forward to blocking out a few dates to getaway to the Dales of Derby. After all, they built it to connect families and that includes the Dingemanse family!
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Photo Credits Luke Hesketh