Drinking wine in a church – and I’m not talking the communion sip, here – might be sacrilege to some, but for Pat and Tim Negus, it’s all in a day’s work. And while in Margaret River, I was happy to join them!
There are around 150 wine producers in the Margaret River region, but Swallows Welcome Winery is really different. For a start, it is Margaret River’s smallest winery, family owned and operated.
I headed to Swallows Welcome, about 20 minutes drive south of Margaret River at East Witchcliffe, to meet Pat and Tim for a free personal tour – something they happily do for all their visitors.
For a start, there’s the mud brick chapel, which they built themselves. The Chapel of Flowers has beautiful leadlight windows designed by Dawn Klok and a porch mosiac by local artist Jenny Hunt. It’s a multi-denominational church – with as many Buddhas as there are crucifixes – and welcome to all, for all kinds of events (not just weddings).
The walls of the chapel are lined with more than 100 watercolour paintings of local flora. Patricia Negus is a renowned botanical artist, and her paintings depict more than 500 wildflowers from the south-west of Western Australia. These are on permanent exhibition.
A former teacher, Patricia changed careers nearly 30 years ago, and has held exhibitions all over WA, winning many awards. In1994, she and Tim “retired” to Margaret River, where they built their mud brick home on 130 acres, with an art studio next door. The plan was for Tim to run cattle and Patricia to continue with her artistic career, but soon it was grapes that took over (for Tim at least)!
Patricia joined forces with locals Jane Scott and Ray Forma to form Cape to Cape Publishing, a venture which has produced a number of popular books, including Wildflowers of Southwest Australia and The Magical World of Fungi. There’s also Stories from the Cellar Door, a book about the wineries of the Margaret River region, and a couple of children’s books as well as diaries, cards, calendars and more. You can see it all in Pat’s studio.
But for me, the highlight was a late afternoon stroll through the colourful gardens that Pat has created around the mud brick buildings.