CRISP air and morning light shines through the windows at Nundle Woolen Mill as husband and wife team Kylie and Nick Bradford fire up the century old machinery.
Yarn from fleece shorn, sorted and classed in the shearing shed is trucked to wool buying centres in Sydney and Melbourne.
Under the auctioneers hammer, the wool is scoured and washed in Geelong before it arrives in the Hills of Gold.
Now, the last wool spinning mill of its kind in Australia has been handed the gold at the NSW Tourism Awards.
“I’ve been fortunate to work all my life in an industry I’m passionate about and not many people have that ability, if you’re a muso or a painter you have a real job to subsidise that passion,” co-owner Nick Bradford said.
“To win at state is an honour, but it gives us credibility, we’ve got a real genuine group of people who try hard to produce a good product and give our visitors an excellent experience.”
Spending his entire life working in a sector of the wool textile industry, Mr Bradford grew up with wool grower parents before studying textiles in Melbourne, joining a wool buying company and selling to overseas buyers.
After 16 years he started a fashion company with his wife Kylie, and the Nundle Woolen Mill ended up being one of the retail stores they supplied.
“As soon as I walked in I fell in love with it,” Mr Bradford said.
“We got to know the owners well until they wanted to retire and offered us the mill.”
The couple took over 11 years ago and still use machines manufactured as early as 1914, but that doesn’t stop their production targets just like any other manufacturing plant.
This year close to 30,000 people stopped in at the Nundle Woolen Mill to see a commercial step back in time.
The yarns produced in Nundle have less fibre breakage, Mr Bradford said.
“Of course I’m going to say that because it’s our yarn, but the big difference is ours is made with a lot more love,” he said.
“We’re producing more yarn now than the mill ever has and that’s because something has happened over the last two, three, four years – our customers are feeling warm and fuzzy about supporting Australian made.
“We’re selling a really genuine, grassroots, Aussie story and that’s why we’ve been recognised at state level.”
Up against tourism heavyweights like Hello Koalas at Port Macquarie, Dubbo Jail and the Quarantine Station with multimillion dollar views on Manly Head, it was the seven staff operation at Nundle that had the judges impressed.
Tamworth Regional Council also earned bronze for the Toyota Country Music Festival in the Major Festivals and Events category.
Nundle’s biggest disadvantage is that it’s located 35 kilometres off the New England highway Mr Bradford said.
“But it’s also our biggest advantage, visitors will leave a better person having had a really great country experience,” he said.
“The submission to enter is 30 pages so it’s the worst job ever because it’s so hard and intense, it really is hard work,” he said.
“But having to answer those questions forces you to consider your financial, marketing and business plans.
“If another business is interested I’d love to talk to them about it, the experience, the benefits, you can’t buy the credibility and media coverage that comes with winning this award.”