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On the long drive from Canberra it was blue sky all the way, but just as I pull up at two imposing gates, emblazoned with "Burnima" in gothic-style font, angry storm clouds begin to gather on the western horizon.

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I turn off the yowie mobile and cautiously approach the steel gates on foot. The first thing I notice is the stillness, you can almost hear the silence. From atop the entrance pillars, two gargoyles with grotesquely carved animal faces stare back at me. No matter which way I look their stony eyes seem to follow me.

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It's as if they are warning me off. But I'm not chickening out. No way, I haven't made the two-hour drive south to one of our region's most historic homes to be scared away by a couple of freaky figurines. Careful not to look towards either pillar, with head down, I tentatively lean on one of the gates. As it swings open, its prolonged groan breaks the unnerving stillness, prompting a lone crow perched high in a stand of mature pine trees which line the old carriageway, to "caw" ominously and take flight, almost swooping me in the process.

Burnima Homestead in the early s.

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Photo: Supplied. Venturing further along the carriageway, a gentle breeze whispers through the pine needles, as if talking to me in unworldly tones.

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The pines are so dense that, despite the sun still shining outside it's like a false dusk beneath their cocooned canopy. I half expect Lurch from the Addams Family to jump out from behind one of the gnarly trunks.

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Instead, as I round the last bend and Burnima's two-storey brick grand facade appears, the silhouette of a man resplendent in top hat, with cane and tails emerges from behind a hedge. A former Canberran, Rickett reveals he "fell in love with Burnima as soon as he set eyes on it", and "just had to buy it when it was for sale in ".

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Rickett explains he then lived in the oversized home, just out of Bombala, "as a weekender for five years before moving in permanently in ". Burnima was built by Frederick Young, of Queanbeyan, builder of the "Yarralumla" residence of the Governor-General for Henry Tollemache Edwards in and Rickett's deep admiration for Edwards, or HT as he affectionately refers to him, in establishing this opulent outpost is very clear. In fact, Rickett has embraced HT's legacy to such an extent that on the day he moved in, he embarked on a self-confessed quest to transform this rare s homestead back to its original state.

That's not only inside its 10 bedrooms, sitting room, formal dining room, study, reception, billiards room and servants' quarters, but also its four hectares of sprawling Victorian-era influenced gardens. Rickett divulges he now spends "more money on fuel for his mowers and hedge trimmers than for his car", and when you live in these boondocks, where it's a long drive to just about anywhere, that's saying something.

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A stroll through the gardens soon reveals why. They are as expansive as they are rambling, with conifers, spruces, and cedars from all over the world interspersed with formal lawns with inviting nooks and crannies aplenty. There are fountains, a maze, an old orchard which still bears fruit, and statues thankfully more welcoming than that pair of gargoyles at every turn. However, the piece de resistance for Rickett is an elaborate fish pond which was once a much-loved oasis for HT's eldest daughter, Miss Edith Edwards, who lived at Burnima and upheld the formality of the Victorian era right up until her death in Miss Edith's paranoia over the welfare of her fish continues to this day, for her spirit lingers on with a of sightings of her apparition, including most recently a bulldozer driver who, while waiting to meet Rickett for a landscaping job, spotted "a lady wearing a long white gown walking to the old fish pond, only for her to vanish before his very eyes.

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Rickett confesses he walks past the pond every evening in the hope he might glimpse Miss Edith. Before we enter, Rickett points to part of the front of the house. And he's right, even in daylight, the facade does resemble a sad face, but then again it could just be power of suggestion. At least that's what I tell myself as Rickett ushers me through yet another creaking door.

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Inside its cold, very cold. It's as if I've entered a Victorian museum. Using historic photos, Rickett has completely restored every room to its former glory, right down to the antiquarian books and period animal trophies on display in the library.

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It's an extraordinary effort and testimony to his commitment to bring Burnima back to its glory days of the early s. While overlooking the southern garden from one of the old servant's rooms, Rickett explains that Burnima harbours a of macabre mysteries including "the disappearance of a young servant girl who was thought to have become pregnant to HT.

A of people, including Rickett, claim to have seen the poor girl's ghost. While sleeping in the old cook's room back inat about 2.

Not surprisingly, the ghosts of Miss Edith and the young girl aren't the only spooks lurking in Burnima's chilly shadows. Rickett has a long list of other things which go bump in the night, from phantom phone calls, unexplained hammering and even a shuffling wardrobe. Rickett admits living alone in such a haunted house can be challenging. Thankfully, the storm skirts around Burnima but, with darkness encroaching, it's time for me to leave Rickett to his twilight walk around the garden.

I hustle briskly back to the yowie mobile, take one last glance at those gargoyles through the rear vision mirror, and floor it. Treasures like Burnima are rare in a country like ours with such a short European history. Without dedicated, or dare I say it, obsessed custodians like Rickett to maintain and restore them, our rural heritage would be much the poorer for it.

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Spare a thought for Rickett bunking down at Burnima this halloween, traditionally a time when the veil between the spirit and real worlds is at its thinnest. I just hope he has a carved out pumpkin or two to leave at the front door, otherwise, surrounded by so many restless spirits, I suspect he may be in for a sleepless night.

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Your ad blocker may be preventing you from being able to log in or subscribe. Bega District News' trusted source for property. This story Is this Bombala house the most haunted in Australia? Ad blocker issue Your ad blocker may be preventing you from being able to log in or subscribe.

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