By Gabrielle Hall
An olive green-coloured 1969 British Leyland Panther bus might sound like an unlikely tourist attraction.
But when Michael Owen and his two sons found it sitting idle in a paddock in the Clare Valley one Christmas day, they immediately fell in love with it, and his wife Kath knew they had found a cellar door for their Stone Ridge Olive Oil.
The Olive Bus, located just five minutes from Clare on Spring Farm Road, is fast gaining speed as one of the Clare Valley’s must-visits for coffee and a bite to eat in its tranquil olive grove setting overlooking a typical Clare countryside.
Just as the big Leyland bus’s story traces back to Manchester, coincidentally where Kath and Michael originate, the Norman’s Ploughman’s Lunch on offer on the menu also pays tribute to their roots and Kath’s late father.
“The Norman’s Ploughman’s Lunch is popular and that was named after my late dad in Manchester who loved apples and olives and cheese and when I was looking for an addition to the menu it just occurred to me that it would be perfect,” Kath says.
“We now have people who come out and say, ‘I’ll have a Norman’s thanks’, so it’s a real tribute to my dad.”
Multi-award-winning olive oil from the 750-tree grove is available to taste and buy, along with food tastings and other olive delights, ice-cream and cold drinks sourced from outside the property, and light lunches, coffee and cakes.
The Olive Bus is permanently situated undercover, making it an all-weather option for outside dining, or a cosy corner ‘down the back’ of the bus is perfect to settle into inside.
Kath, who has a background in early childhood and community services, and Michael, an IT project manager, stumbled across their tree change, buying the Clare property in 2000 and planting the olive grove the following year.
“We found the land and completed an olive growing course and thought it would be easier to grow olives than grapevines, but as we found out, olives are lots of work as well,” Kath says.
“We’re lucky though that we have lots of family and friends who help us out and two sons who are very hands-on although they live in Adelaide.”
It seems Kath and Michael’s passion for their business is infectious, with locals and visitors streaming into the new cellar door since its opening in September 2017.
“People love the bus and when you’re so passionate about it I think people can see that,” Kath says.
“We’ve got plenty of space for children to run and play and some people just come on their own and bring a laptop or book, and it really caters for everyone.
“We’ve had yoga sessions, weaving groups, the local drumming group and business meetings here and it’s becoming a real community space for people to come out and enjoy.”
The Olive Bus is open Friday to Monday, 10am-4pm, located at 216 Spring Farm Road, Clare.
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