Exeter is a village in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales which, at an altitude of 700 metres above sea level, enjoys a cool climate and English appearance due to 19th century nurserymen, particularly Arthur Yates who established a seed raising venture on subdivided farmland at Exeter in 1891. Yates and Searles also had nurseries on both sides of the main Southern railway line that dissects the village. The imported 'exotic' trees they propagated were widely planted in the streets, gardens and around the oval.
The prosperous Village had a strong agricultural base and built the Village Hall in the English Tudor style as a School of Arts: 'a cross between meeting hall, library, and educational institution'.
Today the hall, set at the edge of the oval, is the centre of local activities for the choir, CWA events, active Village association, weddings and the village market held on the first Saturday of the month.
Regular cricket matches are played during the summer, as well as tennis. The soccer club operates in the winter when you can collect acorns under the oak trees and walk through crisp poplar leaves dropped in the autumn.
Exeter is still an agricultural area with some small farms among the second homes of the rich and famous (Invergowrie is the most visible) and in 1931 was still competing in an 'oat crop competition' organised by the Exeter Branch of the then Agricultural Bureau. Exeter Branch also competed in the Moss Vale Show, staging elaborate produce exhibitions in the Showground Pavilion.
The Croquet Club still operates on manicured lawns opposite St Aidan's Anglican Church, built of local stone and brick and set in an old garden that blazes with rhododendrons in the Spring.
At the crossroads of Exeter Road, Middle Road and Badgery's Way are the General Store, Ecosse Gallery and Village Pump Antiques. The General Store is the centre of activity as it is also the post office (no mail deliveries in Exeter), bookshop and daily source of coffee, cake, light meals and local news.
Ecosse Gallery is located in a very old, tiny weatherboard house on the opposite corner, 'Halcyon', behind a white picket fence and roses. It has a good website and regular exhibitions.
Village Pump Antiques is an eclectic mix of bric a bric and interesting junk. The owner, John Lane, is full of information but still feels a little like a stranger after only 20 years in the Highlands.
On the last corner is the railway station which, until a few years ago had a manned, manual signal box. We used to buy our handwritten tickets to Sydney inside and sometimes had to wait while the station attendant dashed up the few stairs to pull the heavy signal levers. The station platform is a relic of a past when station masters gardened and took pride in their displays of potted plants.
Outside the village are glorious views of the sandstone gullies that made the Highlands a tourist destination fostering the growth of guest houses, some of which survive today.
Take a drive along the Hume sometime and take the Exeter exit - it's worth the trip.