Looking back at 2020: It's a fairytale romance but they just have to sell the castle

The brave knight has won his fair lady, but it's taken 43 years and now he has to sell his castle.

A fully qualified stonemason and builder, Simon Herbert handcrafted 'Touchwood' from local granite, heritage bricks, sandstone blocks and local timbers.

The house reflects his particular interest in the Saxon period from the fifth century AD to 1066, basically from when the Romans left England up until the Norman conquest.

"What's known as the Dark Ages. That's what this house is sort of, in an Australian fashion, based on. The round tower is based on Christchurch Priory tower, and the square tower is based on the folly that's in Highcliff, which is in an area near where I grew up."

Originally from Bournemouth, a town on the south coast of England, Simon grew up in an 18th-century coach house and developed a passion for history as a boy.

His family had Romany connections and kept a stable full of horses. They ran pony rides for children on the beach, so Simon spent a fair bit of his time checking out what the ocean had uncovered.

"I was lucky enough to find lots of old flints, arrow heads, tools - all things that keep little boys interested in the past," he said.

As a young man Simon came to Australia, and he was living in Perth in 1977 when he first met Karen.

"We were together for a year, back in those long distant days, and then we went our separate ways, as you do when you're young."

In the decades that followed Simon married, had a family, and spent 40 years living and working in Bellingen Shire.

For much of that time, he was actively involved with the New England Medieval Arts Society, a historical re-enactment group that meets at the Pine Forest in Armidale.

Peter and Karen at the house in Repton

Peter and Karen at the house in Repton

"I've been with them on and off for about 25 years," he said. "I've built all of their longhouses, bar two. Every two years the club has a gathering where we invite a lot of medievalists from around Australia and New Zealand.

"But I've moved away from that side of things, mainly because I got older and I don't do the combat any more. I still do the archery, I practise that quite regularly."

Now aged 64, Simon has recently reconnected with his long-lost love, Karen.

"Thanks to the internet and COVID we've met up again and we've decided to spend the rest of life together. It's very romantic and very lovely."

But Simon said it's not the sort of fairytale that includes a castle. The couple plan to settle in Karen's home state of Tasmania, so the house at 90 Tuckers Rock Rd Repton is up for sale with a price tag of $985,000.

Repton is a small town near the mouth of the Bellinger River on the NSW mid north coast.

Janene Carey

Janene Carey

Janene Carey is a senior journalist with the Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun.

"The castle went on the market in August but is still for sale, waiting for its new monarch to claim it. I enjoyed talking to the owner about what had led him to create such an idiosyncratic home and why he was now planning to leave it."