Farmers and City Slickers

The Bucketty Paddocks

Back to the pioneers in Murrays Run …

The area they initially settled did not include the ridges above Murrays Run or the Bucketty Paddocks. The fertile grounds were in the valley, not on the sandy Bucketty ridges. There are several smaller valleys running from Bucketty into Murrays Run. One of them (leading to the Paddocks) was called Bucketty Arm.

Over the years large parts of Murrays Run was bought by the Sternbeck family. They owned the land between the Letter A and Bucketty Arm. From here, all the land to where Murrays Run links up with the Great North Road was owned by the McKay family and later on sold to Lem Nichols. Around 1870 the Sternbecks sold the small Bucketty Arm valley to the Knight family, and on modern maps Bucketty Arm is shown as Knights Arm. The Knight family is believed to be the first and only settlers who actually built a house in Bucketty (on the Murrays Run side of the valley) before the subdivision of 1972.The first mention of the name Buckety) (yes, spelled with one ‘t’) comes from the Maitland Mercury and is dated 17 December 1870.

‘On Tuesday last, James Knight, jnr., of Buckety, (about 17 miles from Wollombi), was charged at the court-house with stealing a bullock, one of a mob of fat cattle driven by B.Tierney about a week since. From the evidence it appears that the hide and beef was found at Knight’s residence. He was fully committed for trial. It is rather singular that Knight was one of the principal witnesses against Craft, who was convicted at Maitland about twelve months since on a charge of cattle-stealing.’

Bucketty also appears in the Post Office Directory of 1875-1877 (p405). It lists John Knight as the only resident in Bucketty. Apart from a house in Bucketty Arm, they might also have built a hut in the Bucketty Paddocks. The Bucketty Paddocks covered an area of approximately 400 acres. Before George Downes Drive was built, the Paddocks included Mt McQuoid. There are still remnants of an old paddock fence on the Budde property.

Tom and Ben Knight grew wheat in these paddocks. Bullocks transported it from there to Mangrove Mountain. There were also ‘gallows’ in the paddock. Slaughtered cattle were suspended from these to make them easier to cut.

Three of ‘Old Ike’ Knight’s children are buried in unmarked graves at the bottom of Bucketty Arm. There is also a grave in the Bucketty paddocks between the planned house site and the cattle yards. Another unmarked grave on Murrays Run relates to a person named Maloney – we know nothing about this person but there still exists a small bridge called ‘Maloney’s Bridge’.

When the Knight family moved to Yengo, Jim Sternbeck bought the property. While on horseback and with the assistance of his dogs, Les Sternbeck caught a dingo in the paddock in the 1930s when he was searching for cattle.

Around 1964 the Bucketty Paddock was sold by Jim Sternbeck’s grandson Hal Nichols to Edgar Collins from Kulnura (he lived with his family in Floreat Farm opposite Collins Lane). Ed made significant land improvements in the paddocks. He fenced the entire area during the many weekends the family spent in Bucketty. Clover was sown and, to the surprise of many agricultural experts, lush meadows appeared. The family created gardens and planted trees that, while overgrown, are still there.

The plan was to build a house and electricity was brought to the paddocks by helicopter, establishing a link with the aviation beacon on the top of Mt McQuoid. Ed also built the dam in the Paddock. However, development was halted when Gosford Council instigated its plan for the Mangrove Dam Catchment area, since the Council indicated it would resume the land. The property was sold in 1969 to real estate agent Don Lamont.  He built a small shed and a sewerage tank, the remains of which are still visible. The paddocks were leased to the Bowen family in Gosford for cattle grazing. This family also own the Big Yengo cattle property in the Boree.

Don Lamont put up a sign on the gate at the entrance of this property – ‘High Valley’. A few years later these paddocks became part of the Mangrove Dam Catchment Area.  The Department of Aviation operates, since the mid 1960s,  radio beacons in the paddock. Occasionally ‘cowboys’ are brought in by the Ranger to round up wild cattle that are still roaming the paddocks. The last time this was done was in 1994.

In 1996, Bucketty Tidy Bush (specifically Pam and Bernard Sahm) restored the ‘High Valley’ sign and the gate to the paddocks.

At the turn of the 19th century Charles Ramon-Khan dug for gold in the paddock (see below).

The only other permanent house in the area was on the ‘other side’ of Bucketty, 10km in the direction of St Albans. The Dean family built a farm in Mogo in the late 1800s. The house was sold in 1998 when sisters Eddie and Eileen Dean moved to Cessnock. During the last 25 years – ever since the development of Bucketty – they have been friends to many in the community and have always been a source of wisdom and historical information. In May 2000 Eddie passed away, at her brothers place in Wollombi. In that same month Gabby Hollows acquired the Mogo property with an aim to restore it in its original state.

See video clip.

Bucketty Arm

Bucketty Arm remained under the ownership of the Sternbecks until the subdivision in 1972. The Murrays Run settlers used Bucketty Arm as a track to drove cattle to Wisemans Ferry via Mangrove Mountain. The Sternbecks would drove 8 head of cattle every month via these tracks. There were two or three other tracks through this area that could be used as well; most of them would pass one of the ‘Mountain Springs’.

As already mentioned, Bucketty Arm was the site of the first and only house in the area until 1972. Further down towards Murrays Run was the site of the first school. The school was moved in 1896. In its heyday the school had 100 pupils. The private school, built by the McKays and Sternbecks, was moved further up into the valley near the Sternbecks’ homestead. Two big camphor laurel trees still mark the site, and a plaque in honour of the local pioneers was erected by the local communities of Murrays Run, Burralong and Bucketty in 1996.

Gold in Bucketty!

At the end of the 19thcentury there were rumours of gold being found in Bucketty. It is unknown how well-founded these were but a man called Charles Ramon-Khan was making a living out of digging for gold in the paddocks. He was seen digging for gold by Matthew Sternbeck at the top of Bucketty Creek, which starts near the cattle yards in the paddock. The holes he made during his digging activities were a hazard when the farmers rode through the paddocks, and some angry words were exchanged in those days between Ramon-Khan and the Sternbecks!  Charles married Mathilda Knight in 1903 at St Mark’s church in Laguna.

As mentioned above, it was not until just before World War II that the track was sealed from Mangrove Mountain via Kulnura to the Great North Road. The works started on the stretch that was under the control of Gosford Shire and the road therefore ended at Letter A, which is nowadays perceived as the beginning of Bucketty. It was years before the Cessnock part of the road was sealed.

The Township of Rugby

In the 1880s the economy was booming and land was a good investment. One of the ‘entrepreneurs’ operating in this market was a Mr Phillip. He had established his own bank and invested that money in land, developed it (on paper) and sold it in small plots. He often did this in areas where it was proposed that the railway would come through. He would sell the land back to the Government, pocketing a nice profit in the process.

Mangrove Dam

In the uppermost part of Mangrove Creek he bought some rugged land from Mrs Gould, subdivided it and advertised in Australian and British newspapers for five pounds a block. The land was at the end the Rugby track in Bucketty, where it now ends in the Mangrove Dam. The development consisted of steep hills and very small plots. On the map that was supplied to potential buyers the area was nicely laid out like a township – Rugby – with streets, town centre, etc – totally unsuited for the rugged terrain and very isolated position.

He apparently did sell several blocks, but his bank failed in the 1890s and Mr Phillip ended up in jail. It was not until the 1970s that the final chapter on the Township of Rugby was written. When Gosford Council needed to resume the land for the catchment dam, it became clear that there were people who still had titles to some of the Rugby blocks. They were allowed to claim the land if they paid their outstanding rates. These had never been billed and therefore were never paid. Very few, if any, took up the offer and Gosford got all the land it needed.

From Yarramalong to Bucketty by train?

Imagine what Bucketty would have looked like now if plans had gone ahead in 1901 to link the Hunter Valley through Wollombi, Bucketty, Kulnura and Yarramalong to Narara, where it would link up with railway to Sydney.

It was one of the alternative routes that were discussed at the end of the 19thcentury. After the ‘era of the Great Roads’ a century before, this was ‘the era of the Great Trains’. The plans came to an abrupt halt when it was decided to build the track from Wyong to Sydney. This section was opened in 1912.

Around the same time a more humble – but, for the area, more important and more lasting – link was created.

Yarramalong was settled at the same time as the Macdonald Valley and Wollombi in the early 1800s. From Yarramalong settlers went into Ravensdale and Brush Creek. However the current link between Brush Creek and Murrays Run was not established until 1900. Before that time a track known as Yorkie’s Gully followed the ridge and joined Carsons Road (now called Walkers Ridge) closer to where Brush Creek Road now joins Walkers Ridge Road.

There was a beautiful stretch of rainforest, where Yorkie’s Gully meets the present-day Brush Creek Road. This was cleared for farming in the 1970s.

Carson was one of the most successful timber millers in the Watagans. There were also a large number of small mills – often not much more than a pit in the ground and a structure to house a big hand saw. The remains of one such pit-mill are still discernible, off the road at the beginning of Murrays Run.

The Watagan forests provided excellent timber. Timber-getters arrived as early as the 1830s. While a track ,might have run from Brush Creek into the Watagans and Murrays Run, the last piece of road to link the two settlements was built, at his own expense, by a local, John Goldsmith (related to the McKay and Sternbeck families).

Earlier this century Bucketty saw some other visitors as well. The area became a popular spot for wallaby hunters. In the depression years the numbers of wallabies in Bucketty were severely depleted. Over the last twenty years, however, they have returned in full force.  The major threat to the wallabies now is the traffic on the George Downes Drive.

The beautiful dark brown swamp wallabies don’t often cross the Bucketty ridge into Murrays Run. The eastern grey kangaroos rule the valley there. Koalas and wombats are some of the other larger marsupials in the area. In 1996 the Bucketty community erected wildlife signs, after the Bucketty Tidy Community had received several requests from school children saddened by the many road fatalities.

Aviation activities

Before Bucketty was subdivided, the Department of Civil Aviation used the area for two of its radio beacons – one on Mt McQuoid and one in the Bucketty Paddocks. The two stations were built in the 1960s and guide planes flying into Mascot.

Mt McQuoid

Because of the relative remoteness of Bucketty (approximately 50km from either Cessnock or Gosford) and the increasing amount of traffic that the Hunter Valley attracts, the Fire Brigade is more often involved in motor vehicle accidents than in fire fighting. Often the rescue helicopter arrives before the police or ambulance. There is one helipad at the NPWS centre at the Letter A, but that isn’t the most central spot. Ongoing traffic accidents during 1999 prompted the community to look for an alternative and permission was granted by Gosford Council for the community to prepare a site for a helipad in the Paddock opposite the Fire Station.

On the subject of aeroplanes, on October the 21st1991, early in a cloudy evening, a small two-seater light, single-engine aircraft Grumman A5 crashed at the end of Road 6. The Bucketty Fire Brigade was first at the scene. Sadly, the young pilot and his partner, both from the NSW North Coast, died in the crash.

The aviation beacon on top of Mt McQuoid was decommissioned in November 2009, the navigation towers in the Bucketty Paddocks remain in operation.

Next see: The Bucketty Bush Community