The Bucketty Bush Community

The early ‘new’ pioneers

In 1972 developer Len Thorpe from Collaroy (Sydney) received the go-ahead from Cessnock Council to subdivide Bucketty into 25-acre blocks on the east side of George Downes Drive.

The land involved in the subdivision was owned by Lou Nichols (1500 acres) and Les Sternbeck (1300 acres). The subdivisions became known as Bucketty Estate 1 (Nichols: Mount Simpson to Bucketty Arms) and Bucketty Estate 2 (Sternbeck: Bucketty Arm-Letter A). The subdivision did not completely follow the borders of Sternbeck’s property and Len Thorpe had to seal the parts of the Private Roads running into the subdivisions to the borders of the land previously owned by Sternbeck. Under the subdivision 9 access roads were built into the two Bucketty estates. (Private Roads 1 to 9). Before the submission Bucketty was bushland only – no shops, no roads, no infrastructure, hardly any man-made structures.

The first people to arrive were, Jim and Pam Coates (Mt McQuoid).  Len Thorpe kept some of the subdivision for himself and started to build a house in Private Road 6, where his son-in-law Eddie van der Wall lived. The beginnings of Bucketty were marked with an extremely dry summer and the first settlers were immediately forced to fight bushfires. Help arrived from Murrays Run where Les Sternbeck and others assisted Len Thorpe in protecting the house. In the end he never finished the house, the land was subsequently sold to Frank and Maree Noble and the unfinished house was flattened in the mini cyclone of 1984 (see below).

The Coates operated a successful market in the mid-seventies along George Downs Drive. Other early residents (who had houses on their properties) included; Cremilda (Granny) and AJ Schoultz and Hester and Ron Simmons who settled in Road 6.  Both of these families arrived from what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).  A large number of the early ‘new settlers’ lived in caravans and primitive hut structures while building their houses.

At about the same time Len and Neta Hart started to build their house on what’s now the Letter A. Their house became the first permanent (finished) building in Bucketty in 1973. As the original road (now called Walkers Ridge cut right across their planned building site, they received permission to change the road and that was the end of one of the branches that had formed the Letter A in the old road pattern.  Nevertheless, the name lives on.

Thanks to the persistence of the first residents the following milestones were reached:

  • Electricity arrived in 1976 – on some of the properties electricity poles were installed with the help of helicopters.
  • Telephone arrived in 1977 – one line from Gosford and one line from Cessnock (via Murrays Run). For this reason Bucketty has two sets of telephone prefixes (02 43xx xxxx and 02 49xx xxxx).  Service has always been appalling, but thanks to the Telecom engineer Joe from Millfield Bucketty was kept on air. He eventually became a casualty of the Telstra reorganisation in the mid-1990s.  ISDN became available in 1998.
  • School bus services were extended to the Letter A.
  • A public telephone box was installed at the Letter A in 1990.

By the year 2000 between 150-180 people lived in Bucketty.  Of the approximately 90 households, 60 are permanently occupied – other properties are used as weekenders.

Will’O Wyn

Other areas that were subdivided in the district included the upper parts of Murrays Run. The McKays owned this part of the valley. It also housed the first telephone exchange in the area, known as Kalongba.  This was built in 1933 and was linked to Wyong. The Sternbeck’s phone number is still listed under Wyong Road in the Telstra telephone directory! Electricity arrived much later in the valley, not until 1966.The McKay Valley is now known as Will’O Wyn.

Burralong Valley

Burralong has been developed at Hungry Creek, which in the early 1980s was a popular off-road motorbike track in Murrays Run. The owners of the Hungry Creek property, John Cameron and Graham Whiting, put in an application for holiday cabins, which was successfully opposed by BADRA (see below). The decision was made to close the racetrack and the owners were allowed a ‘lucrative’ subdivision of the 600-acre area.

Burralong Valley is a rural hamlet comprising 37 landholders, each with individual Torrens Title lots of between 2 to 6 acres, as well as owning a 1/37th share of the Common Property.

The Common Property includes bushland and ridgelines between the individual properties, frontage to the Wollombi Brook which runs through the common area, two all-weather synthetic tennis courts, a 10 metre in-ground saltwater community swimming pool, roads and access ways, grazing land and rural-style buildings including, a former dairy, which is used as a community centre and amenities block.

The Burralong Valley Estate was gazetted in 1984 as an Environmental Planning Act (EPA 20) of the Council of the City of Greater Cessnock (Hunter Valley) and the NSW Government to achieve harmonious rural community, environmental and recreational activities. The valley was subdivided in 1985. The first residents to arrive here were Keith and Gaye Miller.

Lot-holders are assigned shares in Burralong Valley Pty Ltd, a company which coordinates the maintenance of facilities and utilities. The Shareholdings and joint ownership of the Burralong Valley Common areas are tied, together with an obligation to meet the Burralong Valley covenants designed to safeguard and enhance a quality standard of maintenance and rural management.

A management committee of seven directors is elected by the 37 lot-holders at the Annual General Meeting held each August, with regular management meetings held at 6 to 8 week intervals, or as required, to coordinate maintenance and management needs.

All lot-holders contribute a levy towards annual maintenance for roads and statute requirements, with the company having the option to raise additional funding through social activities or for special projects.

Burralong Valley works in co-operation with local and government agencies, including Cessnock Council, Water Resources, Soil Conservation, Landcare and the NSW Volunteer Bushfire Brigades, to foster high standards of community cooperation and property management.

Fernances Crossings

The latest development in the area has been Fernances Crossing. The Fernances valley was subdivided in 1998/1999 and by 2000 several new houses began to appear.

The valley was initially called McDonald’s Flats, after its first settlers. By the late 1800s the Fernances moved into this valley. The last two Fernances who lived in this particular area were two brothers, who didn’t get along with each other. They divided their land and built a loose-stone wall between their properties.  Parts of this wall are still visible.

On the other side of the Great North Road, still part of Fernances, is a stock reserve, which is still public land. It was allocated when the road was built to manage travelling cattle.

Next see: Community Groups and activities