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A fairy tale find, hard work and good taste transformed Bunya House, Bowral and its adjunct, The Potting Shed, into an elegant place to stay.

Camilla Creswick has always had a thing for historic houses. Fortunate, she says, given other 2011 arrivals to the Southern Highlands might have viewed the deceased estate Bunya House as a money pit.

Instead, she saw her forever home. And neither protestation from her beloved aunt, “Darling how could you? It’s such a dump”, nor the fact that former matriarch Dorothy was still in an urn in the front room, put her off.

“Looking back, I can’t quite believe the challenge I took on,’’ says Creswick, an antiques expert and now proud owner of the 1890s property.

“I had seen Bunya House in the real estate windows but counselled myself I could not inspect it as I knew I would fall in love with its history and high ceilings. But once I did, I loved its walking distance to town, and the fact, once inside I could almost pretend, I was in the country.”

Recently moved from London, Camilla spent four months re-wiring, re-plumbing and re-roofing the house. She also had some of the bunya pines, which gave the property its name, removed from the overgrown garden to reveal views “to the Oxley Hills with its magnificent sunsets’’. She installed a new bathroom and a small kitchen and moved in in early 2012 with her two eldest children, Inigo and Isla. In 2014, she married Greg Turner and had son George. With the family of five bursting at the seams, in 2017, Camilla and Greg added a large extension, and with it an overdraft. To pay the mortgage, and with Greg a seasoned hand at Airbnb properties in Crookwell and Moss Vale, Camilla signed up to the short-stay platform, offering the front of Bunya House to wedding parties, mum’s weekends away or families on holidays to the Highlands.

“It was such a success, we built The Potting Shed, which opened in March 2020,” says Camilla.

“The idea of The Potting Shed was to complete our beautiful garden, still a work in progress, designed by Paul Bangay and brought to life by Mick and Harriet Conway.”

Indeed, arriving for a night’s stay at The Potting Shed is akin to landing in a glorious European potager garden. Located in old Bowral, not far from Don Bradman’s childhood home, The Potting Shed sits at the end of a sandstone path in a garden of blooming flower and vegetable beds. It sleeps two. A couple, or as the king bed splits into singles, a mother and daughter, besties, mates.

I am travelling solo and open The Potting Shed’s French doors to a cool, restrained elegance. There is a polished concrete floor covered with a jute rug and the wooden panelled walls are whitewashed. The ceiling is high, with exposed beams. A king bed, with two covered bedheads, takes pride of place in the room. It is adorned with fresh white linen. A French-style y armoire sits opposite, a tiny sink and kitchen bench in the corner. On its shelves sit tea and coffee, bread, glasses, crockery, a discreet television. On a nearby shelf, jars of homemade biscuits, and granola muesli. Tucked away behind a hessian curtain is a fridge with more breakfast supplies; milk, Vegemite, jams and butter. A table with a bench seat sits snugly on the opposite wall; like a ship’s mess, it has a low hanging light if you are inclined to work while here. I am not.

With the light fading over Mount Gibraltar, I light the sweet-smelling olive leaf and thyme Bunya House candle, and eat another treat kindly supplied, two dark chocolate frogs by local chocolatier Ms Peacock. As I indulge, I think about the art of Airbnb. Camilla knows her stuff and market. Take her clipboard of local information. Not only does she give an excellent rundown of local goods and services, she is happy to give a shout out to her family’s favourites. Were I inclined to wander out, I would happily head to the local Bowral pool for a swim before dining out at Etcetera Pizzeria in Bowral on her recommendations.

As it happens, I have bought my favourite mum’s-night-alone supper with me. A bottle of riesling, biccies, and cheese. I pour myself into the huge free standing bath, fragrant and steaming with decadent La Florentina bath foam provided, and sip my wine as I watch Leigh Sales present 7.30.

What a splendid way to spend a night in quiet luxury. Thanks Leigh Sales. Thanks Camilla Creswick. Cheers to clever women.

*ESH was a guest of The Potting Shed at Bunya House

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