We are your hosts, Bill Powell and Pip James
Bawley Bush Retreat is managed by us, its builders and operators, but we are ably assisted by an excellent team of long term staff. Presentation of a high quality 4-star, safe, eco-retreat that our guests will enjoy while complying with regulations is a team effort. Here is our story.
From sea-change in 1992 to today
Our sea-change from executive (Bill) and journalism (Pip) lives in Sydney started as a gleam in our eyes in 1991. Our aim was to find land on which we could build an eco-retreat consisting of seminar/celebration and holiday accommodation facilities. In 1992 after an east coast search we purchased a vacant lakeside, but virtually inaccessible, 100 acres of virgin forest at Bawley Point. We relocated to it and started a new life from scratch, living in an isolated caravan with no services or facilities.
We somewhat innocently decided we would act on an existing approval to subdivide, use the lakeside lot so created to build our dream on and sell the other lots to finance it. With architectural assistance, we prepared a tourism development application. After we obtained the Tourist Facility consent in 1994 we spent 1995 undertaking the 4-lot subdivision infrastructure works: land clearing, access roads and building a bridge,11000-volt electricity supply and telephone services. We also started work on the retreat itself, just a shed in 1996. The shed gradually evolved into our residence and the Lake Willinga Bush Cafe. We operated the Cafe at weekends and holidays from late 1997 to late 2000 while we resolved a long and sickening series of bureaucratically-inspired development difficulties both with the land we had subdivided and needed to sell to finance the retreat and retreat approvals as well.
What we have now
Our vision included the creation of a beautiful, incontrovertibly Australian, high quality coastal retreat that complements and interprets the stunning local environment and features the use of local materials. We opened our first cottages in 2002 and a second residence in 2004 but it was not until 2009 that we built the multi-purpose celebration/function space we consider to be the very heart of our vision. It enabled us to offer services to more markets than just tourists seeking accommodation. Our vision has well proved itself with us now having hosted very many weddings, family reunions, many alternative health workshops (eg yoga), even wakes and, of course, we continue to offer 4-star standard overnight accommodation to travellers and holiday makers.
We have made extensive use of milled-on-site local hardwoods from trees cleared to make our roads, building spaces and mandated clearings. For some walls we have also used compressed earth blocks that we pressed on-site. Much infrastructure work was needed to service substantially separated, secluded cottages. Bawley Bush Retreat is a continuing work-of-art in progress. We accept that we will not complete our full vision in our lifetimes so we are open to discussions with a joint venture partner or even a buyer who wants to do so.
Our eco credentials
Though our cottages and function space are all grid-connected with modern electric and LPG appliances, we try to minimize our environmental footprint. It's a challenge. We aim to make our buildings appear as elements of the bush rather than being separate from it. We are completely self sufficient in water and deliver drinking, treated dam and untreated dam water to all buildings. Half of our toilets are composting ones, we recycle all rubbish and we compost all of our own and guest food wastes in a worm farm. We have a state-of-the-art, passive waste water treatment system designed to protect the adjacent pristine lake from the possibility of nutrient contamination. We use solar, gas and wood-fired water heating.
We built our permanent residence by the dam in 2004/5 and lived in it full time, except for annual holidays, until 2017 when we moved into the village of Milton, half an hour north. We then added it to our accommodation pool as the 4-bedroom Kookaburra Cottage, our most luxurious and comfortable cottage. Like all of our cottages it is fully described under the Accommodation Tab.
You are welcome to call in on arrival or during your stay and chat with us but we want our guests to feel they can be as private and secluded as they want. Checking in is not necessary and, so long as you have made payment arrangents, the chances are you will not need to see us at all. Cottage access and guest information access arrangements are contained on your booking confirmation. Though we may be away you will find that someone will be available to promptly respond to any comfort oversights or technical problems you might experience during your stay.
If you want to develop in NSW...advisedly consider this R-rated rave
Development of our retreat was certainly not straight forward. Ours is a cautionary tale unfortunately experienced by many NSW land developers. During the 90's there was bureaucratically generated frustration and delay at almost every turn. We also suffered from the effects of the recession of the 90s/early 2000s that seriously affected regional land markets. But most of our problems were with the delays caused by often pointless, constantly changing, wasteful and occasionally unbelievably stupid NSW planning authorities.
Serial politically-inspired or otherwise metatasising regulations enforced by overloaded, under-resourced council employees dogged our enterprise in its formative stages...and we were not Robinson Crusoe in this experience. For us state and local government servants plainly themselves struggled with change and lack of resources while optionally trapped in their frustrating employment environments by their own need for salary. It may well still be like that for many bureaucrats, I hope not but it must be nice to know you will be paid no matter how careless or stupid you are. My empathy ends there. The NSW Planning Department itself made truly dumb mistakes in drafting of LEP legislation in the mid-nineties directly relating to our property. They had to twice correct these after legislative enactment. That was was like moving wet concrete. The errors occurred simply because unaccountable fools in the State Department of Planning refused/failed to take notice of or consult with local Council in the first place. The Department neither compensated or apologised to us at any stage for their stupidity in arbitrarily deleting the then existing right for our already subdivided lots to have residences built on them. They didn't care one bit that their unconsulted changes meant we actually lost, for more than 2 years, an existing right to sell lots with a dwelling approval. This regulatory brainlessness prevented real buyers from wanting the lots and it nearly broke us. Thankfully we outlasted the morons, our rights were finally restored and our original vision did finally get mostly built. These scars?... just flesh wounds!!
Bill (and Pip)