“I was a bush kid and I loved it,” says Angus Street as he describes life at Green Creek, the family’s property near Murrurundi. It’s Saturday morning and the CEO of Auctions Plus has just finished watching his son Sullivan’s soccer match near their home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The six-year-old plays nearby with his younger sister Sibella, as his dad recalls what life was like for him at the same age.
Before Angus had even turned four, his father Jamie Street had his oldest child on a horse. “As soon as mum would let him, Dad would have me up on the pommel of the saddle in front of him. I have always loved riding,” he says.
He quickly graduated to his first pony — Rezo, an old chestnut mare his dad had also learnt to ride on — and was soon out helping with the cattle.
“Green Creek was a very special place to grow up. As somebody who didn’t really love the classroom I spent a lot of my time out in the paddocks, in the tree house, riding horses, building billy carts — doing what all good bush country kids typically do,” the 37-year-old explains.
But the homestead at Green Creek was far from typical. His great-grandfather, Douglas Royse Lysaght, commissioned architectural firm Fowell, McConnel and Mansfield to design a home for his wife Margery. Joseph Fowell was one of the leading architects of the time and had worked as an assistant to Professor Leslie Wilkinson before winning the Sir John Sulman Medal for architecture in 1935, the year before he conceived the design for Green Creek.
Today, the elegant colonnaded exterior facing the valley as you approach the house gives you no clue of what happened one Wednesday afternoon in 1936. It was shearing time and the house was only two weeks away from completion when a stray spark from a plumber’s blow torch ignited insulation material in the ceiling and the whole structure quickly caught fire. Despite the efforts of the builders and shearers, the house quickly burnt to the ground in front of the family. It made headlines in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph the next day while the Murrurundi Times reported on the disastrous fire:
“Within a week or two of being completed; and being anxiously looked forward to as their new home at Green Creek, near Murrurundi, Mr and Mrs D. R. Lysaght, stood by to see it reduced to ashes on Wednesday afternoon last, powerless to do anything to stay the ravenous appetite of the consuming flames… Shearing operations were in progress at the shed not far distant, and although all hands were quickly on the scene, and plenty of water was available, so fierce was the heat that little could be done, and in a very brief space little was left of what was designed to be one of the most comfortable homes in the district.”
Luckily for the Street family, it did go onto become one of the most comfortable homes in the district surrounded by a tranquil garden that Angus’s mother Flis — who grew up at Mumblebone Station near Warren — has lovingly tended over the decades. As we walk in the fading light with Potts, Angus’s Dalmatian bounding around on the lawn, Flis’s love for the garden is clear. She points out trees planted for each of her three children — Angus’s plane tree towers to one side of the house — and another, known as the ‘tree of love’ in the family, added when Angus married Elly Daley in 2015.
“Elly and I have always been able to leave the hustle and bustle of the city to head home, to our family homes in the country,” says Angus. “We have been very fortunate to be able to do that and we don’t take it for granted: to be able to have access to the space and the quietness — where suddenly you really do unplug.”
The tree house at Green Creek is ready and waiting for the grandchildren — who long to visit where they can do all the things their dad did.
“The 48 hours leading into it, all we talk about is what we are going to do when we get to Big’s farm, which is what they call my dad. We arrive late at night, carry the sleeping kids out of the car and put them to bed. As soon as they wake up the next morning, it’s gumboots on and into the tree house. They hit fifth gear,” says Angus.
The little boy who spent hours patiently sitting on his pony tied up to a tree waiting for his dad to finish mustering, just wouldn’t mind more of the same for his kids.
Additional family photography by Laura Goodall.
After many years of travelling around the country interviewing people, our editorial director’s visit to Green Creek stands out. “I’ll never forget the gin and tonic they insisted I have at the end of a long day of shooting!” she says.
“The drive from Belltrees to Green Creek was beautiful. It had just rained and the creeks were so full, it was magical,” explains our photographer who loves to document country life.