6 Dempseys Rd, Krawarree
As keen bushwalkers and nature lovers, Andrew and Clare Kavunenko couldn’t resist buying their 15-acre Krawarree property when they discovered all the gems on its doorstep.
Within walking distance is The Big Hole and Marble Arch, two natural spectacles that draw visitors from all over, not to mention the nearby Deua National Park and Shoalhaven River and the abundant wildlife they sustain.
”We bought this property in 2010 when it was an empty paddock, mostly pasture improved, which we were happy about as we didn’t have the guilt of interfering with an existing natural habitat,” Andrew says.
Having previously enjoyed running a bed and breakfast on their farm outside Mittagong, the couple said it made sense to have another go at a small accommodation business. So they set about constructing their house and three freestanding, environmentally sustainable tin huts.
”Being only 15 acres, surrounded by the open space of the valley floor and the wooded hills to the east and west, the property is a manageable size and sits open to the valley views,” Clare says
”Our children had grown up and we’d had our eyes on this area for some time. As a young couple we had seriously looked at settling around here, so belatedly here we are.”
Construction of the house and huts took nearly two years and the couple has now been running the business for four years.
As a designer and developer of gardens over 30 or 40 years, Andrew said planting it out was a pretty natural step.
”Having constructed and maintained large and prize-winning gardens in The Southern Highlands, it was a relatively comfortable evolution here.
”The site has its challenges: there are no deep soils here and we’re exposed to strong winds whistling up the valley; we’ve got a short growing season and get hit with frosts and temperatures that dip to minus 12.”
They started by establishing the layout and constructing a dam. In the spring of 2011 they planted about 1200 native tube stock, mostly species indigenous to the area, to reintegrate the property with the uncleared hills, mindful of the space and views of the valley.
The following year they planted hedges and trees around the house and huts to reduce the exposure to the north-west winds and make it possible to establish gardens. The planting of natives gave way to mostly exotics around the house.
”As plant lovers, exotic species are important to us. At a purely practical level, they are a better hedge against fire risks, and we enjoy growing flowering plants and vegetables etc, as do the birds,” Clare says.
”Over three or four years we have seen a growing number of bird species here that regard our garden as an oasis, particularly the small birds that now have homes in growing shrubbery.
”Our garden is very young, but already we have trees growing well above roof height. The huts are now nestled into trees and shrubbery and the house is surrounded by full gardens and we enjoy seasonal vegetables from a productive kitchen garden.”
It’s been several years of hard work but the Kavunenkos say ”the gardens and the accommodation business are now baring fruit and maturing”.
On the weekend of the Open Gardens, the Deua Tin Huts will host Southern Exposure, an exhibition of Andrew’s paintings. Tea, coffee and light refreshments will also be available.