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Rita and Peter van Benthem and family


Lot 29 Chewton Bushlands (2 Mount View Road)

Right: Rita and Peter in their courtyard at Essendon 2013

In 1977, not long after the subdivision of the Bushlands estate into its 42 lots, there were not many occupants, legal ones anyway, in the area. On offer were still four of six lots with stone cottages available for purchase in the Mount View Estate in the Bushlands, including one still awaiting a roof.

Back in 1957, Rita Heskes and Peter van Benthem had emigrated to Australia from The Hague on the same vessel.  They knew each other prior to heading for the land down under and it was no surprise that, three years later, they had become Rita and Peter van Benthem. Not to rest on their tulips, they set about establishing their own food outlet in Melbourne. With Peter being a trained pastry cook, they created a quality cakes and pastries business, Rita’s Homemade Cakes in Niddrie, and later opened a second shop in Kensington.

Down the track, with a successful business and four children, Dianne, Melinda and twins Leanne and Peter, it was time to look for a source of relaxation and an outlet from the demands of two very busy cake shops. Investigations of possible locations were not very fruitful, with most being either too far from Essendon or just not inviting. Then one Saturday in 1977, the Melbourne press carried an advertisement for properties with cottages in the Mount View Estate, not too far from the city and offering the environment and tranquillity that they sought. The following Sunday, Peter and Rita loaded the family and the picnic basket into the Ford panel van and headed north up the Calder.


Left: The Cottage

The family rendezvoused with Brian Parsons and a Cassidy estate agent at the 69 mile post at an agreed time and proceeded to explore the remaining cottages that Brian had available.  Their choice was Lot 29 for a negotiated price of $32,000.  Their acquisition was not only a plus for them but also a bit of an opportune boost to the vendor’s pocket at that time.

It was their choice to enjoy their spot with as little encumbrance as possible.  There was a corrugated water tank, with a hand pump at first but later with a motorised pump, gas lights, an open fire and gas cooker. No generator or telephone!  A tree house was naturally an essential addition in the bush, given that there were children involved. All that basically has not changed in the 36 years since Lot 29 of 6.2 acres became a jewel for Rita, Peter and their children.


Far left: Rita with children, Peter, Dianne, Melinda, Leanne and Goldie, Christmas 1979.

Left: Peter helping with pest control and food supplies, December 1980.

Life in the Bushlands for the van Benthems has been about family and also the company of their many friends. They could sleep up to eighteen in the cottage – quite a bunk room! The opportunities to enjoy all that the environment and their particular lot offered, made them very frequent weekenders. They loved walking through the bush and holding parties. Card evenings with their numerous visitors were dominant in the calendar and if there were too many players for one table, they just set up two and when demand was extreme, even three!

2013 marks 36 years of great enjoyment for Rita and Peter in their ideal country spot but now, with a few health issues emerging, their visits are somewhat less frequent. They still love to visit when they can, with favourable weather being a significant consideration.  When it does come time for them to relinquish ownership of Lot 29, there will be available a delightful, unspoiled cottage for some very fortunate new owners.

Ken Savage (September 2013)

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