It's all about the little things you can do to make a place feel like home, says Dale Pullen, the latest custodian to take on the Bushy Park Homestead.

Pullen has hung every picture on the right hook and placed every piece of furniture in the right place in the building 9km from Kai Iwi.

He has been there for over three months and is running the homestead as a homestay, functions and events centre.

Pullen says he wants to make the inside of the building as good as the outside following renovations made by Shane Stone Builders.

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"I want to make it a very homely environment so when people come to stay, it's warm, it's welcoming and it's their home while they are here.

"It's about the aesthetic and little things like putting cushions along the windows so people can sit down or putting fresh flowers from the garden inside the rooms."

Dale Pullen is the new custodian of the Bushy Park Homestead. He wants to make it warm and welcoming for visitors. Photo / Stuart Munro
Dale Pullen is the new custodian of the Bushy Park Homestead. He wants to make it warm and welcoming for visitors. Photo / Stuart Munro

Pullen has been doing this type of work all his life. He is a military steward by trade and spent 19 years between the Army and the Air Force.

For 10 years he was the house manager at the Royal Wellington Golf Club and for the past five years he managed the Swordfish Club in the Bay of Islands.

Pullen says it was the large amount of tourism that drove him south from the bay and down near Whanganui.

"I couldn't take the huge volumes of people. I really enjoy tourism, but I like to be able to give things a personal touch and I couldn't do that there anymore," he says.

"As soon as I came up the driveway and saw the house here, I just fell in love with it. It's a magical place. I'm privileged to be the custodian here."

As well as the homely vibe, the homestead has a real family focus.

Graeme Pullen is Dale's brother. He is an Army-trained chef who used to be the executive chef for Malaysia Airlines and is now the head cook at the homestead.

"He does a Kiwi and Asian fusion-style of cooking and he can be quite classical as well," Pullen says.

"A standard meal would be a main and a dessert, but I can do any formal occasion that can include up to seven courses."

The homestead has been undergoing roof repairs due to damage caused by the Kaikoura earthquake and is set to be made more wheelchair accessible. Photo / Stuart Munro
The homestead has been undergoing roof repairs due to damage caused by the Kaikoura earthquake and is set to be made more wheelchair accessible. Photo / Stuart Munro

Graeme is also aided by Dale's son Nick. The two of them work four days a week and often help Pullen out until he is settled in his work before departing.

Pullen encourages people to get together at the homestead, with a routine of drinks at 6.30 and dinner in the dining room with a capacity of 16 at 7pm.

Frank Moore commissioned C. Tilleard Natusch to design the Bushy Park Homestead and it was completed in 1906.

Moore was the sole survivor of his family, who all died between 1891 and 1902.

The Bushy Park farm was originally founded by James Moore and his future brother-in-law James Currie in 1865, a partnership which ended in the 1880s.

It is that older style of the home and the rich history that made the spot so appealing to Pullen, but it wasn't without its worries.

"I don't think I would have taken the business on had the work not been done because it was in a pretty rough state," Pullen says.

"It was very cold, the manager's bedroom – you couldn't live in it. The windows were completely rotten, the glass was broken and falling out."

That was just one of the problems that the Bushy Park Trust had identified as far back as two years ago and had been sourcing funding for.

Wilf Emmett standing inside one of the old stables which is set to become an interpretation area. Photo / Stuart Munro
Wilf Emmett standing inside one of the old stables which is set to become an interpretation area. Photo / Stuart Munro

Board member and project manager Wilf Emmett says the building had been in a bad state.

"The roof slumped very bad in the Kaikoura earthquake, a lot of the flashings at the chimneys were missing and it leaked. You had to give the clients raincoats.

"They had to remove the roof, take all the tiles off and put the iron on. We had to completely scaffold the building, it cost a fortune."

Whanganui Community Foundation, Eleanor Burgess Trust, Four Regions Trust, Lottery Grants Board and Whanganui Heritage Trust provided $500,000 worth of funding for the work which is ongoing.

The homestead is being made wheelchair accessible, having a rotten windowframe removed from R and E Tingey's design and the bathroom is being redesigned.

The last time it had any work done on it was when a team of volunteers undertook various tasks such as painting the building over a three year period in 1992.

The trusts also contributed to a further $270,000 which has been raised to upgrade the stables and convert them into an interpretation area.

"It's like a museum really, it will give visitors all the history, foresight into the forests and birds," Emmett says.

"It will help people to understand what the forest is all about before they go and visit it."

The area is set to feature interactive television screens, a pit displaying items below a glass top and one of the first engines in the area used to run a power plant.

Shane Stone Builders is carrying out the work on the building, which is hoped to be completed by April 2019.