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Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Good Morning

Audun Alvestad’s Tan Lines, currently at the Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London, explores the season as a feeling rather than a specific place or moment in time. What caught my attention is the reference to how we approach holiday time. The artist thinks about “what a holiday means as a concept, how we delineate a period of time, establish expectations, wear different clothes and perform certain activities or even identities”.

The weekend before last, we put on our “Saturday clothes”, packed a few groceries into a Spar packet and hopped into the car, carrying our Wild Card, sunglasses and Grabouw braai meat. We headed for Langebaan Beach Cottage through the rolling Durbanville hills of Canola and the West Coast flowers. Changing your getup, certainly accelerates a change of feeling don’t you think? Within a few hours we were walking barefoot on the beach, eating calamari and gazing at the lagoon as if time did not matter. We returned home twenty four hours later feeling like we had holidayed for a month, reflecting  Audun’ Alvestad’s reflections.

Elgin Open Gardens is approaching. It’s time for you to change into your gardening gear, be it a big hat, even bigger sunnies or a basket of sorts for farm shopping on the way. We are selecting some of our old faves in the way of food and the gardens are looking glorious.

If you would like to lunch in the gardens of Wildekrans Country House, please book ahead for these following dates below:

Sat. 30 and Sun. 31 Oct. and Sat. 6 and Sun. 7 Nov.

Book Here

When needing to transport myself away, I often turn to music. The wonderful Pretend it’s a City’s Fran Leibowitz says, “Cooks and musicians make people happy. Music is like a drug that’s good for you. It makes you happier, you can’t explain it.”

When we were kids Christmas time meant a family gift of an LP. My second album ever, was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (1973). Being only 14 years, my older sisters must have chosen for me. This week, I tuned into the concert videos of Pink Floyd at Pompeii. “Live at Pompeii” is an album and film by David Gilmour, the former guitarist of Pink Floyd. It was recorded at the Amphitheatre of Pompeii in 2016. What legends they are. You can but only transport yourself immersed in those tunes.

“Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond…”

With love,

PS: The best hiking trails in Cape Town are just outside Cape Town.

PPS: The best Elgin accommodation is at Wildekrans Country House, we have baby Woodpeckers in one of the old Oak trees. ENQUIRE

That’s How The Light Gets In

Good Morning

Italians live a different life. A simpler one, passed through generations, and lived with great purpose yet seemingly without great worries.

Taking a lunch time and leaving your place of work is non-negotiable. It’s what you do at the same time every week day. Having a caffe’ is a treasured activity. You would not have a coffee while sending a message or writing a note. Drinking the coffee is the activity.

Other small personal highlights are the taste of the tomatoes, the sparkling wine glasses, buying and using only exactly what you need. Shopping for two or three zucchini’s and a half a loaf of bread is normal, tomorrow is another day. Of course all of these things (including sun ripening your tomatoes) can be taken on board, the world over.

We choose our paths, the 2020/1 transition has given rise to much self analysis. The age old “focus on where you want to go, not where you are coming from” has been hauled out. In an interview with Monocle, designer Paul Smith, had these startling words to say, “It’s your future, nobody cares how good you used to be.” There’s a thought.

Have you found that there seems to be an even greater intensity around the clickety clack of laptops wherever you go? What is being manufactured, or grown, that can possibly support this mass of energetic communications? I tried to find the opposite of the word, bubble. Implosion maybe? However, I recognize that I am a worrier, always have been. As a young child growing up on the farm, Glen Fruin, opposite Paul Cluver Wines, I used to count the apple trees as I feared that only one harvest a year, could not possibly support our family of seven.

September and March are special times of mild weather, when both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres experience similar weather, but are moving towards opposite seasons. In Chianti, the harvesting of the white grapes begins this this week, while in Elgin, the clickety sound of pruning is coming to an end.

Between the Green Mountain trails in the Elgin Valley and walks through Chianti, we hope to begin to offer walking experiences throughout the year. This is a very early work in progress, but should you wish to experience the simple life of Chianti, one of Italy’s many special corners, visit Casa di Simonetta.

There is so much that we have learnt from the beautiful Simonetta Palazio. Simonetta meticulously restored this 1 000 year old home. Surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, the property falls in the very centre of Chianti. With great Wi-Fi, it’s not a bad place to pound away on your own laptop before heading to one of the surrounding villages for your lunch time.

I have had some solo time this week and have found myself playing Leonard Cohen each evening. The Anthem has a classic and global message. Forgive me if I have shared this with you before,

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”

With love,

PS: The best hiking trails in Cape Town are just outside Cape Town.

PPS: The best Elgin accommodation is at Wildekrans Country House, we have baby Woodpeckers in one of the old Oak trees. ENQUIRE

Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came

Investec’s Daily Views & News comes to me every weekday morning between eight and nine. A quick and easy update, most recently concerning the Chinese regulation of the tech and education sectors, rising case numbers for the Delta variant of the coronavirus, and vaccination levels.

Zebra by Hannah Gould - Jaci's Tree Lodge

Whatever the news, the Rand now hovers between R14.50 and R15.00 to the Dollar, apparently for reasons above. The Rand-Dollar rate had a profound effect on my life in 1985. Arriving at the University of California, Berkeley in January, the rate was close to one to one. A couple of months in, it halved to R2.20 buys a Dollar. My student budget was shot. I sought refuge in the free days of art museums in San Francisco and Los Angeles. My love for art was born and I was adopted by the art-interested Wessling family.

Alredo Jaar’s "Embrace"

Two weeks back, I finally visited Alredo Jaar’s THE RWANDA PROJECT at the Zeist Mocaa. A deeply sad, insightful and humbling experience. Alfredo Jaar has shared this 1994 genocide without showing it to you first hand. He experienced and recorded the massive brutality, and returned to New York, where he put together a work that describes the horror without illustrating it. A profound experience. It is on until 15 January 2022.

Last year I asked my Californian Mum, Judy Wessling, to share the best book she had read in 2020. Judy is bonded to at least three Los Angeles book clubs. The Overstory by Richard Powers has been unopened at my bedside for a year. 

Olaf Hajek's WORKS

The New York Times review includes “It’s a delicate act, writing about tree defenders: In an era when art seems ready to embrace subjects as painful as racism and sexual harassment, it still shrinks from environmental brutality”.

Last week I travelled to Jaci’s Tree Lodge with first born Hannah, to escape the news of the day. Reading  “The Overstory” en route, and in a bush camp made in and around trees, was a perfect match. We showered under a Leadwood, a Tamboti tree continues to grow through Room 5, we marvelled at Jaci’s favourite Sheperd (Boscia albitrunca) tree, searched for leopards in the Marulas, and found a pair of Verreaux’s eagle-owl (Bubo lacteus) dining in yet another Leadwood . Jaci’s Tree Lodge “close to nature” approach is what we love and I came home hugely inspired for our new Green Mountain Trail season. Read more

When we set out for Madikwe, Follow the Sun by Xavier Rudd rung out from Hannah’s road trip playlist. It felt like Xavier Rudd had written a theme song for Richard Powers’, The Overstory.

“Follow, follow the sun
And which way the wind blows
When this day is done…

When you feel life coming down on you,
Like a heavy weight
When you feel this crazy society,
Adding to the strain
Take a stroll to the nearest waters
And remember your place
Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came”

With love,

PS: The best hiking trails in Cape Town are just outside Cape Town.

PPS: The best Elgin accommodation is at Wildekrans Country House, we have baby Woodpeckers in one of the old Oak trees. ENQUIRE

Fresh Air Is The New Luxury

Good Morning

Fresh air is the new luxury said The Monocle Minute three weeks back, while making a point about the necessity of ventilation and “five star” hotels with non openable windows.


Speaking of fresh air and wide open spaces, I visited, by appointment, the David Goldblatt “MARKERS OF PRESENCE” at the new Goodman Gallery premises, Cape Town, last Tuesday. A privileged viewing of ten photographic works in colour of landscapes and people. There is much to be learnt about this extraordinary South African on and David Goldblatt steadfastly avoided any active political involvement and did not photograph any of the turning points in South African history. “I’m not particularly interested … in photographing the moment something happens. I’m interested in the conditions that give rise to events.” It runs until the 24th of July


A group of friendly medical specialists (pictured below), walked the Blue Mountain Trail in June for some much needed fresh air. We could have started a mini hospital with these brave and clever youngish medical minds.

They immersed themselves in slackpacking and the wide open spaces of the Western Cape mountains’ Kogelberg Biosphere, and the abundant protea life (Longifolia pictured above) on show at this time of year.


With the current global condition, first born Molly and I have been binging a bit on Firefly Lane (too trivial for the rest of the fam). Our Saturday evening took on a different tone when the soundtrack of  The Hollies’ played.

“All I need is the Air that I breathe”, listen here. 

With love,

Walking With Thuli

Good Morning

Prof Thuli Madonsela will summit Kilimanjaro for the second time in July this year. She, together with three of the Walk4Mandela team, trained with us this last week.

PS: for winter rates at Wildekrans Country House visit Do some walking while you are here.

The excitement for each of our team to have Prof Thuli (pictured) on our trails was electric. Remembering the bravery of this strong and beautiful soul, and being acutely aware of how her ground breaking work, continues to play out today, has stayed with us.

PS: The weather is mostly mild, do some slackpacking in the Western Cape mountains this winter.

Prof Thuli was joined by Fair Lady Photographer Liza van Deventer, part sponsor of the trip Amanda Takis (hand standing on the trail), and Black Management Forum lawyer Tasneem Fredericks. All walking for the Imbumba Foundation’s Caring4Girls raising funds for young girls. More than a million girls are currently supported through this programme.

I recently bought a special occasion dress made in SA AND made with tree bark. Loved the Ashaeleven label quotation which strongly relates to the journey of this walk4mandela team. While we can’t all assist in writing the constitution, make recommendations to the High Court on state capture and corruption, and develop a seat of Justice at Stellenbosch University, Lao Tzu suggests:

“If you want to awaken all humanity then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self transformation.” Lao Tzu

With love,

The most sensible thing to do

Good Morning

When walking earlyish one morning ten days back, the trail group were not alone. “As we crossed the wetland, I spotted the tracks of the Cape Mountain Leopard in the mud and could be fairly sure that it had passed through recently given the rainy weather we’d been having (pictured). A special sighting for the guests. Walking along the jeep-track, we made easy progress along the mountain side, passing the time in continued conversation regarding comedy and moving on to current affairs…” said guide Jeff.

The days continue to shorten but we have been spoilt with mild winter sun which seems to slow time down. On the same day I happened upon homing pigeon racers at the Houw Hoek exit (pictured). I stopped to learn a bit more about this sport. I met Team Caldeira who have been racing since 2004 and were training their birds for a competition in Laingsburg that weekend. They released the birds in batches, each flock taking height on release, circling for a few seconds and then confidently heading the one hundred and ten kilometres home. I called them this weekend to hear the race result. Great news. One of their birds won the Laingsburg race covering 259.8 kilometres in four hours and seven minutes. That’s averaging at 63 km per hour. Second place was only thirty seconds behind.

Last week a regular artist visitor treated her husband to a weekend away. With cooler evenings we had the fires going and made Thai butternut soup. We have a new way with kingklip, it includes mushrooms, capers and Sauvignon Blanc. Our regular sent a note to say “thank you for being a friendly and safe space”. How our worlds and wants have shifted. We are so grateful for being able to offer wide open spaces for wining, dining and walking. All of this within sixty minutes of Cape Town Central.

In the words of Helen Bonham Carter addressing Maggie Thatcher while playing Princess Margaret, “sometimes, time off is the most sensible thing to do”. We agree. The days may be shortening but this too will pass. Soon.

With love, 

Hold on to the afterglow

Good Morning

French billionaire, Francois Pinault, opened his contemporary art collection in Paris this weekend. Speaking on the opening of his private museum, Bourse de Commerce, he said “I want the museum to be a place where people feel better at the exit than they did at the entrance.”

We chatted about Jackie and her evolving art career. First jewellery design and then thanks to Louis van Vuuren and his French art school, oil painting. Now fed up with feeling the need to express angst and our tormented souls, Jackie is busy exploring the more aesthetically pleasing subjects we are surrounded with. This is a work we collected  ten years ago (pictured). “Letting go” is an oil by Jackie on a troubled time, at that time.

Each week we treasure the gorgeous mild winter sun days as if they were the last. This walking group of family and friends announced on Thursday over lunch that they were “hooked on Houw Hoek”. This, together with Sarah Jayne Fell’s Lifestyling story about Wildekrans Country House (read full story). We will hold on to the afterglow.


One of my sisters forwarded to us South Africa’s very own Drakensberg choir performing Ed Sheehan’s Afterglow. A beautiful start to our Saturday. Listen Here.

With love,

For the birds

Good Morning

What is it about Johannesburg that delivers so many beautiful women? Many couples and mixed friends walk our trails but we are also frequented by girl hiking groups. When a delightful girl group departs we feel huge gratitude and remain conscious that we cannot expect to be blessed with yet another energetic, happy and generous spirited gaggle of gals. And then we are. Thank you Jozi for being a happy home to this seemingly never ending abundant stream.

One such recent group (pictured) identified birds from the get go. This, to the delight of our guides who say,

“With winter only a few weeks away, our Fynbos birds are getting ready for their breeding season. The cooler weather is “waking” them up and many birds are getting active.

With the Ericas and Proteas coming into flower and providing much needed bird food in the form of nectar and insects, it is the perfect time to raise young. Male Sunbirds, in all their splendid plumage, are vigorously showing off their prowess, chasing each other and setting up territories. So too with the endemic Cape Sugarbird males, their long tails flapping over many a Protea bush.

A recent group produced a substantial list in 4 days on the trail, identifying 40 different species.  On the special list was the sightings of Levaillant’s cisticola, the Familiar chat, Orange-breasted Sunbird (pictured), Stonechat, Cape grass bird, Black-shouldered kite, Rock kestrel and our special Verreaux (Black) eagle.”

Still on birds, this anonymous graffiti/art stopped me in my tracks on Albert Road in Woodstock, whilst en route to buy some funky lighting from Creative Cables (recommended) for this last weekend’s Jill Trappler Art Workshop. What a gift to passers by, in this somewhat harsh environment that used to be a beach.

The topic of art versus graffiti reminded me of a visit by Irish band U2, to San Francisco in 1987. They gifted a lunch time concert to the city, around the corner from where I worked back in the day. As the then recently released track “Where the streets have no name” reached it’s crescendo, lead singer Bono grabbed a can of spray paint and began running around and “painting” all over a gigantic fountain sculpture by Quebec artist Armand Vaillanscourt.  When criticized for this defacing action, Bono claimed that he too was an artist.

Art and artists inspire and challenge us through their works and actions. Imagine how worse off we would be without this. Viva the arts and artists.

“I want to run, I want to hide
I wanna tear down the walls that hold me inside
I wanna reach out and touch the flame
Where the streets have no name,

I wanna feel sunlight on my face
I see that dust cloud disappear without a trace
I wanna take shelter from the poison rain
Where the streets have no name”

With love,

Wisteria popcorn

Good Morning

Unlike the city, places to eat are few and far between out here. But each and every one of the few is exceptional.  The apple crumble ice cream at Zest on Beaumont Wine Estate is indescribably fabulous. As is there kale salad with gruyere tart. When we are not cooking for guests, we often indulge in Zest’s Made at Home range. The paneer curry and fish pie are our favourites. The newish Beaumont Wines piazza and tasting room, and Zest Kitchen, are designed by my one and only, Barry Gould (pictured). Green Mountain Trail hikers end their experience lunching on this historic and special farm.

The Paul Cluver family have recently opened a casual yet fine dining restaurant where you eat alongside unpretentious farmers responsible for some of the largest businesses in our beloved country. I grew up on Glen Fruin Farm, opposite Paul Cluver Estate. In those days there was not a single restaurant in Elgin. Not opposite us, not anywhere. Friday evenings at Paul Cluver’s are a treat.

On Sunday we picnicked on Oak Valley Estate with friends to the tunes of Sonkind, with burnt orange autumn Oak leaves falling on our heads and into our Melting Pot picnic boxes. We felt youthful and lucky.

Hikers are treated to Terre Madre’s frozen apple or pear juice. Nicole Precoudis (pictured) has her own juicer and adds nothing but love. We have recently added her Spanakopita to our menus. Nicole’s spinach grows in long rows between the olive trees.

Years ago Melville’s Chaplins’ restaurateur taught us that the only way to perfect food is for your entire team to eat it and taste what can be improved. This we do and when one of the dishes is not as good, we all eat again and try and figure out what made the difference. It’s indulgent and fun. Liz Wood, of Christmas Cake and Wedding Venue fame, gifted us a bucket of white brinjals this week. Today we made melanzane parmegiana from our regular brinjals and Liz’s white ones, tasting the velvety difference of the melanzane bianche.

Once a year our wisteria pods explode with the sound of a pot of popping popcorn. This happened last Saturday. I tried hard to photograph one caught in the action of exploding, but was unsuccessful as you can see.

PS: no less than thirty seven species of bird were spotted by last week’s delightful hikers. Cooler months bring a greater fynbos bird activity, this as the protea begin to show. More on this next time.

PPS: we have six spaces on our 24 May four day Green Mountain Trail.

With love,

Open shade

Good Morning

Julia Teale’s “Sins of our forefathers”, lives at Langebaan Beach Cottage. The Atelier art awards were the perfect hunting ground for younger artists. Bought from the Atelier art competition in 1990, it was my first art purchase. We love this work and it feels right in this space on the West Coast. Langebaan Beach Cottage will be  a perfect place from which to explore the 2021 wild flower extravaganza.

Artist Jill Trappler’s “Water and the Moon”, has been showing at the Spin Street Gallery in Cape Town. Jill says the collaboration that takes place between the painter and the painting is similar to that of water and the moon. There are various opinions in this relationship; the pull of the moon on water, the water is pushed by the nearness of the moon… The Water and the Moon catalogue includes notes by curator Margie Murgatroyd  “Constraints are the framework which dictates good design. A process of elimination refines the curator’s vision and creates order and meaning for the audience.

This got me thinking about the curatorship of the Blue and Green Mountain trails. The all important task of making precious time spent on a leisure experience, orderly and meaningful, which we believe is achieved. We have spaces available on our 24 May Green Mountain Trail.

My favourite work on Jill’s show is “OPEN SHADE” (pictured). The best part about autumn has to be the “open shade”. Instead of hurtling out of bed at sunrise to beat the heat, you can do a bit of work while the sun climbs the sky, before taking to the mountains with the autumnal sun warming on your skin.

With love,