Category: Uncategorized
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,


May the breeze be gentle

Good Morning

Reflation is a term I don’t completely understand. Wikipedia calls it an act of stimulating the economy by increasing the money supply or by reducing taxes, seeking to bring the economy back up to the long term trend, following a dip in the business cycle.

Our “Reflation” has come from the Saffa’s of this wonderful network of life and nature lovers. Last week the Walky Talkies hiking group (pictured) returned to walk the Blue Mountain Trail. This less than a year since walking the Green Mountain Trail. A heart warming experience for our team. Huge gratitude to all 20/21 visitors and Green and Blue Mountaineers.

When recounting to my husband about how lucky I feel, from all of your stimulatory actions in our direction, he quoted Gary Player, “The harder you work, the luckier you get”. The farmers of our Valley may not agree with this. After a year of bringing fruit to harvest, it seems that the shipping containers of the globe have all been swept up by the online shopping of the northern hemisphere. A devastating situation as South African fruit now has little means to be exported. This  especially for those in the softer and more fragile fruits of plums and peaches. We urge you all to buy South African fruit and eat a few a day to keep the doctor away.

Viewing the preview of auctions is a favourite past time. It is a privileged glimpse as artworks move from one home to another. George Pemba’s “A woman of sorrow” (pictured), was collected by us in 1991. A work from the same 90’s Everard Read show came up at the recent Aspire Auction. Pemba met his first tutor, Ethel Smythe, when in hospital, sketching nurses, while recovering from appendicitis. He was twenty two years. Realising his talent, the matron contacted Fort Hare University where Ethel Smythe taught. What a lucky meeting for South African art.

This week we harvested our three almond trees. This means we must be close to Easter. We will be heading to our Langebaan Beach Cottage, leaving home offices behind. We love the West Coast where the wind blows so hard that you feel justified in doing absolutely nothing. This seaside village has responded to the international community of kite surfers with some urban delights of great coffee and a Spar with everything you need. Give it a go. Langebaan Beach Cottage can be found here.

Wishing you a Happy Easter and Passover, may the breeze be gentle.

With love,


A creaking willow

Good Morning

The Nivenia Stokoei (pictured) are iconic to our Blue Mountain Trail. This week a group, from mostly Jozi, did some “girl time” while hiking the Blue, feasting and wining at South Hill, Iona and Almenkerk. You don’t have to be particularly flower interested to be stopped in your tracks by the wonders of fynbos.

Patsy Groll’s ENCOUNTERS (oil on board pictured), was painted while engaging in Jill Trappler’s 2020 workshop here at Wildekrans Country House. ENCOUNTERS is the lavender and lemon tree stairway out of the garden. We ran out of both lemons and lemonade last week. My Mom’s cousin, Sheelagh Groenewald, came to the rescue with a large basket of granadillas. This is a work in progress. Our first batch of granadill’ade was a bit sweet.

While sitting under our large willow tree, I remarked to last week’s walkers that the tree was creaking more than usual. A few years ago, one third of the tree severed a leg of Lewellyn Davies’ FLAMINGOES. On Saturday morning we awoke to the second third of the willow tree having fallen on a still night, narrowly missing Nikki Swanepoel’s ceramic cattle heads. A pair of Woodpeckers were delighted by this development, they in turn delighted the Limpopo weekenders.

I write these bits of news in my head while walking. The writings of Pico Iyer inspire why time out and walking daily is good for you “And its only by going nowhere that I find the thoughts that come to me unbidden are far fresher and more imaginate than the ones I consciously seek out.”

With love,