Four potters, a weaver and a couple of artists... This almost sounds like the start of a joke, but as a matter of fact, they were the ones who came up with the idea of the now famous Midlands Meander in KwaZulu-Natal.
When this group of artists got together on a summer’s evening in 1985 the concept of a Rolling Exhibition, where visitors could come and see their work a few times a year, was born. Over the years the Midlands Meander family has grown and now has more than 150 members, with many of the original members still remaining.
This collection of routes in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal all lead to artistic, exciting and beautiful places.
Indulge in outstanding cuisine, take part in outdoor activities, visit historic landmarks and appreciate unique arts and crafts. There truly is something for the whole family, so if you have a day (or two), this is a fantastic way to spend time in this beautiful part of South Africa.
Things to do and see:
Arts and crafts
This is probably what the Meander is most famous for. On this route you can find incredible handmade leatherwork, furniture, quilts, ceramics, and glasswork, to name a few. The artists create or manufacture 80% of the product within the boundaries of the Meander, bringing new meaning to the South African term “local is lekker”.
There are certainly too many great places to visit in the area to name them all, but here are a few worth mentioning:
Dargle Valley Pottery
One of the longest standing members of the Meander family, Dargle Valley Pottery was established 35 years ago and offers the largest selection of pottery in this area. Two galleries are situated on the original farm in the Dargle Valley and they now also have a shop in Lions River between Midmar and Nottingham Road. Here you can find anything from kitchen crockery, vases, roasting pots and dishes to Terracotta garden pots and glazed garden pots. But don’t just think small when you go there as they are most famous for their Mexican fireplaces, Moroccan tajines and pizza ovens.
A stop in at the Nottingham micro-brewery also comes highly recommended.
Groundcover Leather Company
This is a family business located on a farm in Currys Post and have become well known for their original handcrafted footwear and accessories. The Groundcover family has been working together for a long time and the skills they have acquired over this time have made their products varied in style and techniques.
They also make a range of bags, belts, rucksacks, briefcases and accessories and have a special range of colourful nguni skin shoes and bags.
Situated in Nottingham Road, this colourful shop is filled with stained glass creations made by Jan and Louise van Niekerk. They can design lamps, windows and doors to your specifications. Also make sure to visit their ceramic showroom filled with beautiful collections, as well as other delights, like candles, decoupage and other decorations for the creative at heart.
For the nature lover and active visitor, the Meander is ideal for hiking, biking, horse riding, swimming, canopy tours, quad biking and fishing.
Karkloof Canopy Tour
Want to surprise the kids and the missus with something out of the ordinary? Exploring the indigenous Karkloof forest on a canopy tour is a great way to enjoy nature and spend time together as a family.
Zip line between the trees to the various viewpoints while professional guides point out interesting sights as you glide along. These canopy tours are suitable for anyone between the ages of 7-70 and it is recommended that this trip should be booked in advance to avoid disappointment.
If streams winding through green rolling hills make you want to grab your fishing gear, the Midlands is the place to be. When it comes to trout and bass fishing, this is the ultimate fisherman’s dream. Here you can experience nature in its fullest, with cows as your company and the sound of birds all around while you wait for the big one to bite. Or if you want to make it a trip for the whole family, bring them along! For more info on where you can go fishing, click here.
From casual rides through picturesque farmlands to adrenaline pumping single tracks, the Midlands Meander is a Mecca for mountain bikers. Several members of the Meander will be able to advise cyclists on where they can ride and many offer mountain biking on their properties. The area is also home to some of the best mountain bike races in the country, including the Karkloof Classic and the Howick Classic.
Nelson Mandela Capture Site
Just outside Howick on the R301 is one of the country’s most interesting historical places – the site where Nelson Mandela was captured. Artist Marco Cianfanelli built the sculpture with 50 steel column constructions between 6.5 metres and 9.5 metres tall. They are aligned to form a portrait of Nelson Mandela and in the background one can see the magnificent rolling hills and valleys of the Midlands.
The steel columns are a representation of Mandela’s imprisonment where he was captured in 1962 before he was sent to Robben Island. Visitors can also take a stroll through the museum at the site.
During a day of leisurely meandering, don’t forget to stop at some of the local restaurants and coffee shops along the way. From chocolate to cheese and delicious coffee, there’s just too many to name them all, but here are three places we have to mention.
Piggly Wiggly Country Village is the perfect breakfast or lunch spot to meet up with family or friends in a relaxed country setting. The menu offers a wide selection, including fresh homemade salads, award winning cappuccinos and locally produced Piggly Wiggly themed wines created by owner Rudi Kassier. You can almost spend the day here, with several shops located on the farm, as well as a garden and a variety of activities to keep the kids entertained.
It was in 1985, on these premises, that the idea for the Midlands Meander was born. The restaurant is situated on the banks of the Lions River where diners can enjoy a peaceful meal and a glass of wine with the relaxing sound of a waterfall in the background. Located in the heart of the Meander, the restaurant is only 15 minutes from Howick and 30 minutes from Pietermaritzburg.
Yellowwood restaurant and cafe
With a stunning view over the Howick waterfall, Yellowwood Café is a great place to relax while the kids can spend some time with the miniature horses, Dexter cattle, pot belly pigs, miniature goats and the very rare miniature donkeys.
There is also a large garden area and a play area to keep the kids entertained. Situated on the historic Fairfell Farm, the house which is now the restaurant was built in 1870. Find a wide selection of delicious meals and treats on their a la carte menu while they serve up lovely roasts and curries on the weekends.
The spectacular view and great outdoor space makes Yellowwood Café the ideal place to relax with the whole family.