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A two-day country escape with Farmer Redbeard on his traditional fruit, wine and honey farm (in the Cape Central Valley)…

Picture: Eugene Louw
Picture: Eugene Louw

SPONSORED: As an 11th generation steward of this heritage wine, fruit and honey farm, Farmer Redbeard offers a unique weekend experience unlike any other.

When we arrive at the Wilde Paardekloof Farm on a balmy autumn afternoon, ripe, harvest-ready red and white bunches of grapes hang heavy on the leafy green vineyards. This farm in Ashton in the Western Cape, bordering the Klein Karoo, is the home and pride of Farmer Redbeard and his family.

The Farmer Redbeard Two-day Countryside Getaway promises to be a unique and exciting break for wine and nature lovers wanting to get away from the grime and noise of the city and immerse themselves in a relaxing, sensory experience in a safe and rural Klein Karoo setting.

One side of this South African wine, fruit and honey farm is characterised by stunning natural splendour; the other by the rugged, wildness of the bushveld. This makes it the ideal space for both adventurers and those who simply want to replenish their bodies and souls.

Picture: Eugene Louw
Picture: Eugene Louw
Picture: Eugene Louw
Picture: Eugene Louw
Picture: Eugene Louw
Picture: Eugene Louw
Picture: Eugene Louw
Picture: Eugene Louw

A warm welcome

Albertus van Zyl, comes from a family who has preserved the Farmer Redbeard name for 11 generations. Albertus and his wife, Patrizia, welcome us when we arrive at the Meulhuis at dusk. They invite us inside for dinner, which is prepared and served by the couple.

The Meulhuis is a small, cosy building with a romantic atmosphere and a historic feel. It is home to various remembrances from yesteryear and was built in the 1700s when the Van Zyl family’s forebears found this peaceful land nestled at the foot of the majestic Langeberg Mountain, about 180 km from Cape Town.

The Meulhuis was originally built for farmers, soldiers and travellers between Robertson and Montagu who wanted to mill and sell their grain. Wilde Paardekloof was a trading post between villages. 

Picture: Eugene Louw

Candlelight dinner

Dinner is a hearty three-course meal, which Albertus prepares. Each course is perfectly paired with a Farmer Redbeard wine. He cooks each person’s steak to their preference on an indoor braai near the dinner table. The delicious side dishes are made from fresh local produce. Our hosts share stories about the farm’s history.

Albertus shares some of his winemaking tips, and we later learn by chance that this humble, multitalented farmer has a Master’s degree in Viticulture. His Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscadel are top class – the result of expert precision, an ideal terroir and the clean mountain water that’s used for irrigation.

Later in the evening, we stroll onto the deck where we’re captivated by the sound of two owls communicating.

Picture: Eugene Louw

The early bird catches the worm

A good night’s sleep follows, in a neatly furnished, authentic farm-style cottage. We wake to the sound of birds chirping and hoopoes pecking. It’s noticeable how well you sleep when fresh air; silence; genuine hospitality; fresh, white linen, and good food and company are all part of the package.

All the cottages are self-catering units and are within walking distance of the swimming pool, vineyards, mountains and orchards. Each has a spectacular view, and most have fireplaces and more than enough wood to keep you warm on cold winter nights.

Picture: Eugene Louw

On foot

A breakfast basket filled with muffins, home-made farm bread, eggs and cheese – energy for our 6 km guided farm and mountain hike – awaits us in the kitchen. Greg Jacobs, our nature guide, is local.

He leads us on a winding path straight out of a fairy tale … past vineyards and apricot, peach and fig orchards and all along the foot of the rugged Langeberg and well-shaded rivers decked with colourful lilies in full bloom. The fresh farm air and calming sweet and spicy aromas of the Cape Fynbos warm my senses.

We stop to look at a termite mound, form part of several mini-eco systems on the farm that are rich in minerals that contribute to the homeostasis of the soil. It’s clear that the Farmer Redbeard family has a deep respect for and appreciation of this harmonious relationship between man and nature.

Greg tells us that this field is covered in aloes, daisies, proteas and various colourful wildflowers during Spring, and there is an abundance of succulents throughout the rest of the year. He shows us fresh Klipspringer tracks that lead to the river where the adorable little buck must have quenched its thirst.

“If you’re lucky, you’ll spot leopard tracks,” Greg says and a couple of us look around nervously.

As we cross the dam wall, two dragonflies engage in a circular dance of orange-red and blue, and we spot a singular Porcupine quill amongst the pebbles.

Near a forest of Eucalyptus trees, ox wagon tracks and the ruins of one of the original farmhouses tells the story of the Van Zyl’s ancestors, their travels and experiences. For Greg, the enviable characteristic of Wilde Paardekloof is its silence and peacefulness (even during the harvest).

Picture: Nicole Alexander

Recharge

A light lunch and a full wine tasting experience on the neighbouring farm, Kleinhoekkloof is next on the program. This boutique wine estate is 420 m above sea level and famous for its classic wines, breathtaking views and tasty charcuterie – home-made and exquisitely presented.

On their website, the words by John Muir, a famous 19th century American naturalist, resonates: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilised people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…” 

Indeed.

Back at Wilde Paardekloof there is enough time to cool down in the swimming pool or farm dam, have some alone time or walk through the orchards where you can pick a bucket of golden peaches or apricots.

Just before sunset, Albertus stops in front of our cottage with his John Deere tractor and trailer. It is usually used to transport crates of fruit, but tonight we climb into one that has been furnished with comfortable benches and drive to the Rooibus Bosbraai area, which is hidden between Eucalyptus and Wild Olive trees.

This magical area has no electricity nor white noise. While a traditional three-course meal is being prepared on the fire, the children travel to imaginary destinations in the bus.

Perfectly braaied chicken is served with fresh salads, tasty warm vegetables (which include green beans and sweet potatoes) and thick slices of farm bread and home-made fig, apricot, grape or peach jam. Almost everyone queues for a second helping!

Late at night, we head back in the pitch dark, warm in our crates under a blanket of stars with the soft droning sound of the tractor. The full moon is the only light on the road.

To be this relaxed and close to nature is an experience that will stay with you for years to come.

Picture: Eugene Louw

Sweet temptations

Farmer Redbeard wears many hats – including that of a beekeeper. The next morning after breakfast, those who want to learn first-hand about beekeeping, stand at the ready. Wilde Paardekloof is known for its tasty fynbos and orchard honey.

Albertus has a healthy respect for bees; these hardworking insects, after all help to pollinate almost 180 000 different plant species that make up a third of our plant-based food supply and half of the world’s oils and fibres. Firstly, a fire is lit to make smoke which masks our soapy smells and perfume.

Then we stand back and sip on slow-brewed coffee while he carefully goes through the safety precautions. We each get a bee suit, and this experienced beekeeper demonstrates the steps for calming bees and how to harvest honeycomb. Then it’s time to spin the sweet, golden honey.

Each family or couple gets to bottle their own raw honey as a souvenir.

Not keen on beekeeping?

Guests who don’t want to participate in the beekeeping activity will receive gift vouchers for Owl’s Rest Olive and Lavender Farm and Marbrin Olive Farm.

At Owl’s Rest, they will enjoy a farm tour where Lavender, Rosemary and rose-scented Pelargonium oils are distilled. Thereafter, they will enjoy a Lavender muffin and coffee, tea or fragrant herbal cordials in their beautiful tea garden. Their homemade olive oils, tapenades and pickled fruit are also worth a try; and their small boutique shop offers a unique shopping experience.

Marbrin is an award-winning olive farm. Here you will be welcomed by Clive and Briony. The inspirational couple takes you on an interesting olive journey. Their passion for olives is contagious. You’ll get to enjoy their olives; Dill-, Fennel- and Chilli-flavoured olive oils, balsamic vinegar and tapenades with home-made bread, and take home with you a bottle of their famous olive oil. 

A light lunch and honey tasting at the Millhouse, rounds off this inspiring experience and marks the end of our stay at Wilde Paardekloof. We leave with our hearts full of memories (and our boot full of souvenirs) of an unforgettable weekend getaway.

Nearby attractions

Ashton, in the Cape Central Valley is described as the small town with a big heart – and a big bridge – and is only five minutes from Wilde Paardekloof. The farm is also within easy driving distance of five popular towns in the area: Montagu (15 km), Robertson (22 km), Bonnievale (25 km) and McGregor (40 km). For more information on activities in the area, visit farmerredbeard.co.za and click on “activities” and “attractions in the area”.

Picture: Eugene Louw
Picture: Eugene Louw

Bookings and costs

Adults: R4 000 per person sharing (R4 800 for a single room), R1 800 per child (six to 16 years) and free for children five years and younger.

The package includes accommodation, all activities, a breakfast basket, two light lunches, two dinners that include wine, wine tasting, honey, the services of a nature guide, beekeeping experience (including the use of a bee suit) OR a lavender or olive farm experience.

For more information or to book, contact or WhatsApp 072 623 8275 or send an e-mail to info@farmerredbeard.co.za.
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