For COVID-19 updates, visit the official South African government website www.sacoronavirus.co.za

Blog

A Weekend Farm Getaway

5/14/2021 7:34:02 AM

As budget farm getaways go, you won’t find better than Witteberghoek Guest House and Camping Grounds. This historic apple farm is hidden in the Langkloof Valley, close to the sleepy little hamlet of Haarlem. Pack up your kids, bikes and fishing nets and hit the tar to discover simple Klein Karoo hospitality, a secluded cabin in the hills and a truly tranquil escape.

Image Featured Image: Clare Van Rensburg

A turn off the smooth tar of Route 62 takes us into Witteberg Farm, nestled beneath the rocky slopes of the Witteberg hills. Owners Klippies and Johan Strydom guide us through the apple orchards to our little cabin. The stone cottage, ‘Royal Beaut’, sits on the hillside facing east. The stoep has views of the Groot River kloof, acres of apple, pear, peach trees, and the rocky slopes of Witteberg hills. As the sun begins to dip, my husband and our two kids climb out of the car to begin exploring. I am amazed at the quality of the light in the Klein Karoo. Everything seems to glow in the orange evening sunlight. No wonder the locals call this the ‘golden hour’. There is quiet and stillness, birdsong, and a faint breeze. Johan apologies for the lack of cellphone or WIFI reception. With a huge sigh of relief, we switch off the phones and spark up the braai.

Image Featured Image: Clare Van Rensburg

Klippies and Johan Strydom are fantastic, charming hosts and chat easily about the history of the farm. The Strydom Estate dates to 1896 when Johan’s grandfather and fierce looking red-headed grandmother bought the farm. The couple had eight children and Ouma Susanna Maria’s red-hair genes persist in the family line to this day. Johan jokes that the ‘rooikop’ gene seems to crop up somewhere in every generation. The farm is currently managed by Johan and his brother, third generation farmers and his 80-year-old father, David. Despite the crippling drought, the farm produces bumper harvests of delicious soft fruits such as apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums as well as apples, pears, and pomegranates. Johan explains that a mountain spring supplies life-giving water throughout the farm and even feeds their own bottling plant. Witteberg mineral water is purified and bottled on the farm and distributed throughout the Western Cape. In addition, the farm is also home to a small herd of sheep, a few pigs, a flock of chickens, a pair of springbok and some bunnies. Johan climbs into his Isuzu bakkie and promises to return early the next morning to take the kids on the full farm tour.

Image Featured Image: Clare Van Rensburg

Witteberghoek has four rustic self-catering guesthouses as well as a small camping terrain. The cabins are named after the apple varieties growing on the farm; Royal Beat, Fallawater and Sundowner. The former laborer’s cottages have been renovated to comfortably sleep a family of four or five. Each cabin has a stoep with braai facilities and a charming wood-burning stove in the kitchen. The cottages are fed with spring water from the hills and have a solar water heater on the roof. After exploring the waterfalls and pools in the Groot River kloof, we wrapped the kids in blankets and spent the evening counting stars and watching fireflies dance in front of the porch light.

Image Featured Image: Clare Van Rensburg

As promised, Uncle Johan was back at 7.30 am looking for volunteers to help him with the sheep. Our kids pulled on their gum boots and climbed onto the back of the bakkie. My five-year-old immediately took a shine to the quiet, softly spoken and hard-working farmer. Within minutes Ross was hand-in-hand with Johan, herding sheep and feeding rabbits like he had been doing it all his life. Our kids loved feeding the Witteberg pigs. They filled big buckets with bruised apples and emptied them into troughs and then fell apart giggling as the pigs tucked in with gusto.

Image Featured Image: Clare Van Rensburg

Uncle Johan points out rows of beehives sitting on every available rooftop. Bees, he explains, are the fruits farmer’s best friend. The hives are essential to the fruit farming industry as they visit the fruit blossoms, ensuring that pollination occurs. Johan describes how that hives had to be raised above the ground to outwit the local honey badger. The clever and persistent little ratel seems to have already foiled Uncle Johan’s efforts. We see one or two hives which have been pushed off the piggery’s roof and smashed open. The tenacious honey badger seems to be winning the race.

Image Featured Image: Clare Van Rensburg

Witteberg Farm has several well marked walking trails through the hills. These pass the chicken coop and sheep pastures and wind alongside fynbos clothed hills. In the distance, Johan points out the Cape Honeybush crop growing on the hilltops. This unique herbal tea is one of several medicinal plants growing on the farm. Johan shows us other herbs used by generations of local people including ‘Wildeals’ (African Wormwood) and Sour Fig. Today, the antioxidant rich Honeybush is added to their spring water to make a delicious Honeybush Iced Tea.

Image Featured Image: Clare Van Rensburg

We spend the afternoon canoeing on the farm dam and lazing about in the sunlight. Johan pays his new ‘farmhands’ with a pocketful of small freshly picked gem squash, a few ripe tomatoes and a backpack full of bright red Sundowner apples. Our kids stroll home covered in dust and smiling from ear to ear. Witteberghoek provides a unique opportunity for rest, rejuvenation, and quiet family time. It is an affordable three-star getaway on a working farm. Bring your mountain bike and hiking boots, and prepare to switch off completely.

Contact Details Address: Witteberghoek Self Catering Guesthouse, Route 62, Haarlem Phone: Klippies Strydom 084 702 6940 Email: klippies@langkloof.net Website: www.witteberghoek.com Facebook: Witteberghoek Self-Catering Accommodation

Read Next Blog > > >