- Highlands Farm is adjacent to the existing village of Van Reenen. It uniquely straddles the valleys and heights of Kwazulu-Natal and the gently undulating plains of the Free State, giving residents the opportunity to explore two major climatic areas at the same time.
- The Estate compromises an array of changing landscapes, wild and domestic animals, and several different plants and trees.
- The Van Reenen area has a very rich history which passed on to each generation, with many buildings and sites which unfolds the area’s history.
- The Van Reenen and the wider community go through tremendous effort to organise events to keep young and old entertained. Ranging from parties to sports events the area is most certainly a hub of social events.
The altitude on the properties varies from 1246m in the valleys to 2032.4m above sea level on top of Swartberg. Windy Corner, the well-known viewpoint that looks out over these properties, is located at 1679.9 m. above sea level.
The slopes above the valley are highveld grassland and within the valley slopes it is buddleja auriculata forest with even a small portion of bushveld (acacia sieberiana woodland). The valley is filled with numerous streams and water falls, with a continuous flow of tumbling, crystal clear mountain water throughout the year. Highlands Farm boasts an ever changing environment, with a collection of changing plains, an array of vegetation and a world of different species. The farm is any nature enthusiast’s dream.
The grazing is suitable for cattle and game with wonderful shelter in the valley forests when it snows, which occurs every so often. There is a small herd of bushbuck on the property, elegantly eloping down into the valley at sunset. There is also some zebra and black wildebeest on the farm. It is intended to stock one third of the farm with game. The area is suitable for various game like rooihartebees, giraffe, eland, kudu, waterbuck and rooibok. The Free State flats are very suitable for blesbuck and springbuck. The rest of the grazing will be utilised for cattle and sheep, concentrating on indigenous herds of Nguni cattle.
Van Reenen Village – “The Highland’s forgotten Jewel”
During the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s, the picturesque village of Van Reenen became a holiday destination for many city dwellers and travellers. Van Reenen was accessible by train and had some guest houses and lodges which are still operating today, namely Oaklands Country manor, Oban Guest Farm and The Green Lantern Inn. Many stories of hunting expeditions, mountaineering and picnicking of the time pops up in the local pubs.
During the 1870’s Diamond and 1880’s Gold rush Van Reenen became a hub of activity. Before the ox wagons challenged the ascend of the Drakensberg to get to the top of the escarpment, the ox wagons would overnight at the foot of the pass, which is today known as Wyford Farm. At the time Wyford Farm was apparently the border check point for crossing from Natal into the Orange Free State. Little bit south of Wyford Farm there was a corrugated iron building which was used as a pub. As the ox wagons reached the top, people looked back over the magnificent view with the shining pub just 400 m below. In Afrikaans there is a saying, usually used when exiting the known and entering the unknown, -“die laaste sien van die blikkantien.” This is where the fitting saying originated from, as people would look back and say: “Dis die laaste sien van die blikkantien!”
Later on, the Cairngorm Hotel was built on the site where the present day Caltex Garage stands. The hotel was on the border between Natal and the Orange Free State. The story goes that half of the pub was situated in the Orange Free State and the other half in Natal. It was law in the Orange Free State that there should be no drinking after 10pm. Therefore, the men in the pub would observe the law closely and at 10pm they would simply move over to the Natal side of the bar. The hotel was owned by the Oram family who in the early 1940’s, bought the farm “Dawn Winds”. Today the Biltong Shop stands in the milk shed.
Llandaff Oratory, the well known Little Church, is one of the smallest churches in the world and the only privately owned Roman Catholic Church. It was dedicated to the memory of a brave man, by his loving father. The story of the church is that Llandaff Mathew lost his life, aged 28, in an endeavour to save the lives of other miners near Dundee, KwaZulu Natal on the 19th of March, 1925. His body was never recovered after another massive rock fall. His father built this unique memorial in loving memory of his brave son. The Church, which seats just eight, has a regular service once a month, and is very popular amongst couples who want a small wedding with a difference.
In 1892 the Green Lantern Inn was established. It was commandeered as head quarters by the British during the Anglo-Boer war. In the 1930’s the Green Lantern Inn was the one of the first venues in South Africa to screen a black-and-white silent movie. The original projector box can still be seen in the lounge today. The Half-Way Noggin Pub, is a popular meeting place for all, and has over the years become known as the “sportsman’s watering hole.” The Green Lantern Inn is still operating and is a special hotel, renowned for a pleasurable stay.
The area is also rich with the history of the Zulus. Below Windy Corner, Zulus settled in the folding valleys round about 1818. The Ndaba clan, at the time known as the Ndabezita, came to the area with their leader Mlungu from Nkandla ( Kranskop) in Northern Natal. He apparently fled from Shaka because he had refused to give his surname (Ndabezita) to Shaka.
On the slopes on the Highlands Farm, there is a lone apple tree which was planted at the grave of an Indian stretcher bearer during the Anglo Boer War.
There are many more remnants from days gone by, like the ox wagon tracks (goldfields 1886, diamonds 1870), reverses on the railroad, later replaced by nearly a dozen tunnels, Gunhill and the remaining ruins of many block houses. The dinosaur remnants remind one of time.
The local geology is very interesting, especially that of Windy Corner. According to geologists, Windy Corner is supposed to be lying 400m lower than where it is.
The area has plenty to offer, ranging from extreme adventure to passive activity. The range of activities, sites and cuisine is endless. Exploring the full diversity of the area will leave any person in awe of excitement, as Van Reenen is truly the Highland’s forgotten jewel.
Depending on the weather, one can choose between Sterkfontein Dam (40Km south) or Spioenkop Dam (40km west) for waterskiing, sailing or fishing. Highlands Farm is adjacent to Wag-‘n-Bietjie Trout Farm and within close proximity to Zand River Game Farm. The Msonti Cave Camp is approximately 40 km away and the new Braamhoek Dam, is 40 km from the farm. Appin Guest farm, with its magnificent rock climbing facility, is only 12 km away. For history enthusiasts there are many battlefields within close proximity.
Oakland’s Country Manor offers an arena polo field facility for those who have a liking for a different type of polo. The fields at Harrismith Polo Club, are rated amongst the best in the country. This club is just 32km away and Bergville Polo Club is 70 km away.
The Harrismith Golf & Country Club, located at the foot of Platberg, is the second oldest golf club in the country.
Cuisine at Van Reenen area is also remarkable. At Oaklands Country Manor the food is a must for the fine diner. The Green Lantern Inn serves the best oxtail in the world. Dining at the Hound and Hare in Swinburn is just 10km away. For the connoisseurs a drive to the Caterpillar & Catfish on the Oliviershoek Pass is an absolute must, as is Bingelela, which is closer to Bergville.
Negotiating the subway (Freddie’s private subway), is in itself a true challenge and reward after watching sports in the local pub. A trip to Van Reenen should always be rounded off with a Black Label Quart in the local shebeen, whilst enjoying the beat of kwaito music.
Sporting Events in Van Reenen Area.
The annual Highlands Fox Hunt is English fox hunting at its best. In traditional hunting attire the drag pulls the scent of a fox along vast plains. Hounds and riders on horseback chase the scent over wide open spaces and obstacles. The hunt weekend in mid November is filled with pleasure activities. From experienced hunters to the spectators, Highlands Farm’s annual hunt is something not be missed.
The Green Lantern Inn road race, which takes place during October, draws enthusiastic bikers from all over. The route over quiet country roads which winds through some of the most beautiful scenery in South Africa.
The Berg Bohaai Mountain race over Platberg Mountain in Harrismith in November is a memorable event. It is known as the toughest 15 km run in the world.
Oaklands Arena Polo club offers courses in arena and field polo. Arena Polo tournaments takes place throughout the year.