Durban - A small spinney of larch trees offered many adventures, such as following a mysterious set of tracks in the snow, to Winnie-the-Pooh. With such childhood reading in mind, I could not resist checking into The Spinney, located on the Nottingham Road-Underberg road. It just had to be different.
The recent heavy rains meant the area looked as though it had just emerged from the laundry, all scrubbed and fresh-faced. Green grass, small waterfalls, racing streams and a horseman driving three cows added to the atmosphere.
On the internet, owners Russell Hobday and Janice Mawson mentioned that spinney means “a small clump of trees”, and this description fits the location perfectly.
The Spinney – which was the Inzinga Cash Store in the 1950s – is built from sandstone quarried in this valley. Russell has converted it into spacious and comfortable self-catering accommodation by building on to the original structure.
The upstairs bedroom is reached via a steep, sturdy staircase. If this ascent does not appeal, there is always the option of sleeping downstairs.
For me, the loft bedroom was irresistible. Large picture windows provide a view of undulating farmlands and trees.
Further sleeping facilities (two single beds and a sleeper couch) are in the open-plan downstairs area with big fireplace. The kitchen has a large dining table, and is well equipped for self-catering with a gas stove (with oven), microwave and fridge. There is a main bathroom with toilet, bath and overhead shower, as well as an additional loo.
Some of the original window shutters have been used in constructing the dining room table, while the original store door is still a feature. Open this, and you can sit on the outside porch and look out over a peaceful scene.
Mist and rain meant the surrounding mountains were for the most part concealed, but Jan (as she prefers to be called) said by following the road that climbs steeply just beyond their farm, visitors can see Sani Pass and Lesotho from the highest point on a clear day.
Hikers can climb up to The Saddle in a different direction. “You can see The Giant (Giant’s Castle) from there,” Jan said.
Ezemvelo-KZN Wildlife’s nearby Mkhomazi Wilderness Area and more distant Loteni are also popular with those who like to tramp the countryside, watch birds and antelope.
The Sani Pass is about 40km away, and the Kamberg Rock Art Centre about 32km.
Close to Russell’s farm, the Inzinga River plunges over a small waterfall. “The owner of the farm on which it is located is happy for people to swim in the pool below it,” said Jan. For her part, she likes to take a dip in a pool in the Nkolweni River, which flows through their own farm.
The Loteni and the Inzinga rivers both flow into the Mkhomazi River. All this water means they sometimes see wattled cranes and often hear the call of blue cranes before they see them. Secretary birds, lammergeier and the Cape Griffon also put in appearances.
Francolin scurry about, making their chirpy call. A bushpig had uprooted one of the waterpipes into the garden during my visit.
Russell has also built another cottage near their own house. The wood used in its construction, is from trees he planted after buying the farm in 1994.
Most of the produce that finds its way on to the table is grown in the farm’s vegetable garden.
Jan does dinners and breakfast on request, and she and Russell walked down the pathway from their house to The Spinney, carrying the meal in baskets.
A candle was lit, and on the cold, wet night the meal went down a treat: delicious lamb pie with light pastry (the meat came from a neighbouring farmer); butternut and spinach in cheese sauce; fresh salad; strawberries (all grown in their own garden) with rich, creamy home-made ice cream and chocolate brownie.
Though The Spinney is close to the road, the little passing traffic is barely audible; and though it is reached via 14km of dirt road, this was in good condition even after the rain.
l The charge is R200 per person per night, regardless of the number of people (subject to availability).