Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Midlands has a gem around every bend and The Bend Country House & Nature Estate is certainly one of them. About 17km from Nottingham Road it is set in a 1 400ha private nature reserve on the banks of the Mooi River.
Accommodation is provided for in the Country House, a very charming, renovated estate home. This is unpretentious, user and family friendly stuff, notwithstanding the rich and varied history dating back to the 1870s.
We stayed in a very comfortable suite and really enjoyed the unique character of the room and general surrounds. All of the guests are accommodated in the main house, which has 16 bedrooms, However we were struck by the privacy, though the picturesque setting means The Bend is often packed with wedding-goers and such.
Hearty grub, prepared in a very homely manner, with generous helpings, was frequently followed by a cold beer in the pub and chat in this very relaxing and friendly environment.
And there’s plenty to discuss. The Bend is a flyfisher’s haven, wedding planner’s must, and owner Sheila Thornhill Holgado has a wealth of interesting tales about the estate’s intriguing characters, history and decor. There are decorative pieces from all over the world, lovingly collected over the past 40 years. Wandering about, we were charmed by the stone reception room converted from the old milking parlour, with elegantly draped ceiling, exposed rafters and wrought iron chandeliers, which leads into the chapel. The internal doors and Oregon pine floor boards of the original building were recycled when Sheila and her husband rebuilt The Bend in the 1980s, the latter becoming the magnificent staircase we saw on arrival.
There are many reminders of days long gone, such as the slave bell, old farm buildings and the rings that were used by eccentric Montague Simpson to shape the horns of his prized cattle.
The upper Mooi is highly regarded by flyfishermen and is characterised by long, slow and deep pools, plus stretches of riffled pocket water. The banks are mostly clear and, apart from the odd willow tree, the going is relatively easy.
There are also six well stocked dams where we cast for hours without seeing another rod in the water.
If fishing doesn’t float your tube, there are more than 30km of trails which can be explored either on horseback or mountain bike. There are five ecosystems and, with a little luck, you can see the rare Oribi and mountain Reedbuck as well as common Reedbuck, Blesbuck and Eland. The silver backed jackal, porcupine and various smaller predators can also occasionally be spotted.
More than 200 species of birds have been spotted on the estate including the very rare Wattled Crane, the Ground Hornbill, Cape Vulture, Secretary Bird, Narina Trogan and several species of raptors.
Tubing down the river would be great fun in summer, as was simply enjoying the wild flowers and those in the mature gardens, viewed from the thatched gazebo over a huge water feature. - Sunday Tribune