The artisanal revival prompted Omeshnie Naidoo to visit KwaZulu-Natal’s original arts and craft route, the Midlands Meander
The search for authenticity pervades every domain. Whether at home, in the workspace or simply staring into a wardrobe, many big city dwellers feel a yearning for those things new and original.
The handmade or artisanal trend encapsulates a collective desire to escape the concrete jungle.
And so I did.
Only a short road trip from reality, the rolling hills of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, with its tall trees, crisp mornings and brick-a-brac beckoned.
On a visit some time ago, I found it all too depressing chatting to professionals who had left it all behind to set up shop in the countryside and found themselves with failing businesses and the fear of crime, even all the way out there.
However, perhaps because of the resurgence in appreciation for the hand-crafted and home-made, the area appears to be injected with new life.
There is a burgeoning wedding industry in the Midlands. Brahman Hills, the venue at which we stayed, boasted one of the most beautiful chapels I’ve ever seen.
Designed by Durban architect Richard Stretton of Koop, The Chapel on the Lake at Brahman Hills is a uniquely South African work of art, appearing to emerge from the reeds and captures the Midlands lights in its myriad coloured windows.
The endless sky dominates the journey as vistas are trajectories over vast, open expanses of bold blue.
While the chapel, glass house (a large hall), reception with dining areas and hotel rooms are all in close proximity, those looking for a getaway can choose free-standing accommodation elsewhere in the Blue Crane Private Game Reserve.
Outside our secluded “homestead”, zebra grazed unperturbed.
The latest laminate flooring, a fully kitted kitchen, antique furniture, en-suite bathrooms, glass-enclosed deck with a Jacuzzi and braai, Nguni rugs on the bedroom floor and designer throws on the beds, made this the lap of luxury in the bush. It was further elevated by a hotel kitchen and cellar to rival those of its many iconic neighbours.
In the vicinity of Nottingham Road, about 140km or an hour-and-a-half outside Durban, you’ll find Rawdons Hotel and Fordoun Hotel and Spa, Brookdale Health Hydro, Blueberry Hills and not too far away, Granny Mouse Country House. You can buy bespoke the ceramic bead chandeliers at Hellooow Handmade or browse through the quaint little shops at The Junction, such as the provencal China Rose, the well-stocked Funtasy (a toy and puzzle Mecca!) and Midlands’ Cheese & Deli.
You could meander all the way home, stopping at Saddle & Trout, the award-winning Hartford House, St Ive’s Lodge or the family-centred Piggly Wiggly, where you’ll find wrought-iron, glass and wooden treasures and trinkets and marvel at the roses in the nursery.
Children can enjoy alfresco pizza, dip candles or go for a ride on a steam train.
A trip to the Midlands is the perfect opportunity to suspend the daily grind, feast your eyes and heart, eat and play and most importantly, wile away the weekend.