I tried to imagine the annual transformation that the Lush Festival brings. Nope. Couldn’t picture it. Birdsong and an occasional car on the road between Clarens and Fouriesburg did nothing to evoke happy party people at a hip and happening music fest in the flat fields below. Six clicks from Clarens, surrounded by the foothills of the Maluti mountains and with commensurate lovely views, Linwood does make a great venue however.
The fact that Linwood still operates is another. The owners, based elsewhere, were going to close the guest farm until neighbour Mariette Hancock stepped in and offered to manage it. I’m so glad she convinced them as it is such a comfortable, very affordable, base from which to explore the Free State Eastern highlands, or simply unwind.
And we were not the only ones who thought that. Midwinter, midweek and out of season, Linwood was pretty busy. I wonder if any of our fellow guests, or the festival goers, had an inkling of Linwood’s intriguing past.
Archaeology buffs and historians will love it. An Irishman, Mr Cosnett, took ownership in 1916. With only the original core farmhouse and barn in place, he and Limakatso, a Basotho mason, extended the buildings over several decades, blasting sandstone from the surrounding cliffs, with the poplar forest the source of beams.
Several discoveries made the farm big news in archaeological circles. The first was of an intact dinosaur skeleton between Clarens and Linwood Guest Farm. Bushman cave paintings were also found in and around the farm, drawing the famous French archaeologist Abbe Breuil and surrealist painter Walter Battiss to the area.
Then the owner’s son, Dr John Cosnett, found large deposits of early and late stone-age tools and implements at Linwood in the 1950’s, sparking a major archaeological survey immortalised in the book The Geology and Archaeology of the Little Caledon River Valley by Prof van Riet Lowe.
Our spacious unit - Sandstone - had armchairs before a fireplace and several heaters, electric under blankets - even on the ancient brass day bed, coffee/tea, fridge, hotplate and a microwave in the kitchenette area. The stoep had a built in braai and Mariette provided a most welcome stash of excellent firewood.
I loved the understated elegance of the open plan design. The large bath was situated behind a low wall directly behind the bed with two sinks beyond and on either side of the bath, a large shower and loo.
Roos House has several rooms and family units include Loft and Pintje. If you are looking for a something completely different you could try the really rustic Ossewa Camp, a little way off, with space for 103 people in genuine wagons.
Breakfasts are taken on the Roos veranda and dinner can be arranged. I’d made a request and Mariette delivered a delicious chicken curry - perfect for a winter’s night. We toasted our good fortune with complimentary sherry and rusks beforehand.
Speaking of toasting. having been to the Clarens Brewery to taste and buy some fine ales, it was a double delight to discover that Mariette’s husband, Warwick, has his own brand, Highland Brew, available in town and from the farm’s coffee shop, in the big hall across from the chapel. It is superb!
Mariette will assist you in finding what suits you in the area. There’s a climbing and abseiling wall on the farm and cave paintings, superb fly fishing and white water rafting on the Ash River outside Clarens with the ClarensXtreme team, who also conduct Lesotho ski trips and much more. The Ash is fed by the Trans Caledon Transfer Tunnel, which pumps water (so not rain dependent) from the Katze Dam up in Lesotho. The crystal clear water gushes through beautiful scenery and over nine rapids. Talk about good, clean fun - in extremis!