It’s not a historic farm unless it has a manor house. Picture: Supplied.
It’s not a historic farm unless it has a manor house. Picture: Supplied.

Take a step back in time at Weltevreden

By Bianca Coleman Time of article published Oct 30, 2018

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While its provenance cannot be verified beyond a reasonable doubt, the four-poster bed in the River Cottage at Weltevreden is antique and made me wish I had a proper long nightgown and frilly cap.

This accommodation is the newest to open on the farm, where the first title deed was registered to one Hans Henske in 1692. Some years later and with a few other owners in between, Weltevreden was bought by Voortrekker Piet Retief’s sister Deborah Retief and her husband, Christoffel Esterhuysen, in 1812 from Sybrand Vermeulen. The buildings were proclaimed national monuments in 1975.

In keeping with its past, guests staying over can expect to find their lodgings furnished with period pieces upon which one of the Retief family may or may not have sat or slept.

The Manor House - every farm worth its heritage salt should have one - has been lovingly refurbished and decorated; the ground floor is the home of the farm’s owners, the Bezuidenhouts, while upstairs in the thatched loft are four-bed chambers with open-plan baths and a central communal area.

The new River Cottage blends the old with the new.

The self-catering two-bedroomed cottage has had a facelift as well and is where you’d want to stay with some close friends, or your children if you have them. Overnight, day visitor or party host, Weltevreden has a dedicated carnival zone for the offspring, which includes a build-a-pizza area, a confectionery counter that would make Willie Wonka jealous, loads of shade, awesome natural surroundings, two trampolines and two mammoth jungle gyms. There’s a full bar too, but I’m guessing that’s for the grown-ups.

This space is sufficiently far from where we spent the night so as not to have intruded on our peace and quiet, for which I am most grateful.

River Cottage, which has been open only a few weeks, is a long free-standing building with a reed ceiling, and ranges spaciously from left to right (as you enter the double door in the centre) with a desk and tea/coffee station, the imposing bed, a lounge area with a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves (and a TV with the full DStv premium bouquet, which is a win), a dining area and a massive bathroom (shower, no bath) with a spectacular chandelier. Dramatic light fixtures in unconventional settings are the best.

It’s a few steps away from the Jonkers Huis 1817 restaurant where you can have breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. It has also undergone redecorating and has a contemporary new look.

In the lobby is a mouth-watering display of baked goods, including one of my all-time favourites, pastéis de nata, in a golden yellow pyramid of custardy joy. As guests in River Cottage, we were invited to place our breakfast order and have it delivered to us. Alternatively, indulge in the fabulous menu at a table outside overlooking the Manor House, a glass of chilled bubbles close at hand.

The beautiful views.

Choose from breakfast options like avocado and poached egg on sour dough with crispy pork belly pieces, smoked snoek kedgeree with potbread and onion marmalade, or smoked salmon and scrambled egg croissant with caperberries, pickled red onion and herbed creme fraiche.

Stellenbosch and its multitude of attractions in the town is about 10 minutes’ drive away and, of course, there are all the wine farms.

If you want to relax where you are, there are plenty of easy strolls on the farm, affording wonderful photo opportunities. Close to River Cottage, I found a little dam studded with water lilies and frequented by many birds.

A significant feature at Weltevreden is the art; the grounds are full of small stone sculptures peeking out from the foliage. Some of them have plaques with thought-provoking and inspirational quotes.

No wonder this is a favoured venue for romantic weddings.

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