This is a love story. A story of a love for a place, a place for love, a love of nature and wild spaces- and horses, Wild Horses.
Wild Horses is the labour of love of Jon and Trish Hawkins. It’s a five-star luxury sandstone villa at the end of a long bay on my favourite dam, Sterkfontein Dam, in the Free State. It’s been a favourite for the Hawkins for a very long time. They had timeshare around the corner for many years and, when that property was subdivided, bought a piece and built what was initially a private getaway. Happily, it became open to the public and I visited a tad over six years ago.
I loved it then. I love it more now. Property developer Jon has not been idle and has just finished substantial changes, with the two ground floor rooms now having private patios so that both have the delightful dam view.
Guest accommodation is in just four suites a little apart from the main building. They all have their strengths, and are quite different, apart from the gorgeous cherry wood floors. Choose according to your taste or take pot luck. You won’t be disappointed.
A garden and a rim flow pool separate the rooms from the main building, with an indoor restaurant that opens onto a large terrace for warm weather alfresco meals, guest lounge with underfloor heating, fireplace, impressive sound system and bar. A few steps up and you’re in the open kitchen area, separated by balustrading from the lounge.
Here chef Vuyo sat us down for a delicious ribeye pita concoction on famished arrival (the only time you’ll be hungry at Wild Horses). The substantial wine collection- and the perfect romantic dinner venue- is to one side.
Below the main lodge, past the beautiful koi fish and down some stairs, is a lounging deck for sun worshippers, in front of a rather good library where you might curl up on a wintry day.
Jon loves wine, so there’s a balanced selection with something for every palate. The food? Well, we managed to “wikkel” a few of Vuyo’s personal twists and tips- like how she gets her beetroot reduction just so, what makes her poached pears different.
Jon and Trish also have a love for horses and nature. The horses have roamed the land for some time. Guests can drive- if they have the right vehicle- past the horses and up above the lodge to the permanent picnic/ view point on the clifftop, the perfect spot for a sundowner.
Hiking is another way to get about in the 19 0000 hectare nature reserve that surrounds Sterkfontein. On horseback too of course. The swishest way though is Jon’s state of the art 29ft Sea Ray Bow Rider boat. The nooks and hidden bays are delightful, summer or winter, and Wild Horses is a big hit with lovers, as they aid and abet in proposals, ferrying the (hopefully) soon-to-be engaged couple to a secret spot, where a romantic picnic has been prepared to set the scene.
If you’re not planning a proposal or wedding, Wild Horses still plucks the heart strings. It certainly did for Tanya and I. Whether it was gardener Tanya’s delight at the marvellous gardens- the commitment to maintain such a visual delight through the harsh winters is quite something- or the wine cellar dinner, with rose petals strewn on the floor, the candle lit setting and chef Vuyo’s wonderful fare, we left more in love with life and everything we experienced. Soppy? Try it, you’ll like it!
Wild Horses also captured the heart of manageress Janine Burger, a Franschhoek native. If you’ve been, you’ll appreciate that Franschhoek is extremely beautiful. Well, Janine came to Wild Horses for a look-see and had no hesitation in packing up and making the move. No better home for her lovely border collie, or her cat, or the horses- and visitors wish it were theirs too.