Old and new always makes Wellington a pleasant surprise

Tuesday, 10 November, 2020
Clifford Roberts
Even with breakaway places, it pays to challenge one’s assumptions. Take Wellington as an example; a place so imbued with history it’s easy to believe nothing ever changes. Seen it once, seen it all. Yet, return and one is almost always surprised.

Lockdown has also upended most things and visitor experiences are among them. But it’s the natural beauty of Wellington – the town, its mountains and farmlands – that immediately imprints in memory. On a mid-week break my travel partner and I set out to explore this under-the-radar region of the Cape winelands.

We visit Bontebok Ridge Reserve, home of third-generation farmer and game translocation specialist Tom Turner, his wife and fellow conservationist Katja, and their two boys. The farm has amongst other activities, a vineyard whose grapes are sold; a grass-growing business; asounder of wild boar and its own butchery. But more than half is given over as a reserve in perpetuity, which is what we explore in his typical game drive vehicle. Occasionally, Tom stops to point out game we spot – quagga, eland, sable; then, close-by: dark beetles rolling their balls of dung in the road.

The Turner’s have a handful of small cottages, only available to single groups, around a lake that immerses you in the landscape.

Later, we take a walk on a short 7,5km trail at Welvanpas Family Vineyards into the foothills of Bain’s Kloof, meeting the occasional mountain-biker on the way. And then, there’s our waking up to the spectacular valley scenery, first at Val du Charron wine and leisure estate (another mountain-biker’s heaven), then at Grand Dédale Country House on Doolhof wine estate.

It’s omnipresent too at Diemersfontein winery’s new deli, called Proe (Afrikaans for “taste”). The concept opened on Heritage Day and replaced the restaurant. Now, locally sourced cheese, charcuterie, breads and preserves may be picked out and enjoyed in the elevated and airconditioned dining room or on adjoining lawns. Children have their own cordial-and-snack pairing, and pets are also welcome.

“We’re just 40kms from Cape Town’s northern suburbs,” says marketing manager Hannelize Louw, highlighting a surprising fact and especially notable for anyone thinking of a getaway close to home.

The visit is also a reminder of the diversity that epicureans will find in these parts. Wellington is the home of Foxenburg goat’s milk and cheesemaker; the Funky Ouma range of salts, spices, gifts and kitchen essentials; the Bellingham winery of Douglas Green; Garagista Craft Beer, one of the new additions at the Old Tannery development; brandy-distillers like Upland and Oude Wellington; and, the James Sedgwick Distillery – home of amongst others, Three Ships and Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky.

Garagista brewery, formerly of Riebeek Kasteel, has found a new home at Wellington’s Old Tannery

We get further affirmation the natural environment’s rejuvenating power at the Andrew Murray Centre for Spirituality. It’s a Christian chapel linked to the legacy of the eponymous Dutch Reformed missionary, though open to anyone seeking a quiet, meditative space. The chapel and historic buildings have been revamped, but there’s still plenty of work happing in the gardens. It’s here that chapel master Elna Mouton mentions the Cape Camino pilgrimage, whose 330km country route passes through Wellington.

Fortunately, almost every food and wine experience to be had in the area makes use of this majestic scenery. On the front stoep of Dunstone Wines, we run through a tasting of latest vintages followed by the wild boar burger. At Linton Park, another tasting follows, this time under a vine pergola with the picture-postcard Cape Dutch manor-on-mountain backdrop as our view.

Tastings at Jorgensen’s Distillery are served on a broad stoep too, this time overlooking Versailles Farm’s vineyards that run down to the Krom River. Quinn and Nadia Roos bought the business from South African craft distilling pioneer Roger Jorgensen in 2018. Lloyd Mudarikwa still heads up distillation, now producing gins under the Wild Rose brand, which are sold alongside Jorgensen’s range of gins, vodkas, and absinthe.

It’s back to wine and a reminder of the rich wine history of the region when we pull into Lelienfontein Farm, home of Bosman Family Wines. In the cool interior, we sample the Optenhorst, from one of the country’s oldest Chenin Blanc vineyards; and, another of the site-specific wines, the Twyfeling Cinsault. The tasting room is dark, cool and stylishly furnished, its stained and scratched walls a reminder of its former life first as a pen for livestock, and then for wine storage. Visible through a doorway are old-time farm implements, a historical display.

As we drive away, I remark on the first leaves of row upon row of baby vines soak up the afternoon sunlight. Lelienfontein is one of the wine industry’s biggest vineyard nurseries. They’re a reminder that nothing is static, not even in Wellington.

Plan your trip here:

Wellington scenery

Grand Dédaleis an exclusive wine estate hideaway
Grand Dédaleis an exclusive wine estate hideaway

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