Riversdale (also known as Riversdal) is a farming town. As such it’s used predominantly by folk who during the week are surrounded by cows, sheep, ostriches or wheat fields who come into town to stock up on goods and food, as well as a bit of society.
Not that there is much to attract a visitor on first sight. The town’s main tourist sell is the backdrop of the Langeberg and its location close to both Witsand and Still Bay, with access to places of natural beauty that include hiking trails and other outdoor pursuits.
Riversdale, for those journeying through – the N2 bypasses the town so a detour is in order – does not have any immediate highlights, if shops like JC Slagtery and Jakkalsvlei Cellar are anything to go by.
The superspar is probably welcome for stocking up on goods – although their fruit and vegetable selection is pretty dire by Cape Town’s standards -, places like Enya’s Coffee Shop possibly worth a second glance, and the Julius Gordon Africana Centre full of a surprising collection of paintings. But as with all towns, there is always a gem to be discovered.
Die Ou Tronk (the old jail) is rumoured to have been on the market for a few years. There have been no takers. And so Louise Malherbe has taken over the space for a farmers’ market and coffee shop that proves not only successful but a great space in which to while away a Saturday morning.
From the outside the old jail looks as if it could have stepped out of a Western movie – it would have been perfect as a Spanish hacienda – but inside is a different story. Despite my anxiety at having to lower my eyes whilst passing gallows, or worse – cells with their bars still intact – is unfounded as the old gallows remain permanently locked and out of sight.
Inside the high walled courtyard abounds with shady fruit trees. In one corner an orange tree is ripe with fruit and fragrant flowers, a paw paw tree that has grown so high that you would be forgiven for not seeing it at all escapes out of sight, whilst a few avocado trees provide ample shade for wooden tables and benches.
Saturday mornings the strains of Bobbejaan klim die berg, We are marching to Pretoria and My hartjie my liefie die son sak weg, play on a continuous loop (there are others but I can’t remember all of them) that surprisingly fits the occasion, whilst visitors order carrot cake and coffee, or a variety of breakfasts.
Through in other former prison courtyards, halls and cells (surprisingly only the toilets, which line one wall, their doors off the hinges, now used as storage, seem to bear anything of the sinister atmosphere you might expect from a jail). The rest is painted bright white and is filled with tables that display anything from plants, through second hand clothing to local paintings, pottery, jams, pickles and preserves.
I get lost pawing over second-hand antique items in the privacy of a shady room with no-one to watch me get excited about an old tatty jersey, or a skirt that has no place in my wardrobe, but deserves a try-on nonetheless.
There is an honesty policy here and all money exchanges happen in the front room, except for the plants my better half is convinced he cannot do without, and thus will drive squashed against a couple of pillows behind a seat until we reach Cape Town hours later.
- Riversdale Attractions
- Riversdale Accommodation
- Riversdale Hotels
- Garden Route Hotels
- Western Cape Accommodation
When & Where?
Visit on any day of the week for coffee and to browse the stalls, but Saturday mornings are best because of the Farmers’ Market.
Find the Ou Tronk on Main Road as you’re about to leave the other side of Riversdale from the N2 in the Garden Route.