We stumbled upon The Heath, the Garden Route’s bohemian farm store, whilst on our way to Stilbaai from St Francis Bay. Now many of you may know about this fantastic find, but I was immediately entranced by the stop and couldn’t understand why no-one had bothered to inform me of what definitely qualifies as my ‘best shopping experience of the year’ before!
It turns out that mostly everyone who travels this route knows about it. In fact my sister has mentioned it to me numerous times but usually prefaced with the words ‘we stopped at this shop’ whilst foregoing the obviously vital inclusion of its name – my sister isn’t that strong on names – hence my amazement at having missed out …
My sister bought me a string of paper flower lights from here not so long ago, and I remember then making a mental note to visit as soon as possible. The shop has, in the meantime, taken on mythical proportions in my mind, which were thankfully more than met by the actual experience.
It turns out that not many people know that The Heath is called ‘The Heath’, which explains the absent minded reference to it as ‘this shop’. They all look out for the black and white wooden sign set virtually on the road just 7 kilometres from Plettenberg Bay. In a nutshell the visit gives you décor, gifts, furniture and food. But it’s the setting and the wonderfully child-friendly environment that has people stopping here again and again.
The grounds of The Heath are heavenly. This is not just about the farm store. It’s a whole outdoor experience. Set in the shade of pine trees there are swings strung from branches that defy gravity, a foofie slide of note, a labyrinth laid out in lavendar, hammocks strung between trees, merry go rounds and wooden tables and benches laid out for travel weary parents who just want a moment of respite from bickering backseat banter.
The Heath is the equivalent to a haven on the side of the road. And whilst the children are entertained for hours and manage to rid themselves of pent up energy, you get to while away the time in the Heath Store.
Lisa Murray is as at home in her store as her selection of unique indulgences, as she calls them. She’s owned the store since 1989 and she knows what she is doing. I ask her how she chooses her ecclectic mix of thoroughly unexpected treasure items and she shrugs her shoulders happily. She just buys everything that she likes. Well, then her taste must be similar to just about all who come in here, as there really is something for everyone.
Most of the store is brimming with locally made crafts and wares, from children’s toys, arts and crafts, jewellery, décor and gifts, kitchenware, cards and art through to the back room which is chockers with home made food, authentic sheepskin ugg-boots, throws, some clothing, handbags and even free-range eggs.
The store has a real bohemian flavour, and things are artfully displayed around the shop. Items are affordable, fun and unique, which is an unusual combination in this age of mediocrity. I succumb to shopping with delight as I acquire a few items for nephews and loved ones.
Jade’s cafe, just next door to the shop, was busy serving fresh, homestyle meals to the hungry and road weary, whilst they sat under trees, relaxing in the forest venue. And if the craft shop doesn’t appeal, then the Ilovani store, filled with contemporary, indigenous wood furniture definitely will. I popped my head in on our way back to our car. Simply gorgeous tables, benches, chairs, desks, coffee tables, sculptures and shelving abounds, all in a creative freeform style that makes you drool.
Ilovani also make a concerted effort to use wood from removed alien species and recycle off-cuts of wood from larger furniture items and discarded wine barrels. Trees are only felled to use for furniture if they are dead or heading that way, and in their place the company plant three to four new trees. They also make sure that they don’t use heavy machinery in the heart of the forest.
Just as well that I hadn’t the time to browse…
Eagle Encounters is a new addition to the Heath – you’ll see a large poster on the road next to the sign for The Heath of a little girl holding an owl. It’s a raptor rehabilitation and eco-tourism centre, and visitors can get really up close to these incredible birds of prey. Kids can see owls, kites, buzzards, hawks and falcons.
The Heath will definitely see me again when next I head up this way.