Grabouw for the day: Our boot is full of apples and plums. We’re talking big, red, juicy apples. The type that, the minute you get home, having travelled a two-hour round trip to get them in the first place, you wish you’d been smart enough to stock up on three times the quantity.
The Peregrin farmstall is bursting with people, fruit and goodies. It is the second of at least four stalls on the side of the N2 after you leave the pinnacle of Sir Lowry’s Pass in a broad sweeping descent behind you. And I can assure you, worth a drive out here simply to sample the wares, see the views and enjoy the Elgin Valley.
I’ve had to succumb and my five-year old is munching happily at the back, not on an apple, I’m afraid – although the deal was apple first, treat after – but on the muffin from the bakery that sat amongst other equally delectable offerings perched on a table infront of their (children’s) noses at the till. I reassure myself that it is home-baked afterall and probably won’t rot his teeth, and I can always insist on another apple after, since he enjoyed the first so immensely, even if the core lies at my feet somewhere.
Photographs – Left: Stone ruin overlooking the valley / Right: On entering Grabouw
The Elgin Valley is the epicentre of the apple producing industry – about 60% of the country’s apples are harvested here. There is a huge apple co-operative of roughly 50 fruit farm owners just down the drag from the farmstall to prove it (can’t miss it, really – big sign; something about ‘two a day’ on your left).
It’s also home to a budding wine industry and there are more than a few pear trees this side of the world too. But it is the romance of the apple trees and the joy of acquiring far bigger, juicier apples than you’ll ever get at Pick n Pay that has brought us out here on a Sunday.
We head off from the farmstall to explore Elgin. Well, what there is of it. For it is little more than a railway siding, that we think is still in use, but can’t be sure. But the siding is along a road lined with oak or plein trees and there are buildings here of historic importance, I’m sure.
And, of course, Pam Golding is prominent, selling a new ‘country estate’ on one of the wine and apple farms bang smack behind a selection of what looks like farm workers’ houses. The properties for sale are not all that large, even if the views are gorgeous (well, if you overlook the houses right infront of you) and you can look forward to the fertilisers and sprays from the apple fields just next to you. But for some, this will be a little piece of heaven…
Did I mention that the Elgin Valley is surrounded by mountains? There are three mountain passes into the valley, Sir Lowry’s Pass being but one of them. Come here at the right time of year (actually any time of year will do but in spring, the annual Elgin Open Gardens is really worth visiting for) and the valley is simply sumptuous.
Photographs – Left: A property at Klipkop / Right: Klipkop Estate
Elgin possibly gets a raw deal in the sense that it is at the start of a journey anywhere. Most people leaving Cape Town will have only just hit the open road, having already endured the laborious N2 through Somerset West. But coming here for the weekend is slowly dawning on those who realise that Grabouw, the nearest little town, is worth more than a cursory glance.
There are two ways to reach Grabouw. Either take a left at the Orchards Farmstall and continue along here until you end up in town. Or, a little further along the N2, take a left at the Peregrine Farmstall and follow signs to Grabouw, taking a left into Oudebrug Road.
The latter is a prettier entrance, as you get to pass over the river. And you get to see the church tower in the distance and a few older buildings on this side of the bridge.
The main road through town itself is a little disappointing. There doesn’t appear to be much here to warrant a visit. There are certainly no restaurants or trendy shops. There are the usual Friendly Grocer and KFCs, bottle store, petrol station, OK etc. and the local butchery, which is said to have a secret recipe for its boerewors (it was closed when we drove through) but it is actually into the suburbs that you want to head, to explore Klipkop Estate.
Klipkop estate is a little piece of heaven, quite literally. And one of the best kept secrets of Grabouw – it isn’t even marked on the map. We stumbled upon it by accident. That’s not quite true. I stumbled upon it. My other half had been out here a few weeks previously for the Elgin Open Gardens, one of which happened to have been in Klipkop Estate.
At the edge of Boereboon Street, where it meets Bosbou Avenue, is an unobtrusive stone gateway. To the side of the stone wall is a sign that gives you an inkling as to the nature of the estate (that isn’t an estate as it is not behind booms and there is no security). Klipkop has a 2-bag recycling system every Tuesday, facilitated by TWK recycling.
Photographs – Left: The nooks and crannies of Grabouw / Centre: Lower on the main road / Right: Old Mac Daddy
The roads here are tree-lined, there is a predominance of sustainably built and deliberately humble abodes that choose to maintain as much of the original natural surrounds as possible. Where Boereboon meets Celtis there is a beautiful stone ruin and beyond, views over the valley.
To own a house here is obviously sought after but kept within closed circles (the odd advert for vacant land paint pictures of tranquility and the importance of family life), properties are fairly expensive, but they are large and most people have huge gardens. We feel as if we’ve stumbled upon a find.
We venture home this time along Viljoen’s Pass between Grabouw and Villiersdorp. It’s beautiful. En route we stop briefly at the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve – it’s rugged and on a plateau. But picnics are not really encouraged.
It is more for serious hikers, who set off on numerous hikes that include the Palmiet Trail, the Groenlandberg Trail and the Boland Hiking Trail. It is beautiful, remote and unspoilt.