Heading off to explore the Montagu village market on a Saturday morning to grab some breakfast is a standard social affair for Montagu’s residents, judging by the turn-out on a sunny morning in winter. It’s also a fun outing for visitors, and a great way to mingle with the townies, if that’s your intention.
Everyone is bundled up in coats, scarves and gloves, but it looks as though the day will be fine as the first rays of sun hit the market’s venue, Euvrard Park in Bath Street just across the way from the Tourism Information Bureau. There is a real sense of camaraderie as visitors and locals mingle around the fountain that forms the centre piece of the glade, filled with gorgeous old trees that in summer serve as shade and in winter add oodles of character to the market.
Young, old and in-between stop to swop gossip and information and, at first glance, this could be a village scene in any age, anywhere.
I stop to have a look at Kim Dreyer’s art works and pretty faerie cards. Her stall, close to a stall hung with an array of vintage coats and clothes, and a rather funky antique tools’ stall, is an array of hand-drawn faeries and jewellery. We get chatting about how long she has lived in the village. She made the move here a couple of years ago and wishes she had done it sooner. As she says, the quality of their life has increased ten fold from their former lifestyle in Cape Town, and whilst they might not have as many pennies to rub together, they can make do with a lot less when living in a little town like this.
It’s not the sort of place you live in with small kids though, she smiles, the city is better for this as there aren’t many schools around here for them. I can’t help noticing though that there are a lot of children at the market. Either they’re visiting or someone knows about a school around here.
It is the type of dream some of us chase: the concept of slowing down, living the principle of ‘less is more’ and having more time for the things that matter. For many this is becoming a reality. Bernard at the second-hand book stall, who sells my husband an enormously thick tome on growing mushrooms (after which I hear all kinds of veiled threats to turn our garage into a mushroom factory), is in semi-retirement.
He also owns and runs the second-hand bookshop not far from the market on Bath Street, and chatting to visitors on a Saturday morning comes easily to him. He’s a quiet sort, like my husband, and I leave the two swopping notes, whilst my son scales the huge tree over their heads.
There is a lot going on over the other side of the fountain – where the food is. This seems to be the main reason people head to the market every weekend. It’s a social thing, really, and the food is good – you can smell it form a mile away. Tin Plate Ontbyt or sweet pancakes, and a hot cup of fresh, brewed coffee in the other hand is a sure feel-good start to the morning. Freshly baked breads sell quickly, whilst cakes, muffins, vetkoek and melktert, English pork pies, home baked rusks and to-die-for koeksisters all jostle for attention.
Pretty benches hewn from wooden logs and tree stumps as tables mean that people congregate around the food, so that adding one of the Mystic Juice bar’s freshly squeezed vitamin boosts to the mix is easily achieved, and a second mug of coffee but an arm stretch away.
Across this end of the market you’ll find funky hand-dyed t-shirts and shirts, a host of colourful woven baskets and creative handbags, knitted beanies and table cloths and some essential food items, like goats cheese and organic vegetables.
We chat to Alba from Nuwehoogte goats cheesery. She’s a firm advocate of goats milk cheeses and enthuses as to their health benefits over that of cows’ milk products. She’s already speaking to the converted, but it’s wonderful to learn about the goats. Nuwehoogte Farm is a small dairy and what they term a ’boutique’ cheesery close to Robertson. Alba’s daughter, also called Alba, is the cheesemaker, dairy assistant and marketing person all-rolled into one, whilst her father, Marthinus, who is also a dentist during the day, manages the herd of 32 goats, her mother owns the farm, and Neil Pfaff is the dairy manager and fellow cheesemaker.
This wonderful little family affair means that the nine different cheeses the dairy produces are made with love from the milk of happy goats. This is an all-round good choice of food, and we buy more than a couple of samples of their cheese, which is delicious (in hindsight, we wish we had bought more!).
Nearby I find Solinus and William who are manning a stand with their organically grown vegetables from the Montagu Food Security Gardens. I’ve been trying to get hold of Solinus before our visit as we’re keen to visit the gardens and find out what it is that they do. It turns out that the gardens are just around the corner, in Barry Street.
Solinus is a Canadian living in South Africa, where he has been for the last ten years. He’s uninspired by the government, previous or current, and is both politically outspoken and aware – his blog is entitled ‘Legal Alien’ which, whilst he’s stopped blogging, gives one a good indication of his views.
No matter what his political stance, he’s done fine things with his gardens and invites us to visit Sonneblom, as the ‘tuinhuisie’ project is called (there’s a big sunflower on the wall of the garage as you enter) after the market.
The idea of the project is to produce vegetables for both the general public and the disadvantaged, particularly children, in need of food. It’s sponsored by Rotary, the Breede River Winelands and the Distell Foundation, and, if it weren’t for the rather devastating flood in 2008, would still be producing effusively. The garden still looks impressive, even though it is still recovering and you can still see damage down on the banks of the river. The vineyards of the farm opposite were so damaged it doesn’t look as though they’ll ever recover.
Fig trees, giant sunflowers, spinach, onions, leeks, beetroot, peas, broad beans, peppers and a crop we’ve not come across, but which we later learn is Solinus’ own tobacco crop for his pipe addiction(!), are all in production. Solinus’ partner, Erina, who is sitting absorbing rays of sunshine whilst entertaining her daughter and William’s son, kindly helps my son weave a little carpet from palm leaves. She’s a librarian at the local library and enjoys children. We depart, happier for the knowledge that the gardens exist.
Address & Contact:
Address: Euvrard Park, Bath Street opposite the Tourism Bureau, Montagu.
Telephone: +27 (0)23 614-2490
Opening hours: Every Saturday Morning from 08h30 to 12h30.