WHILE its provenance cannot be verified beyond a reasonable doubt, the four-poster bed in the River Cottage at Weltevreden is obviously extremely antique, and made me wish I had a proper long nightgown and frilly cap.
This accommodation is the newest to open on the farm, where the first Title Deed was registered to one Hans Henske in 1692. Some years later and with a few other owners in between, Weltevreden was bought by Piet’s (the famous Voortrekker, you may have heard of him) sister Deborah Retief and her husband, Christoffel Esterhuysen in 1812 from Sybrand Vermeulen. The buildings were proclaimed national monuments in 1975.
In keeping with its past, guests staying over at Weltevreden can expect to find their lodgings furnished with period pieces upon which one of the Retief family may or may not have sat or slept. True or not, I’d like to believe that bed is one such item.
The Manor House – every farm worth its heritage salt should have one – has been lovingly refurbished and decorated; the ground floor is the home of the farm’s current owners, the Bezuidenhouts, while upstairs in the thatched loft are four bed chambers with open-plan baths and a central communal area.
The self-catering two-bedroomed cottage has had a facelift as well, and is where you’d want to stay with some close friends, or your children, if you have them. Overnight, day visitor, or party host, Weltevreden has a dedicated carnival zone especially for the offspring, which includes a build-a-pizza area, a confectionery counter that would make Willie Wonka jealous, loads of shade, awesome natural surroundings, two trampolines as well as two mammoth jungle gyms. There’s a full bar too, but I’m guessing that’s for the grownups. Understandably, I didn’t venture here to investigate.
For someone who doesn’t like being bothered by the joyful cries of little ones (it’s me I’m talking about) this space is sufficiently far away from where we spent the night so as not to have intruded on our peace and quiet, for which I am most grateful.
River Cottage, which has been open only a few weeks, is a long freestanding building with a reed ceiling, and ranges spaciously from left to right (as you enter the double door in the centre) with a desk and tea/coffee station, the imposing bed, a lounge area with a fireplace and floor to ceiling bookshelves (and a TV with the full DStv premium bouquet which is a win), dining area, and massive bathroom (shower, no bath) with a spectacular chandelier. Dramatic light fixtures in unconventional settings are the best.
It’s a few steps away from the Jonkers Huis 1817 restaurant where you can have breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. It’s also recently undergone some extensive redecorating and has a contemporary new look. In the lobby is a mouthwatering display of baked goods, including one of my all-time favourites, pastéis de nata, in a golden yellow pyramid of custardy joy. As guests in River Cottage, we were invited to place our breakfast order and have it delivered to us, which is rather nice if one of you needs an early start to the day and the other doesn’t feel like facing the Saturday morning rush. Alternatively, indulge in the fabulous menu at a table outside overlooking the Manor House, glass of chilled bubbles close at hand.
Choose from breakfast options like avocado and poached egg on sourdough with crispy pork belly pieces, smoked snoek kedgeree with potbread and onion marmalade, or smoked salmon and scrambled egg crossaint with caperberries, pickled red onion and herbed crème fraiche.
Stellenbosch and its multitude of attractions in the town is about 10 minutes’ drive away, and of course there are all the hundreds of wine farms. However, if you want to throw down roots and relax right where you are, there are plenty of easy strolls around the farm, affording wonderful photo opportunities. Close to River Cottage I found a little dam studded with water lilies and frequented by many birds. Walking around it, I further discovered a bench which was just right for tranquil contemplation.
A significant feature at Weltevreden is the art; the grounds of full of small stone sculptures peeking out from the foliage, or partly hidden among the plants. Some of them have plaques with thought-provoking and inspirational quotes.
No wonder this is a favoured venue for romantic weddings.
Where: Welgevonden Boulevard, Cloetesville, Stellenbosch
Telephone: 021 889-6588
- This story first appeared in Independent Travel on October 27, 2018