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Vredenhof Manor House is just over an hour from Cape Town. On the farm Vredenhof, it’s part of a complex of buildings clustered under the old oak trees at the heart of Elgin, near where you turn off the N2 to Villiersdorp and Grabouw. Pear trees and different varieties of apple trees reach up to its front door, and all around in the barns and outbuildings the business of fruit cultivation is taking place.
Spring is the best time to come. It’s the open gardens season and it’s what makes this corner of Elgin so compelling. It’s also when the apple blossom is strewn across acres of its fruit farms and there are wild flowers in bloom and pungent dog roses in the hedges and along the sides of the district’s country roads. This is apple country after all but pears also get a look in. And there’s the wine too – plenty of it, from nearly 20 different local estates. But the open gardens season is Elgin’s winning event each spring, so if you’re here at the end of October there’s no better time to see the roses in full bloom at nearby Fresh Woods, the rare plants at Eikenhof and the indigenous and exotic planting at Auldearn, while at the Herbert Baker homestead, Iona, just across the way, there are exotic trees and an organic vegetable garden. And let’s not forget the Apple Blossom Mountain Bike Rides for enthusiasts who can’t get enough of those delicate flowers even while ducking and diving the tough climbs and speedy descents on biking trails that traverse vineyards and orchards festooned with them.
The heart of Vredenhof Cottage was once the farm’s ‘wages room’ – you still see its corner fireplace in the main bedroom. It really is a cottage: two bedrooms, a living room and a bathroom, their low reed ceilings a nod to a country vernacular that’s appropriate in a setting in which horses in their paddocks are visible through the windows and the odd tractor drones by on its way down the hill. The scrubbed furniture in the kitchen fits the bill, so does the giant Sanderson print on the sofa cushions in the sitting room which working prettily with the curtain stripes, the toile de jouey and the checks, and the old Persian carpets in deep reds and burnt oranges on the floor. In the sitting room a cane basket full of wood for the stove jostles for space with gumboots and old kists, and there are enough books in the shelves to start a library.
Vredenhof Cottage is filled with treasure from salerooms in Cape Town haunted by its owner when she has the time. Her finds are a miscellaneous collection of all the things she never knew she wanted until she saw them on auction day morning. Her own house not far away across the courtyard is piled with lovely bowls and dishes, old Cape furniture and books. It’s as though everything she hadn’t room for simply spilled over into Vredenhof Cottage. In the main bedroom there’s the high iron bed and the painted furniture, in the bathroom an old washstand that’s been converted to carry a basin. In the second bedroom there’s another iron bed, and there are bunks for the children. Everywhere there are books and paintings, ornaments of dogs and the odd springbok head trophy – although let’s be clear, Vredenhof Cottage is much more English country garden in style than veld-en-vygie. Appropriately, as it happens, because this corner of the Cape countryside is well known for its soft landscapes and pretty gardens.
NB: The Manor House is ONLY available for shoots, the Cottage is for rental
And where to begin with the weekend’s programme? Once you’ve munched the apples, poached the pears and drunk the wine, there are restaurants to visit. The Pool Room at neighbouring Oak Valley is partially al fresco and overlooks a swimming pool, while at Fresh at Paul Cluver on the De Rust Estate you can eat simple, seasonal dishes under the trees in the garden. There’s casual dining at Gordon’s Country Kitchen and a bistrot-style menu at South Hill’s Gallery Restaurant. And if that’s not enough, there’s pizza and local apple cider to be had at Old MacDaddy’s, an exotic park of 50s Airstream caravans. There’s cycling and water-skiing, hiking trails and kloofing, or you could simply stay at home at Vredenhof Cottage and drink some of the stellar wine you’ll find on the Elgin Valley Wine Route – like the Iona Chardonnay 2013 or the Oak Valley Mountain Reserve White Blend 2010. Head over to Peregrine’s, the farm stall across the road from Vredenhof’s gates. They stock all the valley’s wines, and way more.
The 50% rental deposit and the 50% balance of payment due 30 days prior to arrival are non-refundable. However, in the event of a cancellation management may consider refunds where those days can be rebooked after deducting any costs incurred with respect to the re-booking and preparation of the residence.