The owners of White Bridge Farm Accommodation joined us recently on one of our Magical Moonlight rides - this is what they had to say. (original posted on Facebook)
UNBELIEVABLE EXPERIENCES FOR VISITORS TO ENJOY:
Last night we were yet again privileged to enjoy a spectacular moonlight ride with Jo and John Lister from Horse About.
It was a perfect evening and since we were all reasonably experienced riders on this occasion, we went for a beautiful canter through the vineyards until we reached the foot of the mountain.
Here we took the forest path and slowed our pace to a stead walk in single file as it was by now pretty dark. We entered the thicket and could no longer see anything as the darkness surrounded us. This was a real lesson in trust between man and horse. Suddenly the moon crested and all the leaves on the surrounding trees turned a shimmering silver. We lost the moon again as we moved closer to the mountain and it appeared again as we moved the other way. In this way we experienced the "moon rising" about 5 times during this magical experience with the night jar calling in the back ground.
When we finally broke through and exited the forest on the far side, the moon was by now fully up and we headed through a paddock of cattle. We continued in moonlight on another bush path taking us past a tree which has signs of having frequently been visited by a leopard. This I have witnessed on a previous ride in the daylight.
We finally arrived at a wonderful new gathering place under some large trees where John and Jo have created wonderful log tables and chairs and a tethering pole for the horses. It was the first time that this site had been used by guests. We felt very privileged when we dismounted here to enjoy some wine and snacks as we looked over the valley below and, listening to the silence and toasting our good fortune with gratitude. Thank you Jo and John for sharing.
This wonderful experience, along with sun set rides, family morning rides, proposal or romantic rides etc. can be enjoyed by anyone visiting this valley and we are very grateful that the Listers have this wonderful activity to offer our guests.
Suprisingly many people, dont know that the winelands extends beyond Stellenbosch and Paarl - and boy are they pleasantly suprised! The Witzenberg Valley home to Tulbagh, Wolseley, Ceres and Prince Alfred Hamlet is very conveniently located to Cape Town, the Route 62, Riebeek Kasteel and easily incorporated into a visit to Aquila, Fairy Glen, Kagga Kamma and more. Stop over en route to the Cederberg or when travelling between West and East Coast. The roads are great and you are assured a warm country welcome!
Smiling happily after an hour in the saddle! What a Champ!
Parents often ask "What age do you take children on your trails" and it is such a difficult question as it depends entirely on the child.
We have taken many 4 year olds out on the trail - they usually have no problem managing the 1,5 hour trail and we have had 8 year old refuse to go anywhere near the horses.
So it depends alot on each individual, if they are confident and comfortable around animals, they will generally be absolutely fine on an outride.
This darling little girl, Angelique, is our youngest rider to date though - 2 years and 2 months. We had agreed on a quiet meander through the forest thinking that a short ride would be enough, but there was no turning back and she rode the whole way, forest trail and all!
Well done Angelique - we look forward to seeing you back soon!
Cape Sugar bird
Our Witzenberg Trail travels high up into the foothills of the Witzenberg mountains with a bird’s eye view of the Tulbagh, Wolseley and Breede River Valleys below us. And speaking of birds, these protea “forests” are home to the Cape Sugarbird. During the drier summer months the flowering proteas are found at higher altitudes and the birds are not so commonly seen, but as the weather cools and the proteas start to flower, the sugar birds return. Their long claws enable them to cling onto the blooms even in howling gales, although the males long tails are a little more inelegant in strong winds.
Unlike many other birds, breeding season is during the winter months, coinciding with the peak protea flowering season.
The Cape Sugarbird (Promerops cafer) is endemic to the fynbos biome of the Western Cape and is highly dependant on proteas for nectar and nesting. As they feed predominantly on the nectar of proteas and fynbos, the sugar birds are also essential pollinator for these species.
The Witzenberg Valley is home to a wide variety of birds and is the ideal location for anyone interested in Bird Watching. The varied terrains and habitats from waterways to mountains are home to many identified species. Ask your hosts for more information.
The charm that attracts so many visitors to our valley, is at times teasingly (even grumpily) said to be "sleepy hollow syndrome"!
Visitors are sometimes frustrated to find that shops or attractions are closed, or that activities are fully booked.
But it is important to keep in mind that the peace and tranquility of country life means leaving the frenetic life of traffic jams and 24/7 availability behind. Many local businesses are small and/or family run, meaning they simply cannot be open 24/7, but on the plus side when you visit you are almost sure to be attended by the owner or someone who has the time or interest to want to know "How you are!"
A small group policy on many of the activities not only ensures personal attention, but also that you will never be part of the masses. Leave the rat race behind and unwind while you enjoy the slower pace of country life, us country bumpkins do realise that it can be a bit of a culture shock at times!
Many guests to our valley simply want to relax, and an array of self-catering farm stays are perfect for doing just that.
However if you would like to be entertained by visiting attractions, enjoy a recommended restaurant, taste wine and take part in some activities, it is worthwhile checking availability and opening times before you visit and planning accordingly.
Highly recommended tours that need pre-booking or opening time consideration.
House of Krone Cellar tours
Wolseley Block Houses
Ladera Wines - Wine with Soul
If wine tasting is on your weekend agenda, be sure to check the weekend and public holiday opening times and plan accordingly.
And to complete your relaxation weekend, why not book a Shiatsu session or a massage at your accommodation with a Heavenly Hands Mobile Swedish Massage Therapist for contact details and more
On the drive from Cape Town to the Witzenberg Valley you will pass several of these historic block houses, sadly few have been maintained, fortunately the Block Houses of Wolseley can easily be visited.
From the beginning of the Boer War, Cape Town was the main port of entry for the war effort. Troops arrived, equipment was off loaded, the injured were sent to hospitals and the concentration camps were established at Green Point and Simon’s Town.
The railway line from Cape Town to the north, the Boer Republics, was therefore of great importance to the British Army and they were totally dependant on it. In 1900 as the British Army marched to Pretoria, leaving its southern lines of communication open, General Christiaan De Wet mounted a concerted attack on the railway lines and bridges forcing the British to act. A fine example of these old railway bridges are visible in Wolseley as is the railway line which is still the main line to the north today.
The British Army’s chief engineer, Major General Wood, was asked by Lord Roberts, the then Governor of the Cape to design the blockhouses and the first were built in March 1900.(other source 1901) The stone was quarried from the local area while all other materials were imported from Britain and the Colonies. The wood from Canada, the bullet proof steel doors and rifle slits and corrugated iron roof from England.
The standard stone Blockhouse design was a 3 storied building with the ground floor used for supplies and water tanks, the first floor served as a “living” area and was accessed by a retractable ladder and the top floor was the lookout post. These Blockhouses could house up to 20 men, had gutters to channel the rain water down into the water tanks and had their food, ammunition and mail delivered by passing trains. They were connected by barbed wire with tin cans and bells acting as “alarms” on the wire.
The Blockhouse system required an enormous amount of troops to maintain. Well over 50 000 British troops were involved in blockhouse duty, as well as 16000 Africans which were used as armed guards and to patrol the lines at night. This is comparable to the 30 000 Boers in the field during this time.
Only 441 of the stone type blockhouses, such as these, were built. There are very few of them left in such a good condition as those in Wolseley due to neglect and vandalism. They were found to be too expensive (£800 - £1000) and time consuming (3 months). Major Rice, under the command of Lord Kitchener, then designed a cheaper (£44 - £16), easier to construct (6 hours) circular corrugated iron blockhouse. By the end of the Boer War there were over 8000 blockhouses.
Not many of the Blockhouses experienced any action, merely boredom, which indicates the effectiveness of these structures! Not one bridge where the blockhouses were sited and manned was ever blown.
After the war the blockhouses fell into disuse and many were stripped for basic building materials. The stone blockhouses of Wolseley have survived mainly due to being on private property and they are a wonderful piece of history to come and experience. The Blockhouse next to the R43 in Wolseley now has a stable set of stairs for entry and is accessible for tours.
Please contact Natasha Dicey on 082 7807516 for any further information or tours of the Blockhouse.
John & Jo
We are the owners of horseAbout Trails & Adventures in the Western Cape.
“We left the premises with heart full of joy, love for these amazing horses and admiration for the lifestyle of John and his family.”