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THE PAARDEPLAATS STORY – THIS IS WHAT WE LIKE TO CALL “ELEGANT SIMPLICITY”

Paardeplaats has a rich historical background with several interesting facets – up to the present day!

THE PAARDEPLAATS STORY – THIS IS WHAT WE LIKE TO CALL “ELEGANT SIMPLICITY”

Remember the pre 1970 Kruger Park ambience? No commercial noise, no cash registers. The smell of fresh air, wood smoke, paraffin and creosote. The singing of birds and the cry of the jackal. The laughter of children at play, while you cook a delicious meal on an open fire, and the friendly, helpful staff to escort you, on arrival, to your comfortable, clean rooms. Add to this, stunning escarpment views, the freedom, peace, and safety of unspoilt nature, where the children can take Ouma and Oupa for safe, short nature walks, and where the peace and silence of nature, while you sleep, is almost disturbing – As they asked in the 1966 musical ‘Stop The World I want to get off‘:  “Does the noise in my head bother you?”

FAMILY THERAPY

On the spectacular Long Tom Pass (Route 37), along the very tracks of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and his dog Jock, lies Paardeplaats Nature Retreat, some 12 km from Lydenburg/Mashishing, en route to Sabie. Set high up in the Mpumalanga Drakensberg, at 2000 meters above sea level, with an annual rainfall of over 1000mm per annum, this 770 ha proclaimed nature reserve, is a haven for birders, hikers and serious nature lovers, who enjoy “elegant simplicity”, so different from the city norms of today. Built on the ruins of an 1850 miner’s settlement is the restored 12 sleeper stone dwelling, set in total privacy, overlooking a small dam and a beautiful valley and mountains. Hidden amongst trees and the mining terraces are three restored stone units. Each room has a private view with its own unique character with stained glass windows.

FAMILY THERAPY

On the spectacular Long Tom Pass (Route 37), along the very tracks of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and his dog Jock, lies Paardeplaats Nature Retreat, some 12 km from Lydenburg/Mashishing, en route to Sabie. Set high up in the Mpumalanga Drakensberg, at 2000 meters above sea level, with an annual rainfall of over 1000mm per annum, this 770 ha proclaimed nature reserve, is a haven for birders, hikers and serious nature lovers, who enjoy “elegant simplicity”, so different from the city norms of today. Built on the ruins of an 1850 miner’s settlement is the restored 12 sleeper stone dwelling, set in total privacy, overlooking a small dam and a beautiful valley and mountains. Hidden amongst trees and the mining terraces are three restored stone units. Each room has a private view with its own unique character with stained glass windows.

À LA PAARDEPLAATS NATURE RETREAT

Our farm dogs have been taught to ignore and not harm the birds and game. They are perfectly well behaved dogs that adore all people, especially children, to a fault! Please don’t spoil or feed them – they are not used to “people food”. They also love walking and would normally show you the way! Unfortunately our beloved dog, Umjoji, whom many would remember, passed away on Monday 22nd February 2016, after a very trying 4 months, with a serious heart murmur. Hambe Gahle Umjoji! On Saturday 27th May 2017 at 08h00 Pampata disappeared off the face of the earth, without a trace. We presume she was killed by those darn baboons or a leopard. We miss you Pampata! In August 2017 we were generously given our new friend ‘Bono’, a Labrador,  as a present, by Gerrit van der Nest. He’s a very lovable and intelligent dog! In April 2018 we were given a special gift by the Wilson family in town. Our black ‘Great Dane’, Shaka, is a magnificent specimen , standing well over 2 meters tall on his hind legs.

À LA PAARDEPLAATS NATURE RETREAT

Our farm dogs have been taught to ignore and not harm the birds and game. They are perfectly well behaved dogs that adore all people, especially children, to a fault! Please don’t spoil or feed them – they are not used to “people food”. They also love walking and would normally show you the way! Unfortunately our beloved dog, Umjoji, whom many would remember, passed away on Monday 22nd February 2016, after a very trying 4 months, with a serious heart murmur. Hambe Gahle Umjoji! On Saturday 27th May 2017 at 08h00 Pampata disappeared off the face of the earth, without a trace. We presume she was killed by those darn baboons or a leopard. We miss you Pampata! In August 2017 we were generously given our new friend ‘Bono’, a Labrador,  as a present, by Gerrit van der Nest. He’s a very lovable and intelligent dog! In April 2018 we were given a special gift by the Wilson family in town. Our black ‘Great Dane’, Shaka, is a magnificent specimen , standing well over 2 meters tall on his hind legs.

PRE-HISTORY

Firstly there is the very evident geological pre-history, which resulted in the beautiful deep valleys and cliffs, dating back millions of years. Then there are traces of the San and the Stone Ages, dating back to around 600AD and before.

PRE-HISTORY

Firstly there is the very evident geological pre-history, which resulted in the beautiful deep valleys and cliffs, dating back millions of years. Then there are traces of the San and the Stone Ages, dating back to around 600AD and before.

IRON AGE

This area is part of an important historical node, dating back at least 1500 years, to the early passage of migrating Nguni peoples who left behind a remarkable record of their dwellings and terraced farmlands. The famous “Lydenburg Clay Heads” dating back to 490AD, are from this period. Looking down from the top of Masjienkloof, many large stone circles – ancient cattle kraals – are visible. These peoples smelted iron and made sophisticated tools from it. The stone circles are always situated at the bottom of the valleys as this was closer to the available water.

IRON AGE

This area is part of an important historical node, dating back at least 1500 years, to the early passage of migrating Nguni peoples who left behind a remarkable record of their dwellings and terraced farmlands. The famous “Lydenburg Clay Heads” dating back to 490AD, are from this period. Looking down from the top of Masjienkloof, many large stone circles – ancient cattle kraals – are visible. These peoples smelted iron and made sophisticated tools from it. The stone circles are always situated at the bottom of the valleys as this was closer to the available water.

EARLY TRANSVAAL HISTORY

Shortly after the start of the Great Trek in around 1840, the white man entered this area in search of land and freedom from the “darn English”, and the effects of the abolition of slavery. Initially the area around Ohrigstad was popular because of its fertile valleys and the abundance of good water and game. However, malaria took a heavy toll, and the inhabitants were forced to withdraw to the malaria safe area around Lydenburg – hence the name of the town referring to the suffering the people experienced.

Between the 1850’s and 1870’s many adventurous, pioneering prospectors, mostly English and Welch, came into the area in search of gold and good fortune. The town of Lydenburg became a popular stop-over for transport riders on their way to and from Delagoa Bay. This was big business and was very much part of Paul Kruger’s obsession to secure a harbour for the ZAR. These rough types were often referred to as “Uitlanders” by the local “Boer” population. The original farm diagram for Paardeplaats 154JT is dated September 1870 and is defined in Dutch (there is a copy in our Guest Book). The Paardeplaats stone ruins are part of the early gold mining activity in this area. Gold was actively mined from the 1850’s up until the start of the 20th century. We have discovered 17 worked-out mine shafts on the farm, which have now become shelters and lairs for rooikatte, brown hyenas and even leopards, so don’t even think of exploring them!

The original transport riders’ wagon route over “Mauchs Berg” from Lydenburg to Delagoa Bay traversed the farm and is still visible on the southern side of today’s Longtom Pass (Route 37). This is the road that Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and Jock would have used on a regular basis as an alternative to “Robbers’ Pass” via Pilgrims’ Rest. (Francis Brett Young’s “The City of Gold”, first published in 1939, has some very vivid descriptions of life as a transport rider and prospector in and around Lydenburg at this time). Percy Fitzpatrick was a young 15 year old teenager, schooled at Bishops in Cape Town, when his father died. Being the eldest son, he had to go out into the cruel world to earn a living for his family. His gamble was to become a transport rider – the rest is part of his life’s adventure.

EARLY TRANSVAAL HISTORY

Shortly after the start of the Great Trek in around 1840, the white man entered this area in search of land and freedom from the “darn English”, and the effects of the abolition of slavery.

Initially the area around Ohrigstad was popular because of its fertile valleys and the abundance of good water and game. However, malaria took a heavy toll, and the inhabitants were forced to withdraw to the malaria safe area around Lydenburg – hence the name of the town referring to the suffering the people experienced.

Between the 1850’s and 1870’s many adventurous, pioneering prospectors, mostly English and Welch, came into the area in search of gold and good fortune. The town of Lydenburg became a popular stop-over for transport riders on their way to and from Delagoa Bay. This was big business and was very much part of Paul Kruger’s obsession to secure a harbour for the ZAR. These rough types were often referred to as “Uitlanders” by the local “Boer” population.

The original farm diagram for Paardeplaats 154JT is dated September 1870 and is defined in Dutch (there is a copy in our Guest Book). The Paardeplaats stone ruins are part of the early gold mining activity in this area. Gold was actively mined from the 1850’s up until the start of the 20th century. We have discovered 17 worked-out mine shafts on the farm, which have now become shelters and lairs for rooikatte, brown hyenas and even leopards, so don’t even think of exploring them!

The original transport riders’ wagon route over “Mauchs Berg” from Lydenburg to Delagoa Bay traversed the farm and is still visible on the southern side of today’s Longtom Pass (Route 37). This is the road that Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and Jock would have used on a regular basis as an alternative to “Robbers’ Pass” via Pilgrims’ Rest. (Francis Brett Young’s “The City of Gold”, first published in 1939, has some very vivid descriptions of life as a transport rider and prospector in and around Lydenburg at this time).

Percy Fitzpatrick was a young 15 year old teenager, schooled at Bishops in Cape Town, when his father died. Being the eldest son, he had to go out into the cruel world to earn a living for his family. His gamble was to become a transport rider – the rest is part of his life’s adventure.

ANGLO BOER WAR

The friction between the local “Boere” and the “Uitlanders” inevitably and unfortunately gave way to war. Much of the second, guerrilla warfare phase of the war, from 1900 onwards, took place in this part of the country. Later a war within a war developed between General Louis Botha and Sir Redvers Buller, as the “Rooinek” became obsessed with capturing the “Boer”. On a number of occasions Botha positioned his Longtom canons on the Paardeplaats hills across our valley and bombarded the British in their Lydenburg cocoon, to escape long before the British could even get close to him. This drove Buller mad!

The Longtom Pass gets its name from the Boer canons. There are still several forts and sentry posts on the surrounding hills and also along the old wagon road which traverses the farm.

ANGLO BOER WAR

The friction between the local “Boere” and the “Uitlanders” inevitably and unfortunately gave way to war. Much of the second, guerrilla warfare phase of the war, from 1900 onwards, took place in this part of the country. Later a war within a war developed between General Louis Botha and Sir Redvers Buller, as the “Rooinek” became obsessed with capturing the “Boer”. On a number of occasions Botha positioned his Longtom canons on the Paardeplaats hills across our valley and bombarded the British in their Lydenburg cocoon, to escape long before the British could even get close to him. This drove Buller mad!

The Longtom Pass gets its name from the Boer canons. There are still several forts and sentry posts on the surrounding hills and also along the old wagon road which traverses the farm.

PAARDEPLAATS REDISCOVERED

This beautiful jewel was rediscovered in 1979 by two adventurous hikers – attorney, Jaap van Proosdij, who bought the farm in 1979, and his intrepid nephew, engineer, and nature lover, Johan Middelberg. They discovered the miners’ ruins, overgrown with huge wattle trees, and decided to restore them into a weekend getaway. Jaap planted all the white stinkwoods, with seedlings from his Pretoria garden in about 1980.

Tragically Johan was killed in a motor accident in 1987. The photo album on the bookshelf in the “Miners Canteen” records this period of the Paardeplaats’ story.

The other “Rooinek”, retired Land Surveyor and widower, Brian Whitehorn, came onto the scene in 1991 when he married Gerda Middelberg and started Dullstroom’s first restaurant, the awarded “Tonteldoos Bistro” which he ran for 14 years.

Since 2005 Brian has poured all his passion and energy into Paardeplaats Nature Retreat. He turned it into a haven for visiting nature and culture lovers by offering regular food, art, birding and photography workshops and by developing the hiking and cycling trails on the farm. He also established the Saucy Chef Cookery School here on Paardeplaats and offers regular day and weekend food and cookery workshops.

PAARDEPLAATS REDISCOVERED

This beautiful jewel was rediscovered in 1979 by two adventurous hikers – attorney, Jaap van Proosdij, who bought the farm in 1979, and his intrepid nephew, engineer, and nature lover, Johan Middelberg. They discovered the miners’ ruins, overgrown with huge wattle trees, and decided to restore them into a weekend getaway. Jaap planted all the white stinkwoods, with seedlings from his Pretoria garden in about 1980.

Tragically Johan was killed in a motor accident in 1987. The photo album on the bookshelf in the “Miners Canteen” records this period of the Paardeplaats’ story.

The other “Rooinek”, retired Land Surveyor and widower, Brian Whitehorn, came onto the scene in 1991 when he married Gerda Middelberg and started Dullstroom’s first restaurant, the awarded “Tonteldoos Bistro” which he ran for 14 years.

Since 2005 Brian has poured all his passion and energy into Paardeplaats Nature Retreat. He turned it into a haven for visiting nature and culture lovers by offering regular food, art, birding and photography workshops and by developing the hiking and cycling trails on the farm. He also established the Saucy Chef Cookery School here on Paardeplaats and offers regular day and weekend food and cookery workshops.

YOUR HOST BRIAN

The “Rooinek”, retired Land Surveyor and widower, Brian Whitehorn, came onto the scene in 1991, when he married Gerda Middelberg and bought and started Dullstroom’s first restaurant, the famous “Tonteldoos Bistro”, which he and Gerda, ran for 14 years. Since 2004 Brian has poured all his passion and energy into Paardeplaats Nature Retreat. He turned it into a haven for visiting nature and culture lovers, by offering regular food, art, birding and photography workshops and by developing the hiking and cycling trails on the farm. He also established the Saucy Chef Cookery School here on Paardeplaats, and offers day and weekend food and cookery workshops, plus of course, catered accommodation. Brian erected the cross on the “Jesus Hill” in 2005. Please use it as a venue for prayer and solitude and for your own spiritual fulfillment.

YOUR HOST BRIAN

The “Rooinek”, retired Land Surveyor and widower, Brian Whitehorn, came onto the scene in 1991, when he married Gerda Middelberg and bought and started Dullstroom’s first restaurant, the famous “Tonteldoos Bistro”, which he and Gerda, ran for 14 years. Since 2004 Brian has poured all his passion and energy into Paardeplaats Nature Retreat. He turned it into a haven for visiting nature and culture lovers, by offering regular food, art, birding and photography workshops and by developing the hiking and cycling trails on the farm. He also established the Saucy Chef Cookery School here on Paardeplaats, and offers day and weekend food and cookery workshops, plus of course, catered accommodation. Brian erected the cross on the “Jesus Hill” in 2005. Please use it as a venue for prayer and solitude and for your own spiritual fulfillment.

OUR HAVEN ‘ON TOP OF THE WORLD’

We speak English. Ons praat Afrikaans. Nous parlons français.

Get to us: Post Net Suite 158, Private Bag X20097, Lydenburg 1120
Call Us: Main Farm Tel: 079 694 9462 / 013 110 0320
Our Cell: Brian 082 416 1379   Gerda 079 515 7799

Photo Credit: Des Jacobs