Welcome to Part 2 of Meandering through the Midlands. In Part 1 I covered what we did on the Monday and Tuesday and now you will find out what we did and where we went for the rest of the week.
Wednesday started the usual way by waking up early to watch the sunrise over the valley and then we had breakfast and got ready to go. I drove the usual route into Mooi River and then along the old main road through to Nottingham Road. The first place we went to was Lilac Crane and it is very close to the bridge on Nottingham Road. The shop is filled with local arts and crafts and I found a beautiful necklace with the pendant made from a vintage ceramic plate and a handmade coconut coffee soap. I really wanted to buy a dish cloth with a coffee design printed on it. Unfortunately it was a bit too expensive.
We hadn’t chosen the next place to visit as we had decided to just take a slow drive and see what caught our eye. A sign with “The Shed – crafts and coffee” looked interesting so we turned off the road and drove up and over the railway tracks. My Mom chatted to the owner and discovered the building was a former chicken shed which they had now converted into a coffee and craft shop. A lot of the crafts for sale had been created by the owner and they were so well made. The train track was very close to the building and we saw 2 trains go by while we were there.
Our next stop was suggested by Carryn as it is one of her favourite places to go to when she visits the Midlands Meander – Peter’s Gate Herbal Centre. We decided to look around the shop first before ordering tea. I bought a wonderful smelling lavender room spray and a cream that can be used on pets when they injure themselves. Carryn and I felt like having Rooibos tea and we really enjoyed the Laager Citrus & Ginger Rooibos tea that we were offered. Mom had her usual Five Roses tea. There was a cool breeze blowing but we enjoyed sitting on the veranda in the warm morning sun. In fact we found it very difficult to leave, but our tummies helped a lot by reminding us that it was nearly lunch time.
|Peter's Gate Herbal Centre|
We had decided on Caversham Mill as our lunch stop, but we first planned to look at the menu before a final decision was made. More dirt roads to drive on to get there but fortunately they were not teeth rattling and there was nice scenery. Ardmore is very close to Caversham Mill, practically a neighbour and we decided to go and see them after lunch – don’t forget the tummies were rumbling. The restaurant can only be reached by driving over a single lane bridge but there was no one around when I got there. Caversham Mill is not cheap but we were too hungry to go and find somewhere else to have lunch and the menu had delicious sounding items on it.
I am very pleased to say the servings were a very good size and the pot pie that I chose was delicious. The pie that day was chicken and mushroom and it came with vegetables and mashed potato. Carryn had soup with homemade bread and Mom had quiche and vegetables. Of course we had looked at the desserts before ordering our lunch and Crème Brulee was on it! So I’m sure you can guess what Carryn and I ordered. It was relaxing watching and listening to the water flow. Lots of old photos are on the walls showing what the mill used to look like and you can read its history as well. The mill wheel was washed away in a big flood many years ago. Definitely a place for a return visit.
After our delicious lunch we drove up the road to go and look at Ardmore. I’m sure you have heard and know all about Ardmore, but just in case let me tell you. Ardmore Ceramic Art was formed over 25 years ago and about 40 artists collaborate under the mentorship of the award winning founder, Fee Halstead. They create pieces that feature in fine art collections and exhibitions around the world. All I can stay is WOW! The intricate work, the animals and the sheer size of some of the ceramic pieces. It is part museum (dedicated to those artists who have died), part gallery and part showroom. The only problem is that you need very deep pockets or a strong credit card in order to buy one of the ceramic pieces. So we enjoyed looking and taking lots of photos.
On Thursday we decided to stay close to home base as I had done a lot of driving and we also wanted to spend some time doing more walking around Midlands Saddle & Trout. First on the list was the all important tea and scones that are served at 10am outside the restaurant. Oh my they were yummy – topped with just the right amount of jam and cream. Quite a few people came to sit in the warm morning sun and enjoy their tea and most stayed to play Bingo. We took a walk over to the Spa once we were done as we wanted to smell the perfumes they sell there and then checked what the night’s activities were on the board by reception. Carryn and I decided that we would go for the marshmallow braai at 6pm. We then walked back to our unit so that we could get the car and go to the first of two places that we were visiting that day.
|Midlands Saddle and Trout|
Remember in Part One where I mentioned that we had passed a fascinating church on the way into Mooi River? I had Googled and found the website and then emailed the owners to ask if we could visit and received a reply in the affirmative. I just needed to phone the caretaker and arrange a time. It was arranged for Thursday and we just needed to go and look before 12pm as guests would be arriving later. Guests? Guests in a church? Yes because this was no longer a church but a self catering guesthouse called St. Andrew's Retreat.
We drove through the original stone entrance and parked close to the added under covered parking with a building on top. We discovered later that this was another room and bathroom. The caretaker met us and said we were welcome to look inside, in fact everywhere. I had thought that we would just be looking around the outside of the building and was thrilled that we could see what they had done inside. It was amazing! The original stain glass windows and even the baptism font are still there while the stone pulpit hides a gas heater. There are 3 bedrooms inside the converted church and all have double beds and an en-suite bathroom. Two bedrooms are on the ground floor and the 3rd bedroom has been added above them. There are the most beautiful views over the garden and beyond from the windows of the 3rd bedroom and it is definitely the most luxurious. There is a fully fitted kitchen with a gas stove, two lounges and a dining room. All areas except the bedrooms are open plan. The church was built in 1906 and the owners have taken great care to keep original features and create a warm welcoming place to stay.
|St. Andrew's Retreat interior|
It was wonderful to walk around the beautifully layed out and maintained garden. A great place to sit and reflect on the beauty of the building and garden is under the lush arbour. After looking around the garden we took a look at the bedroom car port extension. It has a beautiful bedroom, bathroom and small lounge to relax in. St. Andrew's Retreat is definitely a place I would love to return to and stay at.
|St. Andrew's Retreat exterior|
After visiting St. Andrews Retreat we drove to Lords of the Manor which is next door to Midlands Saddle & Trout, it actually shares a boundary fence. Lords of the Manor was at one time called Oatesdale and was the home of the Oates family. My Father’s uncle married Muriel Oates and Dad stayed at Oatsdale when he was a little boy. The house had no electricity at that time and Dad had to climb the scary creaky stairs holding a candle. I’m pleased to say that is not the case now.
|Lords of the Manor|
We were very warmly welcomed and shown into the small lounge area and our order taken for cappuccinos (Carryn and I) and tea (Mom). They serve Terbodore coffee. While we were waiting the general manager Max Youngleson came to greet us and Mom asked if we could go up the stairs to see the upper level. Well it was even better than that as we were given a guided tour by a member of staff and even the owner of Lords of the Manor chatted to us. We were shown a family suite, classic suite and an executive suite which contains an original fireplace. A joy to see another beautiful old stone building.
After Lords of the Manor it was back home to our cosy unit at Midlands Saddle & Trout. We had lunch and sat on the comfortable couch with blankets and watched a movie. Carryn and I decided to take a walk down to the trout dam and we were very surprised to discover how the weather had changed. A very cold wind was blowing and it had become very cloudy. It was a very “refreshing” walk and we watched while 2 brave fly fisherman tried to catch trout. After taking a few photos we headed back to the warmth of the unit. After supper Carryn and I ventured out again - this time over to the bonfire area as we wanted to attend the marshmallow braai. Unfortunately they did not have enough people wanting to attend the braai so it was not happening. We were very sad as we had a craving for braaied marshmallows. A staff member told us to go and ask for some marshmallows at the restaurant. We did just that and were given enough to chase away the craving. The restaurant has been beautifully re-decorated and Carryn and spent quite a long time trying to get the perfect photo of their lighting. Then it was back to the unit and I started the fire so we could have our braaied marshmallows.
After another great night’s sleep we had to pack up and check out. It was quick and easy as I handed over the keys to the unit and we received a drive safely pack that contained small bottles of water for our journey. I drove out slowly so we could see the horses one last time. Midlands Saddle & Trout you were fabulous!
Just in case you think that the adventures were over – nope you would be wrong! We were driving into Mooi River to get onto the freeway when I heard a strange noise from the back of the car. I put my hazards on and slowly pulled over to the side of the road. At the same time a man in an Audi pulled up next to me. I wound down my window and asked him if it was my tyre and he said it was the back right. He asked if I could manage and I said I would not be able to. What a blessing to have someone right there when my tyre went flat. We had a chat as he changed my tyre and he said he worked at Hartford House and we told him about our lovely time there. It turned out that the man who stopped and changed my tyre was the Executive Chef Constantijn Hahndiek! We all thanked him profusely and gave him a hug. I then drove slowly into Mooi River to get the changed tyre pumped and we headed to Howick.
Howick and not home? Yip we had to end off our meandering adventures by stopping at ALL the charity shops in Howick and with coffee at the new Treatery at Yard41. A fitting end to our meandering through the Midlands adventures.
|The Treatery at Yard41|
I know that I didn’t mention picking up the keys at Midlands Saddle & Trout and that is because my family (husband and kids) and I went up on Saturday 3 June to fetch them and take a look at the unit. My daughter Laura and I took the opportunity to have an hour long horse ride. We rode very spirited horses and had a fabulous time. I have never seen so many horses at a resort before and I did confirm that all the horses belong to them. We had lunch in the restaurant (delicious curry, burgers and toasted sandwiches) and I was thrilled to discover that the coffee they serve is supplied by Skyline Coffee Roasters.
|Restaurant at Midlands Saddle & Trout serves Skyline Coffee|
|Hour long horse ride on very spirited horses - great fun!|
Yes this is the end!!