The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE -

MANY times, while trav­el­ling along the R56 to the Cape, a small sign just out­side of Cedarville, point­ing to Cedar­berg Guest Farm, has caught my eye. Fi­nally, I felt it was time to do more than just glance at the board, so I took a sho’t left.

A few twists and turns, some gen­tle rolling hills, and there it was, a peace­ful spot which re­quires lit­tle more of one than to just kick off your shoes, re­lax with a cup of tea – or some­thing stronger – and just savour the scene.

My com­fort­able self-ca­ter­ing cottage over­looked a small dam. Some per­sua­sion to ven­ture forth came in the shape of a fam­ily of Jack Rus­sell dogs which nipped at each other’s heels, tum­bled bois­ter­ously, and clearly felt laz­ing on the deck of the cottage was not the way to spend a few hours.

A tiny is­land, in the mid­dle of the dam, can be reached via a fas­ci­nat­ing foot­bridge made up of a solid tree trunk. While chil­dren will no doubt find this an ir­re­sistible ad­ven­ture de­spite the rick­ety rail­ings, I had vi­sions of los­ing my bal­ance and land­ing in the mud, so I opted not to check it out. The dogs seemed dis­ap­pointed at this lack of courage, but were soon too busy with their rough and tum­ble to give me any more thought.

At the large main farm dam, there was a flurry of ac­tiv­ity and bird calls. Coots glided in stately fash­ion on the wa­ter, Egyp­tian geese honked, ibises called rau­cously from a wil­low tree, and yel­low-billed ducks sailed in a mini-flotilla. Con­tin­u­ing fur­ther afield, one comes across a Cedarhoek farm­house – which can be rented.

Back at the main house, where the owner and his wife live, it is pos­si­ble to wan­der around a large tree, shrub and flow­er­filled gar­den, cross a stream, and ex­plore var­i­ous paths. You might find your­self in the small play­ground laid out for the younger gen­er­a­tion.

The three self-ca­ter­ing cot­tages are not five-star but have plenty of charm and are well equipped. Plush would be out of place in such a farm set­ting. Af­ter all, the idea is to es­cape from city slick.

At the en­trance to my cottage a cou­ple of milk cans set the tone and tubs of flow­ers add colour. In the day it was a cool refuge from the sun, at night snug and cosy.

I elected to or­der din­ner, which was served in my own cottage. For those re­luc­tant to pre­pare all their meals, break­fasts and din­ners can be taken in the main house.

Climb­ing the hill above the farm proved re­ward­ing. Once at the top, a vista of rolling hills opened up. These were still dressed in their bleached win­ter over­coat, which some­how evoked a feel­ing of even more alone­ness. A rut­ted track called up vis­tas of wag­ons rum­bling across the bleak veld, sway­ing from side to side.

On a nearby hill a soli­tary red har­te­beest sur­veyed its do­main. One of the rays of the set­ting sun set its coat agleam as it climbed steadily to dis­ap­pear from view over the brow of the hill. You might also spot ze­bra, bles­buck, com­mon reed­buck, moun­tain reed­buck, grey duiker, or the en­dan­gered Oribi.

The only sound was that of the wind and the harsh lament of a lone ibis as it flew home to its roost, re­mind­ing us that it was time to head home­ward.

The home-cooked meal was de­li­cious. Eery morsel was pol­ished off. Well, I’d earned it with plenty of ex­er­cise.

So what is avail­able on the 900ha farm, es­pe­cially as chil­dren usu­ally de­mand en­ter­tain­ment in some form? Vis­i­tors can en­gage in farm ac­tiv­i­ties such as go­ing out with the owner to count cat­tle or sheep in the veld, or put down salt licks. It is pos­si­ble to hire a horse, or try your hand at milk­ing a cow. There is a 4x4 route and plenty of walk­ing ter­rain to ex­plore.

School and church groups have the op­tion of check­ing into dor­mi­tory ac­com­mo­da­tion with bunk beds in a for­mer milk­ing shed. There is also a rus­tic pub and a large area which of­ten acts as a wed­ding venue, or a place where rev­ellers can kick off their heels on cel­e­bra­tory oc­ca­sions.

Bird­ers will fluff out their feath­ers when they hear that the owner is cre­at­ing a crane route on the Cedarville Flats.

All three crane species are abun­dant on the flats, with nearly 38 en­dan­gered wat­tled cranes, and some 200 blue cranes (our na­tional bird).

Stately crowned cranes also strut their stuff. If all this is not enough, you can al­ways take a drive to Matatiele or Kok­stad. Cal 012 011 800 (satel­lite phone) or 083 262 5464.

This bridge made of a sin­gle tree stem will put your bal­anc­ing skills to the test.

A play­ground with a tree­house for the young ones.

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