From historic mills and pubs to poignant cemeteries, there’s lots to do
BATHURST may look like a sleepy village whose main charm lies in the fact that this is a place where you can indulge in the ultimate getaway – hours and hours of simply nothing to do.
And while, within the concept of modern holidays offering an abundance of activities, this may largely be true, take time out to delve a little deeper and you will find a host of things to do and see.
After a lazy lunch at Kingston Farm we spent our first afternoon exploring the historic Clumber Church, which dates back to 1825, when the first church was built.
Nestled close to the church walls is the grave of William Pike, a preacher who led a party from Nottingham, England to the village of Bathurst at the end of 1819.
In the party were John Bradfield, his wife Mary, and their four children who had less than three months to pack up what belongings they could comfortably carry an embark on a journey of escape from the harsh economic effects of Britain’s industrial revolution.
Many tombstones at Clumber cemetery still bear the Bradfield name, while further exploration of the grounds unveils a number of poignant headstones bearing tribute to pioneers who lost their lives at a young age, thousands kilometres away from home.
The tombstone erected for one unlucky youngster, aged just 11, bears the epitaph: “bar- barously murdered by a….” with the tantalising remainder of the message sadly eroded by time.
Equally poignant is the final resting place of “Ann”, who lies in solitary splendour, many metres away from other graves. Speculation behind her being buried far from the others is that she may have committed suicide or been of the Catholic faith.
If churchyards are not your thing, another place of incredible historical interest is Bradshaw’s Mill, the only water powered textile mill in South Africa. Built by the Bradshaw brothers, Samuel and Richard, between 1821 and 1829, the mill was recognised as the starting point of the wooll industry in South Africa.
The pioneering mill has had a chequered history, being destroyed by fire in 1835 during the Sixth Frontier War and remaining a burnt out shell until it was rebuilt by Phillip Hobbs in 1859 to grind grain.
Eventually the mill was abandoned and lay derelict for almost 90 years, until its historical relevance was realised and the building carefully restored.
Daily trips to what is now a National Monument can be arranged and are well worthwhile whether you want to simply drink in the beautiful scenery or the historical ambience.
Curator Andy Manson opened up for us during our recent visit, giving us a working demonstration of how water is fed into the massive 1300kg wa- ter wheel, an environmentally-friendly, remarkable feat of engineering.
Andy answered our many questions with aplomb and also pointed out the fact that the slate roof covered the mill started out its life as ballast to balance the ship which brought the Bradshaw brothers to South African shores.
Andy took us on a detailed tour of the mill, which features photographic displays which guide visitors through its origins. Included is a step-by-step guide to wool production – a guide which introduces visitors to phrases such as niddy-noddying, the process of making yarn into a skein of required length.
Also of interest to history buffs is a visit to the toposcope, a heritage site commemorating the 1820 settlers and their descendants.
If all the sightseeing is getting too much and you feel like wetting the whistle, of equal historic interest is South Africa’s oldest continuously licensed pub where we enjoyed a to-die-for ploughman’s platter on day two of our stay.
And even that, as they say, is not all. Bathurst is also home to more than its fair share of artists’ studios, a shop crammed full of memorabilia pertinent to parts of Bathurst’ roots and a veritable collection of cafes and bistros.
But that, sadly, we had no time for, but it certainly gives us plenty of reasons to plan a return visit to this delightful village.
MEAL WITH APPEAL: The delicious ploughman’s platter available at the historic Pig and Whistle