From his­toric mills and pubs to poignant ceme­ter­ies, there’s lots to do

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - TRAVEL -

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

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