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ID #4364

Attractions of Small Towns in the Eastern Free State, South Africa.

o    Hobhouse: South of Ladybrand on the R26. It was established in 1912 and was named after a British girl, Emily Hobhouse, who dedicated her life to the alleviation of the suffering of Boer women and children in the concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War. She became a heroine. Bushman (Bushmen, San) rock art is found in many of the caves in the area. A visit to the archaeological site on the farm Lemoenhoek is recommended. The principal activity in the area is farming, with wheat, maize, cheese and livestock being produced.
o    Modderpoort: Between Clocolan and Ladybrand. Canon Henry Beckett and brothers from the Society of St Augustine’s established a Mission at Modderpoort in 1869. Visit the Cave Church, which was their home before the priory was built.  One needs permission to visit this site.  The Priory has been restored and has been opened to the public as a guest house.  Also at Modderpoort is the grave of  “Anna” Montsopa who was banished from Lesotho by King Moshoeshoe when he suspected that her wizardry powers were greater than his own.
o    Thaba Potchoa: Off the N8. A Mission Station was established here in 1853.
o    Tweespruit: On the N8. It is home to Father Frans Claerhout, one of South Africa’s most respected artists.  He left Belgium after WWII to make South Africa his home. His art is widely sought after, not only in South Africa but internationally as well, His sense of humour and deep understanding of people is portrayed in his work, and each painting tells a story.  Al income from his work is ploughed back into needy causes.
o    Excelsior: Small picturesque farming community was established here in 1910. A sandstone reservoir was erected in 1924. There are hiking trails for the more adventurous in the Korannaberg.
o    Marquard: Founded in 1905. Southeast of Winburg. Known for its mountain bike trails. The annual Koranna Two Mountain Cycle Race is held in September.  A monument of stones to commemorate the Great Trek in 1838 can still be seen. A buried message will be excavated here in 2038.
o    Senekal: On the N5. Founded in 1874. Trading centre on the banks of the Sandspruit. Visit the sandstone church that is surrounded by a “ringmuur” -- a wall of petrified trees.  The “Bible Garden”, which consists of olive and palm trees as well as herbal plants contains several “Burger” monuments. Visit the Anglo-Boer War sites at Biddulphsberg. The “Fern Route” hiking trail, with its lush abundance of ferns, offers nature lovers something special. Contact +27 (58) 481 2142.
o    Rosendal: Quaint little town at the foot of the Witteberge. Southeast of Senekal. Cheese and asparagus factories. See a self-help weaving project. Contact +27 (58) 211 0620
o    Arlington: North of Senekal on the R707. Distinctive red brick houses along the railway tracks are reminiscent of a once vibrant railway junction.
o    Lindley: North of Senekal on the R707. Established in 1878. Picnic spots on the willow-lined banks of the Vaal River. A cemetery contains the remains of British soldiers who fell in 1900 at Yeomanry Hills. A miniature replica of the Dutch Reformed Church was erected in 1928 in memory of those who died during the Anglo-Boer War. Contact +27 (58) 463 0004.
o    Paul Roux: On the N5 between Bethlehem and Senekal. It was founded by the Reverend Paul Roux in 1900. Dinosaur footprints can be found on a nearby farm. Other attractions include an herb nursery for the health conscious, an open-air museum of antique farm implements and an extensive collection of local and exotic semi-precious stones (in the grounds of the Dutch Reformed Church). Contact +27 (58) 471 0230
o    Steynsrus: On the R76 between Kroonstad and Bethlehem. Established in 1910, it has become an artist’s mecca. Pottery factory has a selection of wares, ranging from ethnic to modern. Activities such as pony trekking can be pursued at guest houses in the area.
o    Petrus Steyn: On the R707 between Frankfort and Senekal. Attractions include the Wagon Wheel Monument and the Language Monument, both of which are in the gardens of the Municipal Offices. The colours used in the “Kruispad” Church are of special significance.  Two of the interior walls are red symbolising the blood of Jesus. The other two are green symbolising spiritual growth. The outside walls have beautiful ethnic patterns. The three monuments at Hooggelegen are of historical significance.  They commemorate the centenary in 1938 of the great trek and the rebels who died during the rebellion. Contact P van Rensburg +27 (58) 871 3363
o    Cornelia: Northwest of Vrede and close to the N3. A charming and tranquil village best known for its unique fossil sites, particularly along the Schoonspruit and on the farm Uitzoek. Important fossil finds were made here in 1955. Stone Age tools have also been discovered in the district.
o    Vrede: On the R34, close to the N3. Founded in 1879, its name means “peace”. Contact +27 (58) 913 3356.
o    Memel: The name means “surrounded by water”. Close to Seekoeivlei, one of the largest wetlands in South Africa. Known for the variety of its birdlife, including the endangered Wattled, Blue and Crowned Cranes as well as the extremely rare Rudd’s Lark.  Recreation includes scenic hiking trails, horse riding, fishing, 4x4 drives and hunting.  Many historical sites and monuments are found in the area. Contact Memel Getaways, Box 1 Memel 2970. +27 (58) 924 0400.Web Address:
o    Kestell: Between Bethlehem and Harrismith on the N5. Established in 1905 and named after the Reverend John Kestell who served as chaplain during the Anglo-Boer War. He tended the wounded on both sides and was considered a hero by all. A prosperous and tranquil farming area. The architect Gerhard Moerdyk, who also designed the Voortrekker Monument, designed the second largest sandstone church in the Free State. The huge oak tree where services were held before the building of the church can still be seen.
o    Sterkfontein Dam: The third largest dam in South Africa. With 103 km of shoreline and 7000-Ha of clear blue water, it is a mecca for fishing enthusiasts. Self-catering chalets available. The pump station and underground power station at Jagersrust can be visited by appointment only. Contact +27 (58) 622 3520.
o    Harrismith: Nestles at the foot of the Platberg. Once an important staging post on the wagon route. Named after the Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Harry Smith. The sandstone buildings were influenced by British architectural styles and are different to those in other towns in the Free State. Many historical camps and memorials. Take a stroll through the Platberg Nature Reserve or the Botanical Gardens, or fly-fish in one of the many mountain streams. +27 (58) 622 3525.
o    Van Reenen’s Pass: The N3 is now the major link between Durban and the interior. The views of the Drakensberg are picturesque, particularly from Windy Corner on the Pass. Many historical battlefields, including Spioenkop, are nearby. Wildlife is plentiful at Spioenkop Dam Nature Reserve. Activities include trout and bass fishing, 4x4 trails, mountain biking (cycling), horse riding, hiking and golf.  The Green Lantern Inn Road Race is held annually on the last Saturday of October. Be sure to visit the historic little church that only seats eight. Glorious mountain splendour and crisp, clear air. Contact Lew or Maria Harris, +27 (58) 671 0027 telephone or +27 (58) 671 0065 fax. AUAttractions

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Last update: 2014-05-13 16:39
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.1

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