“Of all the stately farmsteads in the Drakenstein Valley, Boschendal has the finest setting. The dark towering mass of the Drakenstein Mountain enhances the whiteness of the homesteads walls and gables and the long low, stretching line of its ring wall in the foreground.” Thus wrote well-known Cape restoration architect Gawie Fagan who, with his wife Gwen, was commissioned in the late 1970s to restore Boschendal to its former glory.
When I first visited Boschendal in the winter of 1977 the restoration was complete. In the early morning mist, it was an impressive sight to behold. The whole farmyard has been restored as “accurately as historical and architectural research would permit.”
It was beautiful, yet quite Spartan in the way one would expect a working farm to be. No time for pretty clipped hedges, just the bold oak trees, which had been restored, and new ones planted in the gaps.
The Manor House with its stately interior had been furnished in appropriate furniture. The exquisite dado rails had been brought back to life. The Curator was a Dutch lady, Diny Wolters, whose knowledge of the contents, the Kraakporselein collection, and the history of the farm and the valley provided such interest to the many visitors to the estate.
Little did I know that towards the end of that year I was to become the Public Relations manager of this beautiful place.
Boschendal, once it had been sold by Anglo American fell upon hard times and slowly the buildings started to decay, thatch needed repair and the beautiful old Rose garden established by Gwen Fagan, one of the leading experts on roses at The Cape of Good Hope had become overgrown.
Things have changed dramatically over the last couple of years with the South African owner, who has taken hold of the place and with tender loving care has created a world-class tourist destination. Hardly risen from ashes, it is now a Phoenix in full flight.
We started in 1978 a restaurant with Mary Fenton; a Johannesburg trained Cordon Bleu Chef, which served a buffet lunch unsurpassed, and enormously popular for over 35 years. Visited by more persons of importance than I can remember, though I will never forget the visit of Nancy and Henry Kissinger, Countess Mountbatten of Burma and her sister Lady Pamela Hicks. A complete makeover has taken place there and the new restaurant named The Werf opened recently. It will take its place amongst the finest of Cape country restaurants with award winning Farm to Fork Executive Chef Christiaan Campbell leading the team.
We started a small herb garden, which has been rebuilt and is looking green and lush. There is a team under a specialist gardener, which has created a vegetable garden of size, and beauty that will provide vegetables for all of Boschendal’s eateries. The building of the garden on the Franschhoek side of Die Werf Restaurant is virtually complete and the team is looking forward to the arrival of spring, which will create a garden of plenty.
We opened a little shop to sell tourist trinkets; fudge and the sort of things the tourists of the 1980s would buy. Today the shop has been converted into a an all singing all dancing shop and deli, serving delicate lunches and teas and offering a fabulous array of pastries which come from the bakery up at the top of the farmyard, where you will also find breads, some interesting produce and goods – and this is where you go to taste and buy the Estates award winning wines.
In the summer of 1980, if memory serves, we started serving picnic lunches in quaintly printed boxes that had a basic paté bread salad and pork pie content. Guests ate them on the lawns under the huge Stone Pines to the south of the farmyard, yet within easy walking distance. Today the Boschendal Le Pique Nique is a separate and very busy part of the eateries on the Estate. There is a pavilion, there are hammocks, large ‘bean bags’ and rugs so that families, young lovers and those perhaps a bit more established in life can sit and be as comfortable as they wish to be. Bottles of chilled crisp Boschendal whites, the MCCs for which the estate is rightly well-known and red wines are available for purchase.
In the early days of the restored Boschendal there was no accommodation other than Rhodes Cottage built for Rhodes when he came to visit the valley. Mary Davids who was the elderly housekeeper there told me that her father had been ‘Mr Rhodes’s coach driver.’ I asked her where he took him, and he said ‘oh he went down to Lekkerwijn to go and play cards with Mr Pickstone.’
Today Rhodes Cottage has been restored and offers superb accommodation. A number of empty labourers cottages have been restored and turned into excellent accommodation for people want to visit the estate and spend more time there.
Soon to come are trail running and Mountain bike courses. A small Spa is also operating on the Orchard Cottages.
Regular events are now held at Boschendal, they recently had a Gin dinner with well-known Cape distiller Roger Jorgenson. A roving dinner is planned for 8th August when guests will start off at one venue and then work their way through the others ending up in the Manor House for dessert and coffee.
Boschendal Wines continue to look to the future with the celebration this year of the 330th anniversary of the granting of the land to Jean le Long in 1685. An exciting young team of Lizelle Gerber who is responsible for the Award Winning MCCs and white wines and Richard Duckitt, newly appointed red wine maker, look to the future as new varieties come on stream and as they move ahead with technology both in the cellar and the vineyard.
Click here to contact the different divisions on the Estate.