Friday, 23 March 2012

Investigating Willowmore 22 March 2012

Having been to and investigated Willowmore on numerous occasions while researching die oervlakte book, I decided to go and have another look to see if I could find aspects of the town that are not obvious on a first visit. I started off as I always do when entering the town with a cappuchino and something scrumptious to eat at Sophie’s Choice. Decided to try the chicken mayo wrap with a delicious and beautifully presented salad.

The town has some impressive and beautifully restored buildings from a by-gone era that are well worth investigating and inspecting.

The Town Hall: It is believed that the town hall was built around 1896. It was used for a variety of functions, including funerals of prominent people, soirées, plays, wedding receptions and film shows.
Scholtz/Greef Building: The erf was first registered in 1873. The first building, owned by F.W. Baker in 1889, burnt down and the present building was built at a later date.
The Old Gaol: This building was once the police station and prison and is believed to have been built in 1896. It consisted of a hospital cell, hard-labour yard cells, awaiting-trial cells, cells for females and a kitchen. This building has been renovated and is now a luxurious bed & breakfast called The Old Jail
The church was not built during the lifetime of the Grays but between 1876 and 1881 and is the oldest church in Willowmore. This white-wshed church was probably the last of the churches built to a Sophy Gray plan
The Jewish Synagogue: The erf was purchased for the building of a synagogue in 1906 and the foundation stone was laid on 8 April 1907. The Jewish community applied for a loan for the building in 1908 and by 1917 the Willowmore Hebrew congregation had 30 members. The 1930s saw the rise of anti-semitism and in 1937 Dr. D.F. Malan addressed a meeting in the town accusing Jewish shopkeepers of selling goods cheaper to Jews than to Christians. However, the experience of Mr. Freedman, who tendered two years running to the Indigent School Committee for its milk contract, provided another perspective. Although his tender was lower than others, the contract was given to a Mr. Steyn as the School Committee did not feel justified in giving it to a Jew if it could go to an Afrikaner. In 1958 no services were held in Willowmore as the congregation could not make up a minyan (ten men) and the community attended High Holy Day services in Uniondale. By the mid 1960s the synagogue was no longer in use.
The roads in the town are wide and untarred, originally laid out as in many of the small Karoo towns, to accommodate ox wagons and horse drawn carts, the postman still rides his bicycle and delivers post by hand and children have the freedom of the quiet streets.


For me the most extraordinary feature is the way the blue gum trees, planted probably in the late 1800’s, have been cut and how these 130 - odd year old trees send out new growth in this very arid and dry place. Came accross at least 10 of them in the caravan park behind the town hall that had been cut the week before. Only their huge stems and awful looking stumps left trying to reach out to the blue sky. I did have an urge to go out and hug each one of them for the trauma caused, whether it is because they have become too big or because they use too much underground water and are now classed as an alien species.

Sheep/lamb guarding a gate .... or welcoming to enter ....

Eighty year old resident of the town wishing me well on my journey

Back to Sophie’s for an ice cream with chocolate sauce and blueberries before I took the road home, my mind full of new impressions.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

die oervlakte gets a new route - The Kammanassie Route

Three geologists Peter Ginn, Paul Rixom and Colin Ralston, are making this route a reality on
12th and on 26th May 2012 when they will conduct two separate geological tours based on the route identified by Dr. Chris Lee in die oervlakte book. The route will include de Rust, the Swartberg Mountains, the Outeniqua Mountains and on past the Kammanassie Mountains. It has been arranged to gain access to the actual oervlakte on one of the farms in the area. It will be the farm that was used for the photography of the book and the branding of die oervlakte concept.

die oervlakte offers the traveller vistas of unsurpassed landscapes which are unique to the Cape Fold mountains and fertile valleys in all their splendour. Visitors have at their fingertips a range of environmental, geological, cultural and historical information. The different routes bring to life the ecology of the area, the ancient structure of the topography, the culture and the intriguing and sometimes tragic history of the people.

Standing on the Ancient African Surface, one is immediately aware that the surface is covered in pebbles of different sizes, patterns and colours. On closer inspection many appear to have been formed by eons of wind and water abrasions, some seem to be miniature conglomerates and others just pretty stones, but one is overwhelmed by the geological time of the place. Looking down the valley more hills with their thick duricrust tops can be seen, all capped at the same height – giving a glimpse into the millions of years of erosion, accumulation, sediments, dry periods and wet periods of this enchanted, magical place we call the Little Karoo.

Surface at the top covered with pebbles

Formations on the road up to die oervlakte

If one lingers a while, one meets a special traveller – we never know where he comes from or where he is going, but he seems as old as die oervlakte itself. Beautiful patterns adorn his back and he imparts a feeling of things primordial, things permanent and determined. He is either the beautiful angulate, leopard or tent tortoise.”

die oervlakte team are delighted that so soon after the launch of the book, the first spin-off in the area is taking place and that the geology of these magnificent primordial plains will be explored by the public.

We thank the geologists and Wessa for their initiative and are delighted that the money will be going to a fund for conservation and education and that it will stimulate interest in this unique area.

For more information please contact Christine Ridge-Schnaufer
Tel 044 873 4203 | Fax 086 646 5458 |

Published in Die Burger 1 March, 2012