Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses.

Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated at Summerhill Stud on the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander, South Africa.

Filtering by Category: Midlands Meander Accommodation

Brookdale Health Hydro - A World Class Experience

I am reluctant to admit that it’s only recently that I made a long-overdue visit to Brookdale Health Hydro. It was a birthday gift for my mother’s - and she really deserved to join the many people who, since 1992, have been escaping from daily pressures and revitalising body, mind and soul at this KwaZulu-Natal haven - a tranquil sanctuary that promotes holistic recuperation.
Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

Brookdale is not a spa but a 'real' hydro; having never stayed at a hydro, I learnt this very quickly - and imagine my shock and horror when I was told that even if it was a birthday celebration there was no chance of popping a bottle of bubbly - not even a gin and tonic on a Sunday afternoon! Instead we were served a cup of ginger, cinnamon and lemon infusion. If you read between the lines you’ll detect a distinct lack of enthusiasm! While sipping on our tea my mom and I reminisced on previous indulgent birthday celebrations and we, with trepidation, wondered what we'd got ourselves into.

That evening we were briefed about the day's activities and it was only then that I realised some people stayed for the three days while others opted for the six-night rejuvenating package. At that stage I was pretty relieved that we had only booked for three days because I was already wondering how I was going to manage three full coffee-free days. I started conjuring up great plans to smuggle coffee into Brookdale. It was clearly evident who the regular guests were; they were already in their robes and comfy slippers - unlike us who were still in our party frocks!

Spa treatments, yoga, pilates, sundecks, indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, juice bar, outdoor pool, labyrinth, fully-equipped gym, private mosaic steam room and hydrotherapy baths... we were spoilt for choice. I was fast getting into this. There was a lot I hadn't tried before and my mother is always game for anything so I thought I'd better keep up with her over the next few days.

The advent of dinner saw my anxiety re-arise. What was I going to have to eat? Then I remembered my Heavenly & Healthy Foods - Brookdale's 21 Days to a Healthy Lifestyle. It's a cookbook on my bookshelf at home. The recipes and the pictures looked scrumptiously healthy and I was now keen to experience a hydro meal plan - to see whether the lettuce-leaves and carrot-sticks perception held true. Well, from my first mouthful - the most delicious, thick, farmhouse, vegetable soup - to the last breakfast, every mouthful was filled with love. Juliet Stephenson and her team are a remarkable force. Many of our top restaurants lack the quality of professionalism that you can expect at Brookdale, where you’ll find an authentic concern for everyone's wellbeing. Each meal is a  tasty explosion, yet they scream health as do the well-balanced, inspiring afternoon snacks. I loved the fresh, crispy Granny Smith apples with peanut butter - not a carrot stick or lettuce leaf in sight; only freshly-picked herbs, the freshest of fresh vegetables and top-quality, free-range KwaZulu-Natal Midlands meats. My eating patterns are true to most chefs and I realised I needed to re-look my diet. My mom and I were overwhelmed with the abundance of food. Lunch was the main meal of the day; dinner was light and I appreciated getting up from the dining room table knowing that I had eaten only 'good, fresh and healthy'. Our specific daily starch, vegetable and meat requirements had been analysed and balanced. This took dining to a completely different level.

All activities were geared to wellness and lifestyle management through diet, exercise and stress relief. The staff exceeded our expectations,

Gemma Dawn, in particular, stood out as not only someone I know from the area but as a person who was eager to share her knowledge. She conducted our aqua aerobics classes. I wish Gemma, the indoor pool and I were in closer proximity so I could do this daily. Fifteen minutes in the pool is equivalent to a 45-minutes workout on land. Now that's time management!

So impressed with the food was I that I asked Juliet's permission to showcase a few of her recipes in this column. These are just a taster to whet your appetite for a Brookdale visit where you’ll learn to cook with interesting textures and in-season ingredients. Your family won’t even question your new health kick because your meals will taste so good.

Brookdale's team supplied all the photos and some of their recipes include:

Whole-wheat scones served with avocado, pumpkin seed pesto and smoked salmon.

Baked oats with cinnamon crusted apples. I add cinnamon to as much as possible; it got me through three days of no coffee! I loved the crusted-apples suggestion. I may use it for a light-dessert option - a new take on apple crumble.

Wheat-free mixed berry, almond and polenta cake specifically for those who are gluten intolerant but ideal for all palates. I like it served in a new-age, stylish tin cup.

Ostrich moussaka stack with a lemon-herb yoghurt drizzle. Ostrich is lean and easy to digest. It is fast becoming available in our local groceries stores. I could eat yoghurt breakfast, lunch and dinner so I like the fact that it is used in many of the recipes - so much better than a lemon-butter sauce.

Roasted-vegetable cottage pie with sweet-potato mash is an interesting twist to this age-old dish. I like to add chickpeas too.

Lasagne - think vegetable and bean which can be made with corn or rice pasta for those who are gluten intolerant. I'm going through a bean phase and returned from my recent American trip with a variety of packets for my sous chef, Elaine Boshoff, and me to work with.

Recipes

Asparagus & Strawberry Salad
Baked Oats with Cinnamon Crusted Apples
Beetroot with Fresh Orange Segments & Mint
Mixed Berry & Almond Polenta Cake
Ostrich Moussaka Stack
Roasted Vegetable Cottage Pie
Vegetable & Bean Lasagne
Whole Wheat Scones

The three days went by so fast... I could hardly remember my initial apprehension and was sad to be leaving. I don't remember ever being so well rested. The treatments were the cherry on the top - they induced complete relaxation, with the therapists really listening to my personal needs. Brookdale placed me on a level which I would never have reached on my own. It's not a luxury; it's a necessity and I shall certainly return. There's no better way to kick start a healthy living plan than to spend a few days at Brookdale.

On the way home my mother bought a box of green tea; if she could do without coffee for three days she was going to kick her old bad habit. I drink mostly tea these days and have been pretty good when it comes to my eating habits - in fact I have impressed myself! Thanks

Tony and Wendy Somers-Cox as well as their team for a world-class experience. I will be back - six nights for sure and who cares about coffee, bubbles and all those terrible temptations when you can leave a place feeling rejuvenated, healthy, slimmer and ready to take on the world. The Brookdale bite has bitten.

www.brookdale.co.za

Send comments and food-related questions to jackie@hartford.co.za. I always look forward to hearing from you. For the latest on local foodie news add me as a friend on FACEBOOK, find me on Twitter - jackie_cameron and visit my website, www.jackiecameron.co.za.

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef
Hartford House
www.hartford.co.za
jackie@hartford.co.za
+27 33 263 2713

 

ONE OF AFRICA'S MOST TREASURED LEGACIES

ezulweni lake suites, hartford house, kwazulu natal, south africa

Ezulweni Lake Suites, Hartford House
(Photo : Felicity Hayward)

EXTRACT FROM THE CAPE TIMES : TRAVEL

The Gosses, owners of Hartford House, humbly refer to themselves as "custodians of one of Africa's most treasured legacies". General Botha assumed command of the Boer forces here in 1899, and it was also home to the family of Sir Frederick Moor, the last prime minister of the Colony of Natal.

The deputy prime minister, Colonel Richards, established the world-renowned Summerhill Stud on the property, which today hosts stallions for the Rulers of Dubai. Aside from all this history, the Gosses also rightly revel in the beauty of this spectacular place... and so will you.

Spread across seemingly endless landscaped garden, the 14 rooms have been decorated with dark wood antiques from India and West Africa. Scraping my jaw off the floor, I surveyed the four lakeside suites which are nothing short of spectacular. I was especially taken with the aptly-named Siyabonga Suite ("thank you" in isiZulu) with its twin egg baths and private pool. The beaded chair, the wooden cow heads on the wall and the building materials are all locally sourced.

An emperor-sized round bed dominates the Inkanyezi Suite, while the Nhlanhla Suite ("good luck") combines Burmese antiques with bold green and rich red furnishings and a bright copper bath glints in the bathroom. Made entirely out of hay bales, this amazing example of sustainable luxury accommodation is so close to the lake it is practically floating.

Oh, and by the way, the restaurant I dined in (after my Swedish massage) was in the top 10 at the 2009 Dine Awards. Just go.

Rooms : 15 - four lakeside suites all king with bath and wet room; four garden/pool suites all with bath and shower; three standard kings with bath and shower and three twins with bath and shower.

Prices : R840 - R1555. Meals : Full three-course breakfast included. A la carte lunch and five-course set dinner.

HORSE AND LEISURE WITH TRUFFLEPIG THE SOUNDER

The Summerhill / Hartford Estate / Robyn Hodson (p)

The Summerhill / Hartford Estate / Robyn Hodson (p)

"HARTFORD HOUSE IS FOR ADULTS, ESPECIALLY AFFLUENT ONES WHO LOVE EATING."

Following is an article which appears on the travel website, Trufflepig : The Sounder, written by the ever so eloquent travel writer and editor for justtheplanet.comRobyn Hodson. Trufflepig describes Robyn as a writer, who when not eating like a horse or riding off into African sunset, takes the time to write for The Sounder.

"Sweeping up the driveway toward Hartford House and looking out over the undulating emerald pastureland you know you’re in for something special. The history of the farm dates way back to Queen Victoria, and the British Royal Family famously accepted their copy of the Treaty of Vereeniging (ending the Anglo Boer War in 1902) on its balcony in 1922. It’s the colonial country house equivalent of one of the magnificent champion thoroughbreds sired on its property: a thing of beauty and grace… standing proud under big African skies ‘neath the shade of the dramatic Drakensberg Mountain Range.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: Hartford House is for adults. Especially affluent ones who love eating. If you’re on a diet I’d suggest driving right on by as it’s all about the food and people come from far and wide to sample their home-grown cuisine. It’s where you really get to test your inner ‘Mr Creosote’ and it would be wrong to pitch up and not partake of every last mouth-watering morsel on its sensational menu.

As you’ll need to be fork-lifted out of the restaurant, it’s a good thing Hartford House boasts 14 luxury suites – I stayed in one by the lake named Siyabonga (‘give thanks to’ in Zulu). And yes, I promptly gave thanks all over the show for my private pool, under-floor heating, luxurious linens and bathroom with not one but TWO enormous tubs!

There is so much to do in the area. A truly Hartford experience includes a ride or wander around the famous stud farm, a treatment at the wellness centre, trips to Giant’s Castle, drives through the Midlands Meander (a local art-and-craft route)… or curl up with a book in the sunshine on the rambling, wrap-around veranda just like a lazy pussycat.

My view: get there fast… it’s only a matter of time before the racehorses wise up to their inferior stable accommodation and you find one soaking in the bathtub or sneaking into the pantry."

trufflepig link

Ardmore Ceramic Art - The Summerhill Collection

summerhill stud ardmore ceramic collection

Summerhill Stallion Day
"The day after the Vodacom Durban July"

What has become as much a tradition as the Vodacom Durban July itself, the annual Summerhill Stallion Day dubbed "Racing's Greatest Day Out", is always a grand occasion where the who's who of racing descend on Summerhill Stud to pay homage to some of Africa's most exciting Thoroughbred Stallion prospects.

Quite fitting then that this year's event will witness the teaming up of two formidable forces in their own fields, in a celebration of excellence and dedication.

South Africa’s premier ceramic studio, Ardmore Ceramic Art, and South Africa’s Champion Thoroughbred Breeder, Summerhill Stud, will unveil an exciting new Ardmore ceramic collection inspired by the horses, people and nature at Summerhill.

The Ardmore artists have created Staffordshire-like everyday farm scenes including Summerhill Stallions walking the lands, yearlings being bandaged, foals being born and Ready to Run graduates galloping to victory.

Most of Ardmore’s 80 artists live in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal steeped in tradition, where music, song and dance prevail. After two successful London sales held in 2004 and 2007, Christie’s labeled Ardmore “a modern day collectable”. Collectors around the world love Ardmore’s distinctive style - a fusion of African, Western and Eastern form and design embellished with sculptural African fauna and flora and painted in a kaleidoscope of colour.

Ardmore’s talented artists create with passion and freedom and many have intuitively found their own style. The decorative collectibles have an elegant charm as has the work of the realists who are inspired by nature. The exotic naturalists add an artistic fantasy to their painting. Then, there are the free spirits whose sculpture and painting is expressive of their imagination and is without inhibition or apology. Lastly, the ‘Storytellers’ incorporate the human figure as they sculpt and paint Zulu cultural and social events.

A percentage of Ardmore sales is contributed to The Excellence Fund, a non-profit organization that also receives donations from many people worldwide. The Excellence Fund assists the artists to advance their education and skills training, and provides health care. In the current economic situation marked by rising unemployment and health care costs, the role of the Excellence Fund is critically important.

The artists are proud of their achievements and are known amongst their community as the “isgwili” (fortunate ones).

So if you’re going to be at the Summerhill Stallion Day on Sunday, you’re in for a real treat... where the ceramicists have traded in their zebra stripes for the racing thoroughbred.

Marsh Shirtliff, Mike and Carol Bass make the Pilgrimage

mike and carol bass with marsh shirtliff at hartford house

Mike and Carol Bass with Marsh Shirtliff pictured awaiting their famous
Hartford salmon omelettes
(Photo : Leigh Willson)

With the 2009 renewal of Africa's greatest horserace, the Vodacom Durban July, now just a few days away, we have already welcomed an array of racing's eminent personalities through the gates of Hartford.

One of whom is Marsh Shirtliff. Marshis not a superstitious man, not as far as we know, yet he does know that there hasn’t been a July winner in the past twenty years whose connections have not made it to Summerhill for the July, or at the very least, for our Stallion Day on the Sunday afterwards. The trick is either to make it beforehand or to make sure you’ve accepted the invitation in advance for Stallion Day, otherwise you risk taking on history. So Marsh dragged Mike and Carol Bass to the farm on a spectacular Sunday morning, and they took up their lodgings in the Inkanyezi and Nhlanhla suites while the Bass stable was cleaning up in the big events in Cape Town.

Logic tell us Pocket Power is a shoe-in for the big race, but Mike Bass (and you’d better be listening, if you intend having an interest in the big event next Saturday) thinks River Jetez is twice the filly she was last season. Let’s not forget what a big race she ran in the 2008 Vodacom Durban July, and if she’s twice as good as that, Pocket Power himself will need to have made some improvement to keep her out. And that he undoubtedly has, having had a trouble free “prep” for the first time in his life.

Of course, with three of our own in the line-up, it would be uncharitable of us not to wish them everything of the best, but we really hope that if either of them fluff their lines, the gates will open for Thandolwami, Outcome or Catmandu.

THE “REVENGE” SERIES

British & Irish Lions vs Springboks / Lions Rugby/SA Rugby (p)

British & Irish Lions vs Springboks / Lions Rugby/SA Rugby (p)

"IT’S NOT JUST A WINE WEEKEND; THERE’S BIG RUGBY IN THE OFFING"

You’ve already read that the Winery ofGood Hope is bringing one of the world’s celebrated sommeliers Mia Martensson, to one of Africa’s most celebrated restaurants next Saturday evening. There’s been a clamour for places at the inn, and we’re running short of accommodation quickly.

Enough of that though; it’s one of the biggest rugby weekends of the year, as South Africa take on the British Lions on Saturday 19th June at Kings Park in what the media have dubbed the “revenge series”. It was at Kings Park in 1997 that we witnessed the downfall of the Springboks at the hands of that year’s touring Lions, remember.

South Africa’s best morning read, The Witness is one of Hartford’s greatest admirers, and they have not let us down on the eve of this big event. Not only have they booked the hotel out for Friday evening, they’re also bringing with them one of rugby’s most famous television personalities, Dan Retief, who’ll be here to regale us with his stories and his predictions.

We’re sorry this one’s already a sell-out, but for those of you who are Hartford aficionados, we still have just a few places for the Friday evening before the Vodacom July when we’ll be hosting some of racing’s biggest names. That of course is a whole weekend affair which stretches from a wine evening with the fabled Waterford Estate on the Friday, a day in the Summerhill box at the Durban Turf Club’s Greyville racecourse on the Saturday for the “big one”, and then for “Racing's Biggest Day Out”, the Summerhill Stallion Day on the farm, which hosted fourteen different nations in attendance last year. Again, these events require prior booking, as they are invariably sell-outs, so if you’re wanting us to help you avoid the disappointment of missing out, please give us a ring as soon as convenient.

Unveiling of South African “Horse Memorial”

british war horses

British War Horse Hospital
(Illustration : Fortunino Matania)

A memorial to horses, mules and other animals killed in service during human conflicts and particularly the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, is to be unveiled at Weston Agricultural College near Mooi River in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, on 31 May 2009. The memorial is apparently one of only four in the world: the others are located in Port Elizabeth, Argentina and Britain.

Weston Farm and Weston Common were the site of the British Army’s Number 7 Remount Depot, in service from 1899-1913 and used during the South African War of 1899 -1902. It also served during the 1906 Bhambatha Rebellion. An estimated 30 000 horses and mules are believed to have been buried on the farmlands in the area, with thousands of these graves located on the farm where Weston Agricultural College, one of the area’s leading high schools, is situated.

Weston College farm manager Warren Loader, a military history enthusiast, and Jeannine Tait, history teacher and museum curator, believed that it would be fitting for military – and public – recognition to be given to animals lost in battles fought in this and other regions.

The Horses

“The memorial is not only in recognition of the thousands of British Army horses who arrived at Weston Remount Depot to be broken in and/or recover from the weeks-long sea and train journeys that brought them here, but also pays tribute to the thousands of Boer horses who served loyally alongside their masters during the Anglo-Boer,” says Paul Tait, Weston’s Principal.

Mounts for the British Army were brought to South Africa from Argentina, and suffered terribly during the sea voyage, with an estimated 13 000 dying before they even landed in Durban. Mules also paid a vital part in the war, and were imported for military purposes from America for the first time, also suffering terrible losses. Of 150 000 mules purchased, some 50 000 perished. Animals injured during battle were brought to Weston to recover from their wounds.

Boer mounts were hardy non-Thoroughbreds that could live off meagre grazing and travel for many miles a day. An assessment of the Boer ponies by an English source, concluded, “He is a hardy, in some essential respects a disease-proof, animal; his life has been largely spent in the open. Limited fare has rendered him both economical in use and an excellent forager...He is docile, hardy and wary, but small and frequently plain; he is light in both body and limbs, which leaves the impression that he is not up to the weight of the British soldier, although he mostly carries a man whose body weight is greater than that of the average mounted British soldier.”

The Memorial

Evidence of Weston’s history can be found daily, with horseshoes, buckles, bottles and other artefacts being unearthed all the time. The memorial has been designed in a horseshoe shape, mounted by an obelisk-shaped monument created out of old horseshoes found on the farm. The inverted horseshoes of this centrepiece are in keeping with the tradition at a cavalryman’s funeral, where his boots are reversed in the stirrups on his horse. The structure is topped with a specially crafted bronze statue of a horse that is the work of Weston old boy and acclaimed Midlands artist, Kim Goodwin. The monument is backed by a Wall of Remembrance where plaques commemorating the animals lost in the battle will be mounted. A box containing some bones of horses buried on the farm will be placed within the Wall of Remembrance.

The entire monument will be surrounded by shells donated by the Natal Mounted Rifles, one of the regiments to be present at the unveiling, which takes place on Sunday 31 May at 2.10pm. This is the exact time when the ceasefire between Boer and British was signed in 1902, when the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging was agreed.

Weston College will host the consecration ceremony, assisted by the Cavalry Association, representing traditional mounted regiments, and the Natal Mounted Rifles (NMR) and Umvoti Mounted Rifles (UMR). Regiments have been invited to display their Colours and flags of the day will be flown at half-mast. A mounted Guard of Honour will be in attendance.

Fun Day

The unveiling of the memorial will be the highlight of a public open day at Weston, starting at 9am, with various horse-related activities such as dressage and carriage-driving displays, tent-pegging by the UMR team, battle re-enactments by the Dundee Diehards, pony club demonstrations, talks by battlefields' tour guides and historians Ken Gillings and Maureen Richards, tours of the College (including its museum and significant heritage sites on the property), plus static displays by the Society for Preservation of Militaria and others. A commemorative booklet will be on sale on the day.

Weston’s Long History

In the 1800s, the town of Mooi River as we know it today did not exist. Instead, the village of Weston, laid out in 1866 and named after Martin West, the first Governor of Natal, was the centre of human settlement, with a store, a post office, a pound and a hotel.

At the end of 1898, mounted troops from Pietermaritzburg were sent to Weston to protect their horses from the deadly horse sickness that flourished in warm, wet conditions. In mid-1899, the 18th Hussars, the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment, and a brigade of the RFA from Ladysmith were sent to camp at Weston to avoid the enteric fever that was rife in Ladysmith. When the Anglo-Boer War broke out in the latter part of that year, the Imperial authorities established a Remount Depot on the thousands of hectares of commonage near Weston, with the land being leased to the War Department.

Many of the original wood and iron buildings built for the remount depot remain in use. Three are provincial heritage sites – the officers’ mess, the commanding officer’s house, and a house built for doctors and nursing quarters for staff at Mooi River’s 600-bed, tented hospital. A 200-horse stable block, panelled stables for officer’s horses, old feed sheds and the original toll-house/post office (built in 1854 and today the farm stall), are in daily use. Some of the original red-brick College buildings were built in 1914.

Weston Agricultural College, its museum and the Horse Memorial are on the Midlands Meander tourist route, and as such are open to the public.

Weston Agricultural College

The College has a long-standing reputation as a learning establishment, with pupils combining an excellent academic education with hands-on farming experience in a genuine, sustained agricultural setting. As an operating farm, Weston is entirely self-sufficient and there are numerous farming enterprises underway on its 1200 hectare extent, set within a region with a rich farming heritage (dairy farming, cattle, potatoes, mealies, and world-class equine stud farms are just some of the agricultural enterprises that the area is known for). Surrounded by such a strong sense of history, many pupils become keen military history enthusiasts and trips to nearby battlefields are enjoyed. Horsemanship, too, continues to play a leading role, with the school producing many polo players of note.

A Memorial Ball will be held on Saturday 30 May at the college. The gate-fee for Sunday’s entertainment and the unveiling of the memorial is R5 per person.

Should you require further information, contact the school on +27 (033) 263-1328.

DRAKENSBERG BOYS' CHOIR

   
DRAKENSBERG BOYS' CHOIR

"Could this be the best Boys Choir in the world?"

We’re fortunate at Hartford House in the many visitors that travel thousands of miles to visit us, and the tapestry of cultures they represent. People come from across the world to stay at the “jewelled buckle” of the KZN midlands, some of them connoisseurs of the arts and music, others with uninitiated curiosities of what this spectacular part of the world has to offer.

However, the one thing they all have in common, once they’ve made their first pilgrimage to the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir (an enchanting 45 minute drive into the Champagne Valley), is that this is an irresistible option for all comers. Even the Viennese, who have a proprietary interest in protecting the status of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, concede that the diversity and the talent on display, at times, eclipses the lofty standards set by their own, and for those who are with us on a Wednesday during school term time, this is a must.

To most of our guests, we recommend an early breakfast and a drive over the Drakensberg through the gloriously coloured cliffs of the Golden Gate National Park, and then to Clarens, a village not much bigger than Mooi River, but unmistakably the art capital of South Africa. Clarens is home to more than thirty art galleries, and is the starting place for most of South Africa’s young artistic talent. It’s in the bottommost most corner of the south eastern Free State, and apart from being one of the great journeys of South Africa, it’s a convenient distance back to the Boys Choir, whose shows start at 3:30pm. These exhibitions are generally over by 5pm, and it’s a comfortable meander back to Hartford, in time for a shower or a lazy bath, before dinner. Some dinner too, in a national Top Ten restaurant.

And then, if you’re with us through Saturday evening, we have another surprise for you.

www.dbchoir.co.za

THE TREASURED GETAWAY

Panjandrum Dam / Hartford House

Panjandrum Dam / Hartford House

Life in Africa really is a paradox. Every evening at home, we tune into Sky channel to catch up with what’s happening elsewhere in the world. The talk is quite depressing, and if it’s not war, it’s the financial crisis. On the other hand, we look at our guests at Hartford House and we see people from England, California, Scotland, Ireland, the USA and Australia, and we’re heartened that they take such trouble and travel so far to visit us. Truth is, more than ever, international travellers are looking for value destinations these days, and with the Rand trading in the vicinity of 10 to the dollar, you get no better bang for your buck than here in South Africa in general, and at Hartford especially.

In the last fortnight, we were honoured with the visit of an octet of some of the world’s top businessmen, who flew in from three different countries on three different private jets, and while the nature of their visit was private to the degree of their remaining largely anonymous, they proclaimed Hartford one of the best hotels in the world. Coming from people who can obviously afford to stay anywhere at any price, this is as rich a compliment as any hotel could wish for. It says something for our people, where they come from, and where they still have go. Hartford is very much a work in progress as far as its people are concerned, and the exciting thing is, we’ve still got so much to learn and so much to give.

At least one of them though, the celebrated anchor of NBC’s Nightly News, Tom Brokaw, broke (excuse the pun!) his veil of secrecy when his account of their African pilgrimage was posted on YouTube (click here to watch). Here’s a man who’s traversed the length and breadth of the planet, spoken to kings, queens and presidents, yet had the time to reflect on his “Zulu” experience.

We have some treasured friends in residence as we write, one of whom, Angus Gold, is the personal emissary of the Rulers of Dubai. Angus was instrumental in bringing about Sheikh Hamdan's substantial investment in bloodstock at Summerhill two decades ago this year, and he is one of our firmest friends. Our lives light up when he gets here, and his departure leaves something of a hole, though for those who’ve had to stay up at night, it’s an opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep!

Also aboard at the moment is a legend of the South African business environment in Freddy Hirsch, arguably South Africa’s best known dealer in spices. Freddy is here as the guest of Eskort Bacon factory, celebrating his 80th birthday, and he’s in remarkably good shape. He survived a primary school education in the company of another of our great friends and horse racing colleagues, Graham Beck, (who’s lived life to a degree few of us could imagine,) and Freddy’s built a business empire of astounding proportions. Interestingly, the founders of Hartford, the Moor family (who spawned the last Prime Minister of the Colony as well as a Senator in the first South African government) were also co-founders of the Eskort Bacon factory and what is now known as NCD Dairies, the biggest dairy business on the continent. The visitations by Arnold Prinsloo, CEO of Eskort, and his cohorts are something of a homecoming for us.