The latest Summerhill Sires brochure, penned in the hot aftermath of their tenth national Breeders’ Championship, ended with a piece on its sister business Hartford House, with a statement which in the heady context of what had just happened, might’ve smacked of exaggeration: “For every goal Summerhill has scored of late, Hartford has banged in two”.Read More
Filtering by Category: Land Of Legends
Leave the world behind... Besides locality, there is another common thread to Summerhill and Hartford House. They were both founded on dreams, widely disparate enterprises with a shared set of values.Read More
I thought everything that had to be said about Wayne Coetzer’s prowess as a hotelier had been said, but this week the GM at The Oyster Box surpassed himself, even by his own lofty standards. Before I elaborate, let me put it into context.Read More
(Photos : Leigh Willson, Amorette Kramer and Michael Nefdt)
Summerhill Group Conference
Summerhill is lucky in its friends and its people. One of our most treasured associations is with a group who call themselves (appropriately,) the Land Of Legends. It is the only collection of properties whose raison d'etre lies in their histories, their culture and their tradition. It was founded by ourselves (Hartford House) and the late David Rattray's Fugitives' Drift Lodge, and these days it includes the The Oyster Box, the Beverley Hills,Fordoun Spa, Rocktail Bay Lodge, Ardmore Ceramics and Phinda Game Reserve. By now you'll have spotted the fact that these are KwaZulu-Natal's pride in hospitality, establishments of legendary repute that rank with the best in the world.
For our twelfth annual conference, we've been hiding out at Bayete camp, deep in the nether regions of Phinda's spectacular bushveld. No cellphone signal, no radios or televisions, no pack drill. And in a matter of days, the Big Five, in every shape or form. Phinda isn't South Africa's finest bush experience for nothing. Authentic, wild, professional, diverse, down-to-earth, riveting. Oh, and luxurious, but at Phinda, luxury is just the journey, not the destination.
Summerhill has faced many challenges in its three decades and more. The rich and the powerful, the cunning and the envious, the enterprising and the resourceful. There was no inheritance at Summerhill, no big business to fund its growth, just relationships and the sacrifice of our people. That means we have to get up that bit earlier in the mornings, we have to box that bit smarter, just to stay in the swim.
These gatherings in the bush are moments of reflection, for galvanising the spirits, and for recharging the batteries. When the stormclouds approach, don't seek shelter. Put on your raincoat, and get back to work. At the end of the day, you have to decide whether you want to spend the rest of your life sipping sugar water, or do you want to change the world? At Summerhill, that's a rhetorical question. We are what we are because our people chose to write their own histories.
By the time the curtain came down on this jamboree Friday morning, I was more convinced than ever that this team is in better shape to deal with the future than any time in our past. Given they already have seven Breeder's titles under their belts, that's some statement. But a few days in the bush reminds me that these are paragons of enthusiasm, good humour and curiosity, Renaissance people in an era that badly needs them.
They've already prepared themselves for the day they come second, and they've already defined the benchmarks by which they want to be measured down the road. This team knows the equations others don't know. Times may be unbelievably tough, but great harvests come from arid sources. Pleasure comes, often enough, from restraint.
The other thing that drives them, is knowing that one day you're going to get beaten. It's the best way of avoiding the trap of thinking you have something to lose; you are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Be a pirate; don't join the navy.
And speaking of challenges, you're not to worry. I know the authors well and I already know how this narrative is going to end. This team will make sure the good guys win.
For more information, please visit:
Hartford House Restaurant
(Photo : Cooked in Africa)
"Steve was lyrical about Jackie Cameron's food"
There are no more recognisable faces in the hospitality trade, than Steve and Nicky Fitzgerald, past bosses of And Beyond (or CC Africa, as it was previously known). Their tenure at And Beyond saw them build that business into the biggest and most innovative safari and wilderness operator in the world. In our own encounters with Nicky, (head of marketing), through our mutual affiliations with the Land Of Legends (www.landoflegends.co.za), a visit to "headquarters" in Johannesburg was like spending a semester at Harvard.
This past weekend, we were privileged to host them at Hartford, together with their dynamic young daughter, Kate. Unsurprisingly, they were their usual ebullient selves; enterprising, interesting and wildly enthusiastic.
The one thing you know about the Fitzgeralds, is that they are forthright and constructive, and so when they say you are doing something right, you should know the size of the compliment. Steve was lyrical about Jackie Cameron's food, and they were generously complimentary about Hartford and its atmosphere. While you'd expect them to notice these things, coming from whence they do, they were quick to remark on the vibrancy of our guests, and especially on the demographic. They couldn't get over the fact that Hartford was packed with young visitors from the corporate, professional and financial sectors, all about "twenty years younger than us!".
By their standards, the "Fitzes" have been quiet of late, but it's a sure bet they're not done yet. Steve loves nothing more than a good deal, and Nicky loves to make it work.
LAND OF LEGENDS
"Legacy of the Zulu Kingdom"
The late David Rattray was mesmerizing company. From the Royal family of Britain, across the waves to Los Angeles in the west and to Hong Kong in the east, he was one of the world's most welcome dinner guests, and when Cheryl Goss embarked upon her life's work, Hartford House, one of the first things we did was to engage with our old mate on the idea
of the formation of the Land Of Legends. That was 1996, and today we host a gathering of the "legends" for the first time in several years.
For those who are unacquainted with the concept, the idea behind the foundation of the Land Of Legends, was to breathe a new awareness of the offerings our region held for visitors to this country. In our hearts, we knew that this was the real Africa, that if you were visiting South Africa, and you wanted to feel its authenticity, its culture, its history and its traditions, you couldn't afford not to include KwaZulu-Natal in your itinerary. Too many travellers would "do" Cape Town and its environs, Kruger and the Eastern Transvaal, Victoria Falls and perhaps a bit of Botswana, but most of these events were packaged into relatively tight modules, and there was little or no contact with the customs, the language, the land, its indigenous architecture and its smells.
In those days, only 4% of our first-time international travellers to South Africa included KwaZulu-Natal on their itineraries, but such was the awareness created by the Land Of Legends, that today the figure is closer to 40%. This is a healthy turnaround, and comes about because the Land Of Legends is the only collection of top quality hospitality and tourism facilities in the world, which is bound by its common interest in culture, history and tradition, and its reverence for the environment.
Gathering at Hartford today are representatives of Phinda Game Reserve, The Oyster Box, The Beverley Hills, Fordoun Hotel and Spa, Rocktail Beach Camp, Hartford House and Fee Berning's celebrated Ardmore Ceramics. That's as august a collection as you'll find anywhere, and it's our privilege to have them on board, together with our recent Ingwazi awardees, the famous conservationist, Dr. Ian Player, and KZN Premier Dr. Zweli Mkhize, who are automatically welcome at any gathering of this clan, as patrons of the organisation.
Friday 22 September 2011
Friday 22nd September is World Rhino Day. It's a signal of the sad world we live in, where man's greed has placed one of the most ancient creatures on earth in danger of extinction.
At the Summerhill Stallion Day just over two months ago, it was Hartford's privilege, together with its associates in the Land Of Legends (www.landoflegends.co.za), to bestow upon the greatest rhino conservationist of them all, Dr. Ian Player, an Ingwazi Award, in recognition not only of his tireless (and remarkably successful) efforts to save the rhino, but for what he's done in the upliftment of all our lives in this region, and elsewhere.
World Rhino Day is special for anyone who lives where we do, and has the slightest understanding of the value of balance in the ecological scheme of things.
"INGWAZI HONOUR GUEST IN THE NEWS"
Sunday, the 3rd July is a big day in the histories of Hartford House and the Land of Legends. We are honouring the Premier of KZN, Dr Zweli Mkhize and Dr Ian Player, the latter of whom is remembered as the saviour or the world's rhino populations. The tireless Ian Player was in the news again this week:
Fifty years after spearheading an international drive to save the white rhino from extinction, world-renowned wildlife conservationist Ian Player has set the cat among the pigeons by calling for an urgent national debate on whether to legalise the controlled trading of rhino horns.
Player - one of the central figures in the 1960's Zululand battle to save the world's last remaining white rhinos from extinction - suggested that re-opening legal trade in horns might be the only way to save the continent’s rhinos from the recent "catastrophic" wave of illegal rhino poaching by syndicates.
"Make no mistake, we are up against some very dark forces which threaten to overwhelm us," he told business people at an anti-poaching fundraiser in Durban Tuesday.
Noting that powdered rhino horn had been used in Oriental traditional medicine for several thousand years, the 84-year-old wildlife ambassador said: "Nothing is going to stop the deep-seated belief systems in the Far East. So we need to debate in all possible forums the merits and demerits of selling these horns legally… In the end, it may be the only way to save the rhino."
Extract from The Mercury
"THE INGWAZI AWARDS"
Summerhill Stud and Hartford House have a long and distinguished record in the upliftment of our communities, and the official opening of the Al Maktoum School of Management Excellence on Investec Stallion Day at Summerhill on the first Sunday of July (3rd July) marks another significant milestone, not only for us, but for the racing and hospitality worlds in general.
It's a well known fact that Summerhill's six consecutive national Breeders' titles, owe much to a programme which has seen some 40 international scholarships awarded to members of our disadvantaged community, and that the beneficiaries have returned not only with a new retinue of skills, but with an entirely new perspective of their own self-worth and where they're headed in life.
Hartford is famously remembered for its traditional dance troupe, ranked third and second respectively in Tokyo and Hong Kong, at international competitions involving more than 140 countries. Less heralded, but just as important, is the culinary educational programme Head Chef, Jackie Cameron, has embarked upon. Some years ago, she recruited into her kitchen several young Zulu ladies of limited education, some of whom were cleaning stables as casuals before they joined her team in the scullery. These budding chefs have worked their way through the ranks, to the point that one represented South Africa four years ago at an international culinary exhibition in Zurich, another jetted to Prague a year later, and in 2010 a third carried the country's colours in Shanghai. In January of this year, Deli Nene, a third generation member of our staff, was proclaimed one of Lever Bros' twelve "Inspiring Chefs", occupying the January page of their 2011 calendar.
As a founder member of the renowned Land of Legends, (the only collection of its kind comprising properties whose "glue" is their celebration of history, tradition and culture), Hartford House is proud to be hosting the first of the "Legends" Ingwazi (Warriors) Awards, in conjunction with Stallion Day at Summerhill. These awards were originated to honour their contributions to life in KwaZulu-Natal of icons of the province, and the first of these goes to Dr Ian Player, one of conservation's most famous sons, and a man who shares our passion for education. The other goes to the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize, who presides over the opening of the School of Excellence on the same day. For the purposes of this article though, we will confine ourselves to Dr Player, who founded the Wilderness Leadership School as long ago as 1963, a foundation which has benefited the lives of people across the racial, cultural and social divides.
The Wilderness Leadership School's origins date back to 1955, however, when the American concept of "wilderness" was first introduced to Dr. Player by a senior game ranger, Jim Feely.
By 1958 half of the Imfolozi Game Reserve (now the Imfolozi-Hluhluwe Game Reserve) and a part of Lake St Lucia, were proclaimed wilderness areas. Access to these places, the first in Africa, was limited to foot, horseback or canoe.
The first group of schoolboys taken on a wilderness trail dates back to 1957, when Dr Player was first acquainted with his colleague and mentor, the late Magqubu Ntombela, a Zulu chief and game guard. They attracted people from across the world to experience the significance of wildlife and its conservation. His career with the old Natal Parks board commenced in 1952, and whilst he was warden of the Imfolozi Game Reserve, he spearheaded two key initiatives :
- Operation Rhino; which saved the last few remaining White Rhino in the world.
- He protected the status of the Imfolozi Wilderness areas, now incorporated into the Smangaliso World Heritage Site.
Hail, Dr Ian. Your presence at the Ingwazi awards, marks a singular moment in the histories of the members of the Land of Legends, which themselves have contributed substantially to the tapestry of the region's heritage.
Proud members of the Land of Legends :
Phinda Private Game Reserve
The Oyster Box
The Beverly Hills
Fordoun Hotel and Spa
Rocktail Beach Camp
Ardmore Ceramic Art
The Oyster Box Hotel
(Photo : Land Of Legends)
"Another flagship destination joins the Land Of Legends"
One of South Africa's leading boutique destinations, the 5-star Oyster Box Hotel, has joined the Land of Legends, a synergistic grouping of premier tourism and lifestyle brands. Situated at Umhlanga Rocks on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, the Oyster Box has consistently been recognised as one of the country's A-list hotels.
The Oyster Box joins other celebrated KwaZulu-Natal legends such as Hartford House near Mooi River (also in the Midlands), Fordoun Hotel & Spa in Nottingham Road in the Midlands, Phinda Private Game Reserve (Zululand), Rocktail Beach Lodge (North Coast), the Beverley Hills Hotel (also Umhlanga Rocks), and Ardmore Ceramic Art near Nottingham Road. The proximity of some of the Land of Legends members might seem surprising, but Richard Bates of Fordoun comments, "Being part of the Land of Legends has always been about the group and not the individual destinations. We all share a commonality that celebrates the history, tradition and distinctive local culture of KwaZulu-Natal. We are all also committed to the upliftment of our people and the celebration and protection of our unique environment."
Land of Legends was formed in 1999, with the aim of promoting KwaZulu-Natal as a tourism option to rival all others, especially to the international market. At the time, just 4% of foreign visitors came to KZN on their first visit to the country, and the province was only the third destination of choice for travellers. A decade later, an impressive 40% include a visit to KZN on their first trip to this country.
The Oyster Box: A Legendary Landmark
The Oyster Box Hotel is certainly a landmark destination. The "grand old lady" of the coastal village of Umhlanga Rocks was built in 1869 and was once a navigational beacon alongside the unmissable lighthouse. Originally a beach cottage known as the 'Oyster Box' (after the abundant oyster beds on the rocks below), it was first converted into a hotel in the 1930's. The main building has undergone a number of changes since then, with the most notable architectural changes occurring during the 1950's.
Following an extensive two-year rebuild, the Oyster Box, having retained all the luxurious comforts, elegance and charm of a bygone era, re-opened in 2009. The new owner, the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, has gone to great lengths to preserve the original character and allure of the hotel during the restoration project, while incorporating state-of-the-art technology to bring this legend into the 21st century. A number of the original landmarks remain, including the grand revolving door at the entrance, the reception and foyer's distinctive black and white terrazzo tiles, an imposing wrought-iron balustrade and original, inlaid hand-painted tiles and murals. History has been interwoven with essential modern touches to satisfy the business and leisure guests that visit this acclaimed hotel.
Land of Legends - Legacy of the Zulu Kingdom
"PLAY IT AGAIN SAM : HARTFORD TOPS AGAIN"
There was a time not long ago, when KwaZulu Natal ranked as the poor third cousin in the eyes of international travellers in particular. That's changed in recent years, and if the outcome of the House and Leisure / Visa Best of SA competition is anything to judge our province by, it seems the world has finally awakened to the beauty and diversity of this spectacular region.
Within the walls of the province, there has long existed an intimate collection of hospitality properties known as the Land Of Legends, whose common glue is their celebration of culture, tradition and history, and their outstanding records of social upliftment and environmental preservation. These establishments include Hartford House, Phinda Private Game Reserve, Fordoun Hotel and Spa,the Beverley Hills Hotel and Rocktail Beach Camp, and the first three of these recently made the final five in each of their respective categories in the House and Leisure / Visa Best of SA competition.
Given that the best names in South African hospitality were among the finalists in each category, it's not only a wonderful tribute to the Land Of Legends in general and these properties specifically, but it's a compliment to the depth and diversity of KwaZulu Natal's offerings, that all three were voted national winners by the readers of South Africa's most popular lifestyle magazine, for the second consecutive year.
Hartford House topped the podium as the nation's best restaurant in that category, which included the The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francaise and Le Colombe at Constantia Uitsig, both of which rank in the World Top Fifty. Some achievement for celebrity chef, Jackie Cameron, and her team, considering the remoteness of their locality, 10kms on the Giants Castle side of Mooi River.
Hardly surprising, for their well established reputation for excellence, was the Phinda Homestead Lodge's top spot in the Best Of SA Lodge category, and here again, we should be mindful that the finalists included Ivory Lodge, Singita Sweni Lodge and Makanyane Safari Lodge.
In the Spa category, there were two KwaZulu Natal-based properties amongst the finalists, Fordoun Hotel and Spa and the Karkloof Spa, with the outstanding Nottingham Road-based Fordoun the voter's favourite for a second time.
While the voting was not confined to South African readers alone, the outcomes were probably as much a statement about the excellence of these KwaZulu Natal establishments, as they were for the values South Africans treasure most : excellent quality, great dependability and outstanding value, and the fact that increasingly, modern travellers have originality, authenticity and genuine hospitality at the top of their shopping lists, in the choice of where they eat and where they choose to stay.
(Photos : Paula Mackenzie)
Some years ago, we teamed up with the late great David Rattray and his wife Nicky, to form what is now popularly known as the Land Of Legends. Our purpose was to highlight the virtues of some of the finest properties in hospitality, but specifically the best in the land of the Zulu. In those days, only 4% of the international traffic patronising our respective hostelries included KwaZulu Natal on their first visit to South Africa, and the success of this venture lies in the fact that today, this figure is closer to 40%.
But then, the local offering is quite extraordinary, and this turn of events comes as little surprise to those who know the diversity, the history and the culture of our region. Couple that with the fact that 2009/10 House and Leisure/Visa Best Of South African Awards recognised the Hartford Restaurant as the best in the land, the Phinda Homestead Lodge as number one in its category, and Fordoun's Spa as the standard bearer too, and you realise that there's not much left that wasn't covered by our membership, in the realm of national hospitality establishments.
You can take none of these things for granted though, and unless you keep the propaganda flowing, you quickly join the ranks of the forgotten. Ordinarily, we wouldn't be so pretentious as to speak for others, but with a long association with the Cape ourselves, this is a topic on which we have some understanding, having lived there and been partly educated there in our own time. We tend to forget sometimes when we live in the "mother" territory, that there is life beyond the Hottentots-Holland mountains, and sometimes, when it comes to the other side of Drakensberg, we can be quite oblivious.
So last week, the "Legends" took their products to the Western Cape to share the delights of their local properties with journos, travel agents and corporate representatives. It had been raining for a week before we got there, and then the "Sunshine Boys" turned up. What a glorious day in glorious surrounds, from The Vineyard to Waterford, in glorious old cars.