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 Tag: KwaZulu Natal

A VOICE FROM THE PAST

Winston Churchill in Laurenco Marques

Winston Churchill looks pleased with himself - dressed  in civvies astride a horse. And, he probably has every right to be,  after making a daring escape from Pretoria to Lourenco Marques, now  Maputo, at the height of the Boer War.
(Photo : Sunday Times)

"A unique photograph of Churchill after he had escaped from Boer captivity, surfaced in the Sunday Times"

Farm tours at Summerhill Stud and Hartford House are popular items. Students of history, fans of racing and those who are mesmerized by the Midlands and the mystique of our sport, travel from as far afield as Johannesburg for the day, take in the tour and a bit of lunch at the nation's Number One restaurant, before they are back on the N3 northbound.

Others prefer to do it the leisurely way, and they check in for a couple of nights at Hartford. While we'd recommend the latter for its relaxation, we'd not want to deny you the pleasure, either way.

If you've done the tour, you'd know that in the summer of 1899, a young Winston Churchill was a visitor to the Moors of Hartford. We all know too, of his capture up the road from us, and his presence at the mother of all battles, Spioenkop. Remarkably, on Spioenkop that day (just 45 minutes from us,) and drawn together by dint of the peculiar attractions of our region, were five of the most influential people of the 20th century. Louis Botha, the first Prime Minister of South Africa, (who together with Hartford'sSir Frederick Moor and his brother, John (the former a colonial Prime Minister, and the latter a senator in the first South African government, attended a class of just 10 students at Hermansburg Junior School;) Denys Reitz, former Deputy Prime Minister of South Africa and later a Field Marshall in the British army, he was there; our man, Jan Smuts, the man the world chose to write the charters for the League of Nations and the United Nations after the respective World Wars, and the man Churchill appointed as his successor in the war cabinet should anything have become of him, he was there. In the pantheon of great South Africans, you'd have Smuts up there with Nelson Mandela, who ironically was captured just to the south of us seventy two years later; Winston Churchill himself, later to become Prime Minster of England and arguably the greatest Englishman of all-time, he was on Spioenkop that day; and amazingly, the man who liberated India in 1947, Mahatma Ghandi, was there as a stretcher bearer.

Just recently, a unique photograph of Churchill after he had escaped from Boer captivity, surfaced in the Sunday Times. It's apparently coming up for auction in England shortly, and there's been a bit of a story about it. It turns out the picture was taken in our immediate vicinity, after Churchill's escape from Boer custody.

From 1896 to 1897 Churchill served as a soldier and journalist in India. In September 1898 he fought at the battle of Omdurman in Sudan, taking part in what is often described as one of the last true cavalry charges. In 1899, he resigned his commission, and was assigned to cover the Boer War for the London Morning Post.

In October that year he accompanied a scouting expedition in an armoured train near Ladysmith, in what was then Natal, but was captured by the Boers. Although he was a war correspondent, he was armed with a pistol when captured, so was treated as a prisoner of war and held in what had been the Staats Model Skool in central Pretoria.

Churchill managed to escape, and the Boers put a £25 price on his head. Travelling by foot and train - where he hid under coal sacks - he eventually reached safety, 480km away, in Portuguese-controlled Lourenço Marques. The escape made him a celebrity back in Britain and he was elected to parliament in 1900.

GATHERING OF THE LEGENDS

Land of Legends - Legacy of the Zulu Kingdom

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.

land of legends

NEW 7 WONDERS OF NATURE

Table Mountain - New 7 Wonders of Nature / TerraNova (p)

Table Mountain - New 7 Wonders of Nature / TerraNova (p)

"It's a Wonderful World..."

It's a universal fact that you can't speak of the world's most beautiful places without accounting for South Africa. There are many who believe that our valleys and hills are the  most enchanting farmland on the planet; others point to the Drakensberg and the Golden Gate National Park, while we'd challenge anyone to reveal a more spectacular coastline anywhere in the world, than our neighbouring Wild Coast. And then we have our wild places, Northern Zululand and Mpumalanga, and a Karoo that makes the Outback look ordinary. The winelands of the Cape have no competition in the world of viticulture, and just this week the New Seven Wonders Foundation identified Table Mountain as one of only seven new wonders of nature. It's in good company; the Amazon, Halong Bay, Iguazu Falls, Jeju Island, Komodo and Puerto Princesa Underground River.

A tough contest when places like our district's Drakensberg Mountains, Kosi Bay, Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta etc missed the cut. You can excuse the organisers for omitting the Wild Coast - it's so inaccessible, it's unlikely any of them has ever been near it. And that's the prime reason why it remains one of the last natural beauties of the world.

In an independent impact report conducted by Grant Thornton, a leading tourism, hospitality and leisure research company, it was predicted that a R1.4 billion annual tourism return can be expected for South Africa. Basing their projections on the New 7 Wonders of Nature, in which a 100 million votes were cast worldwide, Grant Thornton estimate that tourism could increase by as much as 20% as a result of this latest finding.

While Hartford House remains one of the nation's favourite destinations, if Grant Thornton are right, we have something to look forward to.

KZN WINTER SNOWS - IN ALL THEIR ICY GLORY

Winter Snows
(Photos : Leigh Willson)

Greater Summerhill / Hartford Estate
Mooi River, KwaZulu Natal

The Winter Snows have descended upon the Drakensberg mountain range in all their icy glory.  Here are a few photos of the greater Summerhill / Hartford estate;  powder-covered.

hartford house logo

For more information please visit :
www.hartford.co.za

DR IAN PLAYER CALLS FOR RHINO HORN TRADE DEBATE

The Endangered Rhino / Land Rover (p)

The Endangered Rhino / Land Rover (p)

"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

DELI NENE : UNILEVER INSPIRING CHEF FOR 2010-2011

chef deli nene

Chef Deli Nene
(Photo : Patrick Royal)

"THIS IS WHAT GETS US UP IN THE MORNINGS"

You're never going to make an independent fortune from racehorse breeding or a small boutique hotel, but both of these are the hand which fate has dealt us. That said, we wouldn't change them for the world, because there are other rewards that make our pursuits worthwhile.

In September this year, one of our junior chefs, Zandile Mchunu was chosen from across the country to represent South Africa at an international culinary exhibition in Shanghai. She was the third from our disadvantaged community to be selected for such an honour, and the third to have benefited from the tuition of Jackie Cameron. Jackie's own achievements are the stuff of legend, a testament to the enterprise and energy of a young lady of just 27 years. This is not about Jackie Cameron though, for a change, as you can find all you want on her on Google, or by visiting various places on this website.

This one is about Deli Nene, a third generation member of the Summerhill and Hartford communities, and a proactive "player" in the affairs of our farm family. It was her turn this week to make the headlines when multinational Unilever selected her in their illustrious band of "Inspiring Chefs for 2010/2011".

According to Jackie, "her perseverance and commitment to the company speaks for itself, having started in 1995 as a hand in the horse division at Summerhill. Her role quickly transformed from a horse lady to looking after the Muir household for 10 years. Her love for cooking and food soon outshone her other skills however, and she obtained a domestic household cooking certificate, which opened her doors into my kitchen. Who would have thought her journey would take her to this accolade when she started helping out on her weekends off, and eventually progressed to being permanent cook at Hartford. Her culinary talent, leadership ability, teaching skills and enthusiasm to learn and work with others has been inspiring and refreshing to witness. These qualities make her the woman she is today, and the chef she has become over the last few years. A true pleasure to work with, as she knows no limits... the world is her oyster".

Here's Deli herself :

"I grew up cooking with my mom and I always enjoyed it. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a chef or cook but didn't have the money to go and study. This was the reason I started working on the farm. As a domestic in the Muir household, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do a quick-cooking course. This fuelled my wish to work in the Hartford kitchen even more so. So I decided to see if I could get a temporary job in Jackie's kitchen on my weekends off. Bit by bit I worked my way in. This was my long term plan. It took 10 years to finally get a permanent job at Hartford, and now this!".

hartford house logo

For more information please visit :
www.hartford.co.za

2010 HOUSE AND LEISURE / VISA BEST OF SA AWARDS

land of legends, kwazulu natal, south africa

Land of Legends - Legacy of the Zulu Kingdom
www.landoflegends.co.za 

"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.

Visit
www.landoflegends.co.za 

 

THE LEGENDS ON TOUR

(Photos : Paula Mackenzie) 

www.landoflegends.co.za

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.

HARTFORD SELECTED SA BEST RESTAURANT FINALIST

2010 House and Leisure - Visa Best of SA Awards / Hartford House (p)

2010 House and Leisure - Visa Best of SA Awards / Hartford House (p)

AT THE TOP, THE HEAD NEVER SITS EASILY

We’ve just received the news from the organisers of the House and Leisure/Visa Best of SA Awards, that Hartford has once again made the finalists in the Best Restaurant category. As last years winners, we go into the 2010 edition as the reigning champions, with little to gain and everything to loose, as our friends at Summerhill tell us racing people would describe our position.

We’re always humbled to be selected for these finals, especially when you consider the other finalists in the category include two world top fifty restaurants, so this remains a singular and terribly important honour for us.

To those who know us, we hope that we can rely on your support once again to ensure the crown remains on this side of the Drakensberg. It’s very unusual in hospitality or in the world of cuisine, for local establishments to enjoy the recognition of those who live in “wonderland”, and it’s especially reassuring to know that we got there last year courtesy of the readers of the No.1 lifestyle magazine.

It’s also especially pleasing from a KZN perspective in general, and as members of the Land Of Legends in particular that last year’s winners in their respective categories, Best Lodge and Best Spa, Phinda Homestead Lodge and Fordoun respectively have once again made the finals. For the small, but highly selective brotherhood of Land  Of Legends members, this is an accolade of dreams.

land of legends zulu warrior