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: Midlands

The Jeweled Buckle of The Midlands

Hartford prides herself on her gardens, once described by celebrated author, Nancy Gardner, as the ‘jeweled buckle of the Midlands’.

We had our first snow this morning!

First snow on the Drakensberg mountains this morning / Leigh Willson (p)

First snow on the Drakensberg mountains this morning / Leigh Willson (p)

"The Rhythm of the Seasons"

When were you last in the KZN Midlands? Looking at occupancies at Hartford House, it's apparent that ever more, travellers are wanting a piece of this enchanted kingdom. There is a magic to this place, not only in its natural scenic splendour, but in the colours that herald the changes to the seasons. No time is better though than the autumn, when the mornings are crisp, the sky is blue, and you can see forever.

If you're "horsey", you'll know that its yearling prep time, and if you're familiar with Summerhill, you'd be expecting us to be busy with the weaning of foals and the beginnings of the old ritual of teaching our Ready To Run candidates the ropes.

Haydn Bam's agric unit is frantically baling up the last of the hay, and his tractor pilots have been grinding away in the dark before dawn through the twilight of the evening; discing, harrowing and planting. The welfare of the horses is paramount at Summerhill, as you know, and all this activity is part of the stocking up of the larder for winter, with more than 350 hectares of emerald rye grass, targa oats and a salad of fescue, cocksfoot, white and red clovers, and the lavender of the grazing vetch.

And by the way, we had our first snow this morning, not on the farm, but on the nearby Drakensberg mountains. I said at the beginning, autumn is famous for its blue skies and long views, but you'll forgive us our joy at the good rain and the full moon brought overnight. Without it, those paddocks beyond the irrigators, would not yield the bounty we would expect in this part of the world from our winter crops. Townspeople are often oblivious to it, but there's a reason you get spring tides at both ends of the moon's spectrum, and even in the dead of winter, you can expect a little moisture when the moon is either full or in its newest phase. That's why those who live by the stars, tell you to plant by the moon.

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August Snows on the Summerhill / Hartford Estate, KZN Midlands
(Photos : Leigh Willson)

KZN Midlands - August 2012

We all know how destructive snow can be when it comes down heavily but when it comes in a few inches, it brings the first moisture ahead of the spring, and it sprinkles our  paddocks and pastures with a liberal dose of 'free' nitrogen.

Despite the KZN Midlands' reputation for its beautiful indigenous forests of Yellowoods, White Stinkwoods and Cape Chestnuts,  the reality is these occur only on the Southern and Western-facing  slopes of the valleys. The bulk of the territory was hitherto great,  open savannah country, with millions of acres of waving veld, perfect  for the big grazing herds of red hartebeest, eland and the black  wildebeest.

It was only when the European settlers first arrived here in the  early 1820s that the trees you see so many of these days on your travels  through our region, were first imported. Those that came from Australia  were not built for snow, so that when it comes down heavily, the gums  and the wattles take strain, and they shed their boughs, and often their  trunks, by the drove. By contrast, those of European origin, the  conifer and the cedar varieties, carry their burden with equanimity.

If you're a tourist though, the precincts of Mooi River resemble a winter  wonderland. The roads and roadsides are littered with visitors to the  Midlands; snow fighting, building snowmen and generally having the best  time ever.

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