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.

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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.

HARTFORD HOUSE DANCERS : A National Institution

hartford zulu dancers

Hartford House Zulu Dance Troupe
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)

About ten years ago, a group of local kids approached us with a view to auditioning as a traditional dance troupe. Mick Goss grew up in the heartland of traditional dancing in one of the remotest parts of South Africa, and he’d seen just about every traditional dance there was to be seen. Reluctantly, and only because they represented families of our disadvantaged, he and Cheryl agreed to attend an audition on Hartford’s front lawn. In the event, some 30 turned up, ranging from ages 8 to 18, together with six makeshift drums, strapped with animal hides and beaten with garden hoses as substitutes for the traditional drumsticks.

Remember, the judges had sat through more than a thousand renditions of traditional dance routines in their lives to that point, so this had to be impressive to become anything more than just another audition. Yet these kids were so good, when the show was over, it took the Gosses less than a minute to decide they would be a permanent fixture, on duty every Saturday evening at Hartford House for as long as the weather permitted. These youngsters were not just talented, they had regaled themselves in the full ceremonial gear at their own expense, yet they were part of an impoverished community. No doubt about their determination, not to mention their self belief.

Until three years ago, they’d never ventured beyond the confines of Mooi River, then, out of the blue, they were invited to perform at the Provincial Championships in Durban. There they won the right to represent KZN at the National Championships, and the rest is a fairytale. As the best dance group in South Africa, they were sent to Tokyo for the World Traditional Dance Championships, and on debut, they ranked third, in the whole darn world! It’s barely believable, we know, but here they were, the only team on the African continent to rank this high, and a year later, in Hong Kong, they finished second.

Reality is, this team is still a “work in progress”, and they’re getting better by the day, to the degree that we were confident, had it taken place as scheduled in the United States earlier this year, they might’ve returned with the World crown. Sadly, the present economic climate in the United States has led to the postponement of the event, but these youngsters will still have their day.

You need only ask those that’ve witnessed their routine to know how good they are. And while a man of Michael Jackson’s dance talents owes everything he’s knows to his African roots, he’d struggle to make the “bench” in the Hartford troupe.

HANSA POWERADE DUSI CANOE MARATHON

Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon / dusi.co.za (p)

Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon / dusi.co.za (p)

Excitement is building in the Kingdom of the Zulu as final preparations are underway for the staging of the 2009 Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon come 15th, 16th and 17th January. 

This world-class canoe marathan between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, on South Africa's East Coast, attracts around 2000 paddlers and another 2000 - 3000 seconders, helpers or supporters.

Add this to over 120 accredited media, nearly 1000 volunteers, thousands of litres of Powerade energy drink, thousands of Hansa smiles, millions of litres of water, tens of thousands of spectators and you have the "Worlds Greatest Canoe Marathon - the Hansa Powerade Dusi."

But things didn't always happen on such a grand scale.

The origins of this unique event go back some 57 years to the 22nd December 1951, when eight men set off from Pietermaritzburg's Alexandra Park on the first Canoe Marathon to Durban. They were pioneers: Ian Player, Miles Brokensha, Ernie Pearce, John Naude, Basil Halford, Willie Potgieter, Fred Schmidt and Denis Vorster.

These eight explorers did not know it at the time, but their adventure would in the future evolve into what has become the world famous, Dusi Canoe Marathon.

Deep in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, where the Umgeni River meets the Umsundusi River, the raging waters are compressed into a churning mass of whirlpools and boils... and this was not the only challenge these intrepid adventurers would face.

One of them, Ian Player, would become the only finisher that year despite having being bitten by a Night Adder!

In his canoe made from wood and canvas and carrying all his own supplies, weighing in at 70lb laden, it took the famous conservationist six days to complete the 140 kilometer journey between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

The following three Dusi Marathons were all held on a non-stop basis and the winning time was reduced to 1 day, 3 hours and 28 minutes. In 1956 it was decided that due to the grave dangers in navigating the torid waters at night, the race would be held over three stages. This has been the procedure ever since.

The credit for having pioneered this great canoe race must go to Ian Player, who also went on to claim victory in 1953 and 1954, but it is not generally known that the first trip down these two rivers was made as long ago as 1893 by two Pietermaritzburg men, William Foley and Paul Marianny, who covered the distance in a mammoth seven days.

To all guests and friends of Hartford House participating in this year's Dusi, we wish you great strength and enjoyment of a truely African experience.