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: Kwa-Zulu Natal

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

TASTE AND LAND ROVER : A PENCHANT FOR FINE FOOD AND ADVENTURE

The state-of-the-art Land Rover Freelander 2 fleet / Sally Chance (p)

The state-of-the-art Land Rover Freelander 2 fleet / Sally Chance (p)

"TAKING THE WHEEL"
By Wanda Henning

Thirty TASTE readers got to test drive Land Rover's Freelander 2 and visited Hartford for some delectable KwaZulu-Natal country cuisine.

We meet in the dappled sunshine of the courtyard at Florida Road's Quarters Hotel on a balmy Durban winter's morning in June. With us are TASTE Assistant Food Editor Hannah Lewry, events co-ordinator Lauren Artus and Land Rover'

Andrew Brown and his team. And, most importantly, there are 30 TASTE readers with a penchant for fine food and adventure, who are about to drive a fleet of state-of-the-art Freelander 2 Land Rovers to the Midlands for lunch at Hartford House.

I notice the generous head, shoulder and legroom and the viewing advantages of the stadium-style rear seating when I jump into a Freelander behind committed foodie Robyn May, who I learn is a newly qualified doctor, and her partner, Nick Badenhorst, a recently qualified dentist, both KwaZulu-Natal newbies. They have visited the Midlands, but never Hartford House.

Beyond the forest-mantled hills of Howick, we leave the tar so that the drivers can experience the off-road capabilities of the Freelander. A flick of the rotary control changes the Landy's Terrain Response system's General Driving setting to Grass/Gravel/Snow, which desensitises the accelerator, re-maps the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system, puts some pre-load on the centre E-differential and alters the gear-change mapping. We arrive at Hartford House at around noon.

The boutique hotel's sweeping landscape is wearing winter colours after recent frosts and a string of Summerhill Stud thoroughbreds gallop in one of the estate's fenced paddocks not far from where we park. After we've quenched any thirstiness with silky-smooth freshly squeezed orange juice and assorted BOS iced teas, we choose our seats on a day warm enough for alfresco dining on the wraparound verandah; perfect for viewing the Zulu dancers who entertain us with gusto between courses. Lewry, introducing Hartford House Chef Jackie Cameron, tells us that this restaurant was chosen because of its magical setting and "because they keep things simple and seasonal and take a lot of care when selecting local produce and building relationships with suppliers. As such, they share the food values of Woolworths."

Then it's over to Cameron. "I've travelled overseas 17 times in the past eight years and consider myself extremely lucky to have eaten all over the world. And I can tell you, there is nothing like Midlands beef fillet," she says, explaining her succulent and substantial main course choice. "We get ours from a local butcher and age it ourselves. There's also oxtail on the plate, which we cooked for nine hours. It's so tender, you could eat it with a spoon." Complementing the meat, along with tiny freshly picked veggies, was a smooth potato mash "like granny used to make it with lots of cream and butter", a classic red-wine sauce and, to cut the richness, a tomato and onion bredie - "a family recipe".

The dessert, Cameron says, was inspired by kumquats she spotted in the herb garden. "I poached them six times in a sugar syrup to remove the bitterness and made a tart but sweet sorbet." A Belgian dark and white chocolate mousse and a "soil" cream with sweet and savoury herbs - lemon verbena, mint, sage, pineapple sage and thyme - impart a fresh earthiness with flavours that Cameron says "remind me of picking fresh herbs after a  thunderstorm". "Ninety-five percent of my suppliers are located within 25km of here," she adds. "But I don't use local for the sake of using local. The quality has to be world class."

In creating the perfect meal for TASTE readers, Cameron took a diversion from her usual path with her starter of scrumptious Norwegian salmon, cured for two hours in soya, lemon "and lots of ginger and garlic". The bite-size chunks were paired with avocado "from my parents' tree. No avo in the world can compare with our homegrown ones" blended with cream cheese to enhance their creaminess, and offset by the slight acidity of red cherry tomatoes. Herbed croutons and red caviar created a texture explosion. For fun, she topped the dish with a tomato spoom.

The verdict? TASTE readers Reshma and Shane Narainsamy, who came for the food and "bribed" their son Nirav with the promise of the Land Rover ride, commented, "After the first course, the meal had already surpassed our expectations."

It is with reluctance that we leave after lunch. Oh, to spend the night!

Extract from TASTE Magazine

Woolworths Taste Magazine

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

LAND OF LEGENDS HONOURS ITS ICONS

Magquba Ntombela and Dr Ian Player / ianplayer.com (p)

Magquba Ntombela and Dr Ian Player / ianplayer.com (p)

"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
Hartford House
Fordoun Hotel and Spa
Rocktail Beach Camp
Ardmore Ceramic Art

land of legends

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 

 

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.

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.

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