Five reasons to love the Green Mountain Eco Route

Posted by Claudia Hodkinson on 18 October 2011

If you feel like Cape Town is boxing you in (possibly from the mountain?) and you need your fix of all things countryside again, then you need to make your way to the scenic Elgin Valley, just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town. This short drive will place you amongst vineyards, fynbos, mountains and forests and really sets the scene for that “˜I-need-to get-out-and-go-somewhere’ trip. You will not be short of things to keep you busy on this route, so jump in your car and head for the hills! Here are five great things I experienced with a friend during a weekend break on the Green Mountain Eco Route.

 

1. Artisitc flair at Wildekrans

Expect the unexpected from the delightful Wildekrans Country House in the Houw Hoek Pass. Run by owners Alison Green and Barry Gould, this is the place to come for an “˜arty’ experience in the country. There is something quite tranquil about strolling through beautifully manicured gardens as the sun sets, admiring and pondering Wilma Cruise’s artwork along the way. With a variety of contemporary pieces by renowed artists including William Kentridge, Judith Mason and Robert Hodgins filling the house and cottage, you are sure to get your fill of fresh air and art at Wildekrans.

Our overnight stay was in an authentic Cape cottage, aptly named Birch Cottage because of the numerous Birch trees bordering the building. Our en suite rooms overlooked the mountains and gardens and each was furnished with antique pieces and artwork. Arguably it was one of the best sleeps I have had in a while (ok, it might have had something to do with the numerous glasses of wine I consumed, but I would like to attribute it in part to the comfy bed and country quietness). There is bed and breakfast and self catering accommodation available at Wildekrans, with each room complete with four poster beds and log fires. Each room is comfortable and quiant and provides the ideal opportunity for couples and families to unwind and relax.

Click here to find out more and book accommodation at Wildekrans Country House.


2. Milling around

It’s nice to happen upon things sometimes, as was the case when we came across the water mill at Beaumont Wines. We were taken on a guided tour by Andy Selfe through this historic water mill and experienced the inner workings of how stone ground wholewheat flour can be produced the old fashioned way. I have never been one for history lessons, but this was worth it despite my misgivings about the subject. It was really cool to see how energy can be generated from water to operate different machines (in this case flour grinding machines). Once an 18th century outpost for the Dutch East India Company, this mill was brought back to life about five years ago and bread is now made from the ground flour produced from the mill.

Beaumont Wines hosts a variety of events throughout the year including bread making days, Fynbos educational walks, the Green Mountain Slackpacking Trail, wine tastings and dinners.

 

3. Food, oh the food!

Ok, so I love food. There was no shortage of tasty dishes and local cuisine, and I actually had to restrain myself from over indulging. I know it is hard to say, but there you have it. After driving the short distance to Elgin, we pulled into Wildekrans Country House for an olive experience. Suspecting that this would involve olives and eating, I was all game. With the olives farmed on the property together with a variety of locally produced oils from around the Green Mountain, we indulged in a late afternoon snack of canapés comprising fresh ciabatta topped with olive, tomato, onion salsa and tzatziki. Accompanied with a glass of Barry Gould Family Wines, this really lived up to the olive experience I was hoping for.

Somehow I should have known that if the food continued along this course, that I would find myself rolling home, but I didn’t care. Armed with a local recommendation and hungry stomachs, we headed to the Shuntin’ Shed for dinner. Located right on the railway tracks (thankfully no trains run this route anymore), the old locomotive shed has been converted into this quirky restaurant. With a variety of tasty dishes to choose from including Foccacia with tossed rocket, gemsbok, chorizo and bresola, we eventually decided on the thin, crisp marinated rib pizza. There is nothing like a thin crisp base with an awesome topping and this went down a charm.

The next morning breakfast started with a full continental at Wildekrans Country House. Overlooking the manicured gardens, there was nothing better to lift the spirits (after losing the rugby) than a hearty breakfast made and served with love. Jugs of freshly squeezed apple juice, muesli, yoghurt with local honey, farm eggs, bacon, toast with homemade preserves and freshly brewed coffeee was exactly what we needed.

Homemade chicken liver paté, Thai butternut soup and the best baked bread (old-fashioned style) at Beaumont Wines in Botrivier was a welcome afternoon lunch after our walk in the mountains. With a glass of renowed Beaumont Chenin Blanc in hand, we relaxed under the trees, taking in the great views of the lake and vineyards beyond. Food – fresh and homemade, with wonderful hospitality thrown in – is definitely on the menu.

 

4. Walking the fine bush

One of our favourite activities is hiking and with the area being declared a biodiversity and eco route, this was a really good place to learn more about the fynbos rich area. We embarked on a two hour walk with Annette from Beaumont and soon found out that there is more to fynbos than just the three characteristic plant species Ericas, Restios and Proteas. We delved into the ecology of the area and were even fortunate enough to spot a black eagle along the way.

With such a wealth of knowledge to impart and areas to explore, we were glad to find out that this was just part of a much longer trail called the the Green Mountain Trail. This is a four day slack pack trail around the Groenland Mountain taking you on a visual and taste experience of the area. Trailists will be put up in four-star accommodation, enjoy delicious country food and wine sourced from around the mountain and learn more about the different areas along the route.

After our hike, it didn’t take much coercion for us to be lured for a refreshing swim in the lake. It was only after the swim that owner Jayne Beaumont told us that a massive barbel, relocated from Limpopo many many years ago, often likes to meet swimmers in person! Thankfully the only encounter I experienced was an amazing swim.

 

5. Top class wine

I have hinted at some of the world class wines from the area, of which there is no shortage. Beaumont Wines is a family-run winery and they pride themselves in making individualistic wines in the Walker Bay area. Beaumont label as well as Roaul’s range of lifestyle wines feature in the selection. Wildekrans Wine Estate in Botriver also has a selection of outstanding wines at the guest house and at the Cellar. We tasted a variety of wines over the weekend that really complemented the food that we were eating.

It is good to know that after downing glass after glass of delicious wine that the wine growers and grape producers in the area are striving to produce wines that take the surrounding environment into consideration. As part of the Biodiversity Wine Initiative, members strive to prevent further loss of indigenous bush and promote biodiversity by changing their farming practices.

For more accommodation options in the Elgin Valley click here.

Travel tip: Other areas the route covers include Bot River (Botrivier), Grabouw, Houw Hoek and Villiersdorp.


Contact Details:

For more on the Green Mountain Route and Trail visit www.greenmountain.co.za.

For bookings for the The Shuntin’ Shed in Bot River, tel: 028-284-9443



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