Settler Country | 175km

Horse Show Bend in Bathurst.

From Grahamstown...

BATHURST

..is a historic South African holidays town, owing its distinctive English atmosphere to its origin as the first administrative centre for the 1820 Settlers. The name honours Lord Bathurst, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time. Bailey's Beacon, about 1 km northeast of the town, marks the spot from where the various parties of the Settlers were directed to the farms that had been allocated to them. Among the town's historic buildings are the Methodist Church (1832) and St John's Church, built by the Church of England parish.

At the outbreak of the Sixth Frontier War in December 1834, the half-built church served as a refuge for settler women and children until they could be evacuated to Grahamstown. After British troops reoccupied Bathurst in January 1835, the church was fortified, and it was consecrated on New Year's Day 1838. During the War of the Axe (1846-47) and the Eighth Frontier War (1850-53), it again served as a place of refuge. Also of interest is the water-driven wool mill built by Samuel Bradshaw, a weaver who led a party of 64 Settlers from Gloucestershire.

The first of its kind to be built in South Africa, the mill was completed around 1826 and produced blankets and rough cloth for the settlers. One of the country's most extensive collections of early agricultural implements can be seen in the Bathurst Agricultural Museum. The Bathurst district is noted for its pineapple farms, and the 16 m-high giant pineapple on Summerhill Farm is a well-known landmark. The structure offers fine views of the farm, while an audiovisual presentation provides information on the history and cultivation of this fruit. Children in the area are often seen selling hand-made windmills.

PORT ALFRED

...is a popular seaside South African holidays resort on the banks of the Kowie River, with its trademark arched bridge, and is affectionately referred to by residents as The Kowie. With its expanses of sandy beach and the river - navigable by small craft for 25 km - water-sport enthusiasts are attracted by the marina and excellent opportunities for swimming, angling, water-skiing, surfing and scuba diving. The town developed on the eastern bank of the river around the harbour established in the 1820s to provide a port for the 1820 Settlers.

It was originally named Port Frances, after the daughter-in-law of Lord Charles Somerset. A treacherous sandbank at the river mouth, however, hampered the development of the port, and contributed to its closure towards the end of the 1800s. The town was renamed after Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria, when he visited the Eastern Cape in 1867. Among the town's many historic reminders are the original sneezewood bollard where ships tied up, the old mill on the western bank of the river, the drift where the 1820 Settlers crossed the Kowie River and the Methodist Church, built in 1823.

KOWIE NATURE RESERVE

...protects 20 ha of dense valley bushveld on the eastern banks of the Kowie River, the name of which comes from a Khoikhoi word meaning 'pipe river'. The best way to reach the reserve is by taking a boat trip along the meandering Kowie River. Facilities include picnic places and a two-hour nature trail along the banks of the river.

WATERS MEETING NATURE RESERVE

The Kowie Canoe Trail offers an exciting way of appreciating the scenic beauty of the river, which is lined by tall tree euphorbias. On the first day, canoeists paddle upstream on the incoming tide from Port Alfred to the Waters Meeting Nature Reserve. Situated on the eastern bank of the river, the 4 259-ha reserve offers basic overnight facilities for canoeists and an optional hiking trail. A viewpoint offers magnificent views over the wide Horseshoe Bend in the river. Trailists return to Port Alfred the following day, preferably on the outgoing tide.

BUSHMANS RIVER MOUTH

...is a popular South African holidays resort on the western bank of the Bushman's River estuary. The river, navigable for 27 km, is popular with water sport enthusiasts, while the white, sandy beaches attract sunbathers and anglers.

KENTON-ON-SEA

...lies on the eastern bank of the Bushman's River and stretches 2 km eastwards to the Kariega River, which is navigable for 17 km. Holiday-makers are drawn by the excellent opportunities for water sports and sunbathing. The scenic coastline is characterised by Dune Rock, which has been eroded into fascinating shapes, protected coves and rocky headlands. The Mermaid and Whalerock pools are popular swimming and snorkelling spots.

KWAAIHOEK

Originally named Penedo das Fontes (rock of the fountain) by the Portuguese, Kwaaihoek marks the spot where Batholomeu Dias planted a padrão (cross) dedicated to St Gregory on 12 March 1488. Having reached the Keiskamma River a few days earlier, Dias was forced by his reluctant crew to turn back, and erected the cross on the 30-m-high headland. (The promontory is also known as Cape Padrone, a corruption of the 18th-century Portuguese name Ponta do Padrão.)

With a height of about 2 m, the limestone cross served as a landmark for over a century, but there are no references to it after the 16th century. After a thorough search by the historian, Professor Eric Axelson, fragments of the cross were discovered early in 1938. The fragments were taken to the University of the Witwatersrand where the cross was reconstructed. A replica was erected at Kwaaihoek in June 1940.

SALEM

...was established along the banks of the Kowie River by the party of 1820 Settlers led by Hesekiah Sephton. They were accompanied by a Methodist minister, Rev William Shaw, and on 1 January 1822 the foundation stone of a church was laid. A carpenter, Richard Gush, supervised the construction of the church, which was built from mud blocks and thatch. The church was consecrated on 31 December 1824, but in 1832 it was replaced by a rectangular structure built from stone and somewhat resembling a house.

During the Frontier Wars, the church often served as a refuge for women and children. Richard Gush, a Quaker pacifist, gained fame during the Sixth Frontier War when he dissuaded the Xhosa from attacking the town. Like a typical English village, Salem has a village green and several well-preserved Settler houses built in the Georgian style. Prominent among these is Upper Crofts, a double-storey house with a façade of whitewashed stonework.

THOMAS BAINES NATURE RESERVE

This South African holidays reserve covers 1 003 ha of undulating valleys and plains covered mainly in valley bushveld vegetation. The reserve is named after the explorer and artist, Thomas Baines, who came to the Cape in 1842 and lived for some time in Grahamstown. The reserve contains several fine specimens of the tree aloe. For many years, the species name, Aloe bainesii, honoured Baines, but it was renamed Aloe barberae a few years ago as this was the first scientific name to be published.

Visitors can explore the reserve by following 15 km of game-viewing roads; among the species to be seen are white rhino, buffalo, eland, red hartebeest, black wildebeest and mountain reedbuck. Picnic facilities are provided in the southern corner of the park at the Settlers Dam - a popular destination with angling, yachting, boardsailing and canoeing enthusiasts.

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