They make them hardy and cheerful down in the southern Free State town of Smithfield on the Friendly N6
Words Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit Pictures Chris Marais
Dawn’s light on Smithfield reveals a bit of a curate’s egg of visual reactions. As we stroll down the leafy avenues, the little town is having its first cup of coffee. Mist rolls down the krantzes overlooking the main road and here, where we are walking, there seems to be no end of, how you say, fixer-uppers.
But each renovator’s delight, it seems, rubs shoulders with a home that has been lovingly restored. That immediately tells you not to throw Smithfield away. People have come to settle here, have planted their flags firmly in this tough South African rural neighbourhood and will not easily be budged.
By the winter of 2013, Smithfield came out of three years of crippling roadworks that nearly throttled the local tourism flow. There’s currently a jaunty spring in a Smithfielder’s step that was definitely not there a while back when the rest of the world bypassed it.
The town has been on our radar for 15 years. We’ve darted in and out of it on various COUNTRY LIFE assignments and recently were drawn back to it by the colour, passion and energy that flows from its revamped website, known simply as www.smithfield.co.za
We were particularly attracted to the possibility of doing a story on the Dames of Smithfield, a group of go-getting women who keep the place ticking. The story brief underwent some on-site tinkering when we met a bunch of Smithfield blokes who were equally innovative, just as charming and in full partnership with the Dames.
So here we are on our little meander through Smithfield, past a purple-painted house called The Purple House. Out comes the owner, Johan Greeff, with a little Yorkie in his arms. Stands at his gate and smiles for the camera. Wants to know more about our mission today. “We’re looking for the Dames of Smithfield.” […]
*Catch the rest of the story in our July 2015 edition, available in print and as a digital magazine.