Spring is now in blossom, the frosty blanket of winter thrown back and icy winds fragrant with summer blooms. The soil is once again an array of colours, and the gardens of East Griqualand will soon lure in people from near and far.
Encounter East Griqualand is an annual country and garden festival which shows off the beauty and talent of the region. I lost my heart to EG in more ways than one last year, marrying a dairy farmer from Kokstad, and then falling in love with the people and countryside. Just a few short days, and this festival will capture your heart too
Last year’s EG Encounter boasted activities as varied as frogging, fly fishing, trail running, mountain biking, cross-country horse riding, and guided walks through the region’s unique landscape and blossoming wildflowers. We witnessed Monde Jona, our local horse-whisperer, calm and ride the wild, his skilful toss and tug of rope a novelty, the dance of fear and trust between horse and rider sweet suspense. Flags billowed in the wind as we sat intrigued, hot pancakes from a nearby stall rolled and drizzled in our palms and fast disappearing.
And while slightly different, this year’s festival promises to be just as enthralling. Gardens from Matatiele, Cedarville, Kokstad and Swartberg will be on show, with a variety of entertainment, eats and talks. Fallodon, a lush cottage garden and home to Cathy and William Green, offers a tranquil escape, beauty rolling, trellised, falling, around their 100 year old sandstone farm house. Poppies, roses, and foxgloves flourish side by side, and a little memorial bench keeps company with beautiful creepers and soft groundcovers. Come experience the peaceful charm of this place.
For gardeners seeking inspiration, Patty van Zyl is selling roses and hosting Linda Pieterse from Tarr Rose Nursery in her lovely garden. Jane Griffiths, renowned for her urban and organic gardening, is back to share with a host of books to buy (and a little surprise), and Valerie Payn will be speaking on ecological gardening.
For the more adventurous, this year’s mountain biking and trail routes will be at Cedarberg Guest Farm, a protected environment with an abundance of wattle crane. Birding tours and sundowners will be hosted in this birder’s paradise, and Ben Hoffman will present on Raptors in Merida Roets’ garden. Wildflower walks and wetland plant tours are also amongst the exciting outdoor activities.
Country markets will spring up again with a variety of produce and crafts. Cheryl Joubert from Something Country is displaying her beautiful garden furniture and accessories – a must see for those re-inspired to transform their own gardens. Lovely embroidery and quilts will be on sale, as well as artwork, with an oil painting demonstration in one of the gardens. Live music will accompany most events, the Durban Chamber Choir amongst this. For those who can’t sit still there’s a barn dance on the Saturday night. Open to young and old!
EG Encounter is incomplete, however, without its agricultural showcase – farming the very heart of this part of South Africa! Don’t miss the hazelnut orchards or dairy tours (show your kids the milking process!), or the wool-spinning at Brechan Farm. A delicious oxtail lunch is on the menu for the Sunday so be sure to plan your trip out to the farm with that in mind!
The festival runs from the 3rd to the 5th of November; tickets can be bought in advance from The Wellness Centre on Main Road, Kokstad. Grab a booklet beforehand so you can plan your route and enjoy the finest this area has to offer.