What's Happening - About The Meander
1) INTRO /WELCOME
Twenty-five years ago a group of artists gathered in the spirit of co-operation and founded what has become one of the most successful tourism routes in South Africa. Since then we have settled comfortably into the rolling hills between Pietermaritzburg and the Drakensberg uKhahlamba mountains and, while art and craft is still the soul of the Midlands Meander, nowadays there are six Routes which offer a choice of diverse and interesting experiences.
Explore the forests and farmlands and the small villages inhabited by interesting characters, enjoy gracious hospitality, savour new flavours and celebrate memorable moments. We invite you to ride a horse, fish, fly, hike, bike, watch a cow being milked and taste fresh cheese - simple country activities which illustrate the farming roots of the region.
Tick off your own favourite 25 things from our enticing lists of memorable moments, and return to explore some more.
You are most welcome to stay for the next 25 years in this Good Place.
“I note with pleasure that the rather idealistic and sweet motives have been adhered to on the whole and that the spirit of co-operation lives on.” David Walters
A HISTORY OF THE MIDLANDS
For centuries San people have revered the Howick Falls (kwaNogqaza) as a sacred spiritual site. In the uMngeni river gorge below, many hundreds of years ago, the clan of Chief Ngwenya settled and built stone enclosures for his cattle, the ruins of which are still visible today.
In the 1800's European settlers forded the river above the Falls at Allerman's Drift and built homesteads using timber from the abundant forests, shot the last lion in 1856 and set out farms. The quiet little village of Fort Nottingham began as a tented garrison in 1888 to protect farmers from cattle raids by the Bushmen. The arrival of the railway line from the coast changed the landscape forever, and railway stations became centres of activity for the district. In the early 1900's a tea shop was opened at Balgowan station, perhaps starting the spirit of generous hospitality still prevalent in the area today?
The original mill on the Lion's River at Caversham bridge was built in 1871 but destroyed in 1878 by a runaway fire. The mill was rebuilt and a century later used as a studio by potter David Walters, a founding member of the Midlands Meander, only to be washed away in the floods of 1987. Remnants remain on the banks beside the Caversham Mill Restaurant.
Over the years, the little village of Lions River has certainly seen its share of celebrities. In 1947, the royal train bearing King George VI and his entourage stopped at the station on their tour of South Africa and met the Thokan family who arrived in the area in 1915, and are still trading there four generations later. Nelson Mandela recalls stopping at Thokan's for refreshments on his journeys in the 1950's. Another landmark trading post is the Everything Store in Tweedie - a veritable treasure trove which has been serving the Midlands community for as long as anyone can remember.
While exploring the fascinating Midlands, do spend a mindful moment at The Mandela Capture Site, outside Tweedie, where Nelson Mandela was arrested in August 1962, reflecting on our rich heritage.
A HISTORY OF THE MEANDER
On a summer's evening at Caversham Mill in 1985, four potters, a weaver and a couple of artists got together to discuss working together. A conscious decision was made to invite the public to visit and meet the artists in their countryside studios. The concept of a Rolling Exhibition, held a couple of times a year, was born. While visitors were welcome to visit studios at other times, they would often find that the artist had gone fishing or was out collecting clay. In 1990 the brown paper map, which so many of us recall with nostalgia, was produced. Featured on this map was potter Ian Glenny, who you will still find amongst the terracotta pots at his quirky gallery under the trees at Dargle Valley Pottery. Ian's son, Daniel, has now become a potter in his own right and lives near to his mother, fabric artist Kali Griffin, who makes cheese and farms lavender in the Western Cape.
Original members, Helen and Andy Shuttleworth still live on top of the hill, spinning, dying and weaving mohair into a glorious range of throws, carpets and scarves. Nowadays, son Rob and his wife Julia, are also involved, opting for an authentic life rather than heading for the bright lights. You'll still find Lindsay Scott of Hillfold tucked away at the end of the lane in Lidgetton. His unique, award winning oil-fired stoneware and porcelain form part of many international collections.
David Walters was the driving force of the fledgling organisation and now lives in Franschoek where he still creates collectable ceramics. He recalls his Midlands days with nostalgia: “I can take no credit for the incredible way in which the original concept has been expanded, but I note with pleasure that the rather idealistic and sweet motives have been adhered to on the whole and that the spirit of co-operation lives on.” David's daughter, Sarah, has followed in his footsteps, also working in smoke-fired porcelain.
Remember Wim and Tina de Roubaix? They swapped the village of Nottingham Road for the even tinier village of Wolvengat, where Wim now focuses on large scale concrete and bronze statues for private clients, and Tina's work is inspired by the Cape flora. Robin Standing is dead now, but remembered for his raku pots and by Michaelhouse old-boys, where he taught Biology and coached rugby for many years.
Snuggled around the fireplace on misty evenings, locals wonder at the success of the Midlands Meander - have the original artists inspired new talents to embrace their values and ideas, or have the newcomers encouraged an evolution of the old and established? Join us as we celebrate 25 years of creativity in A Good Place.
3) ECONOMIC STATS (separate doc, please advise if you would like this information)
Home to over 42 living and emerging artists, crafters, sculptors and co-operatives, the Midlands Meander boasts some of the country’s finest talent, well known for their expert craftsmanship, unique style and authentic, high quality in South Africa and abroad. Use the quick search facility to find these experts or Grab a Guide for more information.
Local Art Groups
Professional arts group in the KZN Midlands.
Contact: Louise van Niekerk 033 266 6460 , firstname.lastname@example.org
Howick Arts and Crafts Society with amateur and professional membership, workshops, demos, exhibitions.
Contact: Johan van der Linde 033 330 4905 or Jo Osmond 033 239 4407
Conservancies Information booth:
BALGOWAN - Chair: John Dorran 033 234 4448
BOSTON - Tyron and Carol Segal 033 997 0684
CURRY'S POST - Chair: John Scotcher 033 330 2330
DARGLE - Chair: Andrew Anderson 033 234 4466
KAMBERG - Chair: Graham Armstrong 033 267 7436 / 082 854 5746
KARKLOOF - Chair: Carolyn Goble 033 330 4590
KARKLOOF CONSERVATION CENTRE & BIRDHIDES - Carolyn Goble 033 330 2992
LIDGETTON - Mike Blyth 033 234 4160 , Pat Merrick 033 234 4568
MHLANGENI - Chair: Brian Denny, BMD@deneysreitz.co.za, 031 367 8800 , 083 303 9107
6) CONSERVATION GROUPS
AFRICAN BIRDS OF PREY SANCTUARY (ASHBURTON): 031 785 2981 /
082 925 3023 , www.africanraptor.co.za
Open: Tues-Sun 9am-4pm, Closed Mon
BIRDLIFE KZN: Mike Spain - 033 347 2797 / 033 347 6060
CONSERVATION LEADERSHIP GROUP: 011 486 1102 ,
Samson Phakathi 033 330 6982 / 082 805 4806
ENDANGERED WILDLIFE TRUST: 011 486 1102
Birds of Prey Working Group (BoPWG): Andre Botha -
011 486 1102
Blue Swallow Working Group (BSWG): Steven Evans - 082 850 6480 or Andre Rossouw - 072 391 9750
Conservation Leadership Group (CLG): Janet Snow -
011 486 1102
Conservation Leadership Group (CLG): Janet Snow -