Here are some sneaky routes that combine the best single track from Strawberry Hill Farm with sections of the Conservancy trails. Our owner and manager, Aileen, is an experienced mountain biker and a lover of single track so she knows the best loops from Strawberry Hill Farm. She frequently rides the trails and these trails combine the best loops to give the best single track combinations. We are sharing her best routes which are ideal if you want a tough ride made up of single track. They are also perfect for keen trail runners.
These routes may be short but they are not easy! Take note of the climbing. They should only be attempted if you are fit and comfortable on technical trails. We recommend at least 2 hours to complete each of them. To follow these routes, you will need to download the track on to your computer or navigation device and follow them very carefully or you will get lost as the trails on the ground will not be marked in the direction that you will be travelling.
Best of Strawberry Hill Single (11km 550m)
This route is entirely on Strawberry Hill and is Aileen’s (and her dogs) favourite route. Her staffies, Eva and Rosco know all the short cuts and will be ready to guide you around (if you can catch them). It is only open for people staying overnight on the farm but does not require any additional permits from the Conservancy because it stays entirely on Strawberry Hill Farm property. With permission from Aileen, it is also possible to enjoy this as a night ride which is not possible on the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy trails. If you are here for a weekend, this is a perfect night ride to loosen up the legs on a Friday night.
The route starts at the gate of the office and follows the black mountain bike route, crossing over at Honeywood Farm gate and on to the blue mountain bike return track. Sweeping single track through pines, eventually drops down into "Chameleon Cascade" on a technical switchback descent into the indigenous forest. After a brief rest in the forest, you return up on the infamous tight single-track ascents that are (with practice and skill) all rideable. Once at the office, you drop down onto the cross-country track and enjoy some fast berms before the real challenges of the cross-country track. The track has a lot of steep climbing so get ready for the burn! Watch out for some tricky rock gardens and bridges that require you to keep focus and use that dropper! The trails include “Luke's Legacy”, “Ash’s Avenue” and “Darren’s Drop,” before heading home on the much deserved “Eva’s Escape.”
Best Red route singles (10.5km 522m)
This route combines some great single track on the Conservancy red route, ridden in a reverse direction. You will be crossing on to the Conservancy trails so a conservancy mountain bike permit is required (R60 per person per day) which is available at the conservancy office. The route descends on the green "Chameleon Cascade" route but then crosses over to Honeywood Farm on a reverse loop of the red. After crossing by the dam, a steep challenging climb takes you up to Gooseberry Hill with special views of the Langeberg Mountains and Grootvadersbosch Forest. From there, you eventually drop down on single track to "Ghost Frog Corner" to join a roller coaster loop along the edge of the forest which will take you to a link with the black trail and “A Clear View” of the Grootvadersbosch River. The trail loops around the edge of the river until a wet feet crossing is required to get back towards the indigenous forest. The single-track switchbacks are tackled up to the office. Before heading home, enjoy a short section of the cross-country track on a fun descent of “Toby’s Flight” which is normally ridden up but is way more fun as a descent. You will come home on the much deserved “AImost Ails” time.
Green Route short (12km with 500m)
For this route, you will be crossing on to the Conservancy trails so a conservancy mountain bike permit is required (R60 per person per day) which is available at the conservancy office. The route starts on the steep single track of the red single track before joining the green on a fast descent on "MC's Downhill". The route loops across to the GoedeHoop valley before a long gravel climb home. Just before the end of the climb, the route exits onto a single track that takes you back around to Strawberry Hill Farm. This is a great ride to enjoy if you fancy training on long, gravel trails but also includes a fair amount of fun single track. If you are feeling like a real challenge then you can combine this route on to either of the proceeding routes for a challenging 20km of riding with 1000m of ascent!
FIRST SPRING SILVER MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL
We once more get to celebrate the annual festival but this time we celebrate the first spring Silver Mountain Music Festival. We are excited for our yearly celebration, which is scheduled for this year's 21 October to 23 October 2022. There are many amazing sites to discover and we love to promote this event. It's a truly happy festive where families and communities gather to celebrate music and raise environmental awareness by visiting nearby farms and establishments. This blog provides an overview of the schedule for 2022. The Silver Mountain Festivities is an annual event that provides a variety of activities that suit people of all ages.
TICKETS CAN BE BOOKED HERE
21 October 2022 Friday
We begin the event with some advice from our mastermind photographer, Jacques Marais, who possesses a wealth of photographic knowledge. This will take place at Strawberry Hill Farm, where Jacques Marais will be leading a photography workshop. It's a terrific start to the celebration since he will educate the crowd on how to take the appropriate picture from the proper angle. He will discuss the skill of taking the ideal smartphone photo while leading you on a cool stroll in the Grootvadersbosch woodland. Discover some of the techniques for using light to reflect your environment from one of the best in the field.
Following this, it should come as no surprise that we have activities planned that focus on providing knowledge about nature, given that we are celebrating nature and music. In this special program, which explore the species of Grootvadersbosch, we explore the fauna and flora that are cared for by the conservancy.
It will be exciting to see renowned naturalists introduce the unique species of the Grootvadersbosch forest. Local artist Donovan Julius has created nature portraits of each species. Each species that has been captured with unique strength, and amazing facts will be revealed. Not only are these adorable creatures to be celebrated, but environmental awareness is also to be spread among residents and tourists. Leading scientists will explore the natural history of the creatures as Donovan shares his imaginative, colorful, and brilliant visual arts technique. A presentation of a significant work of art showing the Grootvadersbosch forest and a discussion of the problems facing our natural environment will conclude the session.
After exploring and photographing the natural world, we continue with beer stories and tastings, while eating a farm lunch. Fraser Creighton from Folk & Goode is a master at brewing beer. It’s not beer tasting if there are no stories. An interesting history of beer is paired with specially chosen beer samples in Fraser Creighton's tales. The beer tasting is served with a delectable Skeiding Farm lunch of a boerewors bite, smokey tomato beans, and crusty parmesan bread bake. Don't miss out on this special cuisine and drink experience.
Dairy tours with local farmers are scheduled as part of the afternoon event since, the festival also aims to bring local farmers together to help conserve the environment. The tour will take place among local farmers at the Rietvallei farm close to Suurbraak. We explore the dairy industry and discover some particular techniques that farmers use to survive and thrive in this sector.
What better way to end such a wonderful day of discovery than with some wine and music in nature? Olivedale wines in Buffeljags will be the theme of the day's final celebrations. The Silver Mountain Quintet will perform musical selections at this concert, which will be held at a fine local wine cellar. Carl van Wijck's own stories about his experiences with the winemaking process will be paired with the wine.
22 October 2022 Saturday
A fresh cup of local coffee will be provided before we accompany naturalists on a walk through the Grootvadersbosch farm. On the second day of the festival, a good cup of coffee is the ideal way to start the day. Following the coffee session, we go for a stroll along the Grootvadersbosch river with specialists specialists Chris Martens and Andrew Turner as they describe the abundant bird life that can be found here. The Grootvadersbosch River is well-known for its variety of birds that thrive in this forested habitat. The birding experts will conduct an educational session during which they will discuss these amazing species, their survival strategies and what makes the environment so special.
After the bird discussion, Freshwater ecologist Dr. Martine Jordaan and the Grootvadersbosch team will demonstrate their incredible native freshwater fish diversity after the river walk. Cancan wine, will be served with a charming Skeiding Farm picnic by the river to end off the morning. The festival's main goal is to celebrate music, nature, and rural life in the beautiful Grootvadersbosch Valley, which is located between Heidelberg and Swellendam.
The Saturday event will feature Richard Cock, who has participated in the festival for many years and has significantly improved the music scene in the area. Celebrating music at Strawberry Hill Farm with Richard Cock and friends. The Mzansi Tenors, sponsored by RMB and led by Sipho Fubesi, are a highlight of the program. They will surprise you with Neapolitan favourites like O Sole Mio and Santa Lucia to South African classics by Miriam Makeba. A nearby community choir from Ashton named The Zolani Youth Choir will join them. The Silver Mountain Foundation has organized a local group of Marimbas from Heidelberg, and they will take part in this musical extravaganza, embracing the festival's true sense of community. Other local favourites like the Barrydale Riel Dancers will perform at the event. Donovan Julius, a local painter, will portray the event on canvas as a colourful exhibition of music and art. You must attend this celebration of active community spirit. A typical Bunny Chow light supper and a drink of the award-winning Sijnn wine are included in the evening.
The final activity for the second day involves a night walk and some frogging near Strawberry Hill Farm. Les Minter and Andrew Turner, two frog experts, accompany us on our exploration of the frogs in Grootvadersbosch as we wander through the dark woodland. The frogs will probably be singing in full chorus at this time of year, and their vocal abilities have been compared to the best tenors. These songs will serve as our tour guides as our seasoned froggers lead us into the forest. Booking as soon as possible is advised if you want to participate in this exciting night hike, as night hikes have a history of selling out very rapidly.
23 October 2022 Sunday
On our final day, we are joined by renowned anthropologist
Under the trees at Grace and Merci, the Silver Mountain String Quartet, who are members of the Cape Town Festival Orchestra, will shower us with music as the first spring concert comes to a close. The programme will include light classics and songs from great musical performances. There will be coffee and cake on sale at the event. The final concert will take place at Jan Harmsgat, where the Mzansi tenors, joined by renowned pianist Albert Combrink, will conclude the musical programme for 2022. We will celebrate this final event with a fine glass of wine from Jan Harmsgat.
Join us to celebrate this wonderful weekend of music. We look forward to celebrating life, nature and music together. We highly recommend that you book for the festival to while tickets are still available
After a long break, we gathered again on a cold winter evening to taste and celebrate the fine red wine made from Mourvèdre grapes. These grapes are believed to have originated in the Spanish town of Morvedre (now Segunto) near Valencia. They were bought to Provence (France) in the late Middle Ages, where, prior to the invasion, it was the dominant varietal. What invasion do we speak of? The famous phylloxera louse invasion that transformed French wines forever.
In the late 1800, the tiny little louse devil was, unknowingly, bought into Europe by Victorian-era botanists, through American native vines. By 1878, the louse had destroyed 370 000 hectares, while another 251,000 hectares were dying. At that time this represented 25% of French vineyards. By 1895, as the louse marched northwards, it had reduced French wine production by half. The only way to save the vineyards was to graft French grapes onto American root stock that had been successful in their native land at fighting off the louse. By the end of the 19th this hybridisation had solved the devastation. So, yes, the French wine industry was threatened and then saved by America! However, this was problematic for Mourvèdre that did not graft easily onto the existing phylloxera-resistant American rootstock. This meant that it lost popularity in France and was replaced by other varieties.
Today, Mourvèdre is dominant in southern Rhone where it makes an important part of the GSM blend (Grenache, Shiraz Mourvèdre) or Rhone Blends. It is most dominant in the Bandol AOC in France where 50% of all wines must be Mourvèdre. The old French saying goes that, “Mourvèdre needs its head in the sun, its feet in cool soil and a view of the ocean.”
In Spain, Mourvèdre is called Monastrell and is the fourth most widely planted red wine grape variety. In South Africa, the area of Mourvèdre in 2016 was 473ha which is growing steadily. Most of the grapes are found in the Swartland (32%).
If you enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon then Mourvedre is in a similar camp, producing full-bodied, highly-tannic and rustic wines which have flavours of blueberry, blackberry, plum, black pepper, violet, rose, smoke, gravel and meat. I can’t say that any one of us gurus found all those flavours exactly but we did enjoy this lovely, winter red liquid. It has become my winter wine of 2022 and is lovely enjoyed in front of a warm fire. Remember it is best enjoyed decanted or open for a bit to let it air. Its not easy to locate but I highly recommend making the effort.
What did we taste?
2021 Swartland Winery Mourvèdre Limited Release, R75
NV Caravel Wines The Liquid Sword R 150,00 Breedekloof (2020 and 2019 vintage)
2017 Joostenberg Mourvèdre, R195, Paarl
2019 Saronsberg Mourvèdre R230, Tulbagh
2018 Waterkloof Mourvèdre Circumstance R225, Stellenbosch
And then just to keep things interesting, we included a Cabernet Sauvignon to check if any of us could pick it out in a line up.
2019 Arendsig Cabernet Sauvignon Blok A9, R185 Bonnievale
As usual, our resident statistician removed the highest and the lowest to give us the rankings:
And the winner was Joostenberg, closely followed by the Liquid Sword and Swartland. We do love that Joostenberg label and is definitely built to last. Not surprisingly, only the show off, Master Value, was able to pick out the Cab Sav which we thought was just a huge fluke!
As mentioned, locating these special wines is not that easy. I highly recommend my favourite online shop, the winecellar which has made many monies off me because of their amazing range of local and international wines and also their great filter options and website organisation.
The Liquid Sword definitely gets a big shout out for the coolest label on any wine that I have seen to date. This wine is hard to locate and sells out quickly which is understandable given the price and quality. Double bonus is that if you buy a case, you get 6 different kung-fu style wine labels. This is my type of wine! My perfect weapon of choice to arm oneself through a boring party, family gathering or just a long cold, winter evening. Get yourself a liquid sword this winter before they sell out!
METOS SA: INSTALLATION OF A WEATHER STATION
Climate change is a difficult topic. The ripple impact of climate change affects everyone, not just farmers. There has never been a better time to understand the consequences of climate change. With technology as an enabler, we now have a better understanding of climate change and how to address it.
Metos SA approached Strawberry Hill Farm to install a weather measuring station as we were located in an area where they had insufficient data. Metos SA is a South African-based research organization that focuses on managing food security and providing holistic sustainable agricultural solutions. Metos SA and Terraclim launched climate-smart agriculture (CSA) campaign to establish 200 weather stations across the Western Cape. The goal of this project is to better understand the constantly changing weather conditions in the Western Cape. Aside from analyzing the weather, weather stations serve as an infield decision-making tool.
This blog outlines the background of the Climate-Smart Agriculture project (CSA) and the value of gathering weather data.
The CSA Eureka project involves the installation of over 200 weather stations in the Western Cape and included a significant amount of scientific research, both locally and internationally. Weather stations have been strategically installed over the Western Cape, following an extensive scientific investigation from well-established research departments. Since 2021 the CSA project has been growing to better understand weather and climate change in the Western Cape. Strawberry Hill is proud to be one of these stations.
As illustrated in Figure 1, the project involved multiply stakeholders. Pessl is an Australian weather monitoring solutions provider that uses disease modelling to meet the needs of farmers. It investigates the environment, host plant, and other factors that influence the existence of a disease. Pessl has over one million stations with 220 000 sensors placed in 85 countries, and 145 experts. Not only does it provide jobs, it also has a positive impact on the worldwide position of agriculture by using technology to support food security and predict weather patterns.
Geo-smart and the Centre for Geographical Analysis have undertaken years of study at the University of Stellenbosch and focus on analyzing integrated data resources to provide access to precise climatic and terrain conditions. Geo-smart converts imagery into relevant data about elevation and erosion risk. While the Centre for Geographical Analysis focuses on the application of geographical information systems (GIS), satellite remote sensing and other geographical-analytical techniques in carrying out its research, training and service provision functions. The Terraclim program aims to increase our understanding of climate change in the Western Cape's varied terrain. This project can provide a starting point to understanding and addressing climate change.
All the data that is collected will be made accessible to farmers and the broader community. There is so much useful data just by a tap of a button. For farms and landowners, the data can be used to plan work for the week, based on the localized weather forecast, and to maximize yield and quality with an optimized weather risk forecast for fields. The data also assists with fire prevention through the grass fire index.
We are very grateful to Metos SA for choosing us as the location for the weather station. As a property hosting the technology, we have access to the information at no charge. We will use the data to schedule work on the property, including our trails and plantations. We can also keep guests informed of weather changes so that they can plan their adventures. The information will also assist with managing our rain-fed water system and will be shared with the GVB Conservancy to build into their river monitoring work as they collect data on the status of our local rivers. We are honoured to contribute the data collected on our farm to better understand climate change and how we can all work together to overcome it.
This week we explore a wine cultivar that originated in South Africa. Pinotage is a cross between pinot noir and cinsault. The cultivar was developed by Prof Abraham Perold in 1925. The professor of viticulture wanted to see the benefits of crossing the popular, but temperamental, pinot noir with the hardy, drought-resistant and juicy cinsault (see more here on cinsualt) . His little vines were almost discarded when the Professor moved house and took a job at KWV. However, Prof. Charl Theron de Waal from Elsenburg Agricultural College saved the vines, and they were further cultivated under his watch. The first barrel of pinotage were made in 1941 from the plantings of Prof Charl de Waal. Unfortunately, Prof Peron died before he learnt of the success of his cultivar.
In 1953, Morkel, a new winemaker in the Stellenbosch area, was looking to find some Gamay (an aromatic French cultivar that will feature soon in our tastings) for his new farm but was unable to source them so he decided to try this new cultivar from Prof de Waal. In 1959, Morkel placed a barrel, produced from these grapes, at a local wine show. This 1959 pinotage then won best wine on show on the Lanzerac label. Pinotage had arrived but the road ahead was not going to be an easy one!
Much like our poltics, during the 1960 and 1970s, the international community did not embrace South Africa's new cultivar. Pinotage was criticized for aromas of rusty nails and acetone. However in 1981, one man decided to change all this and dedicated himself to proving that pinotage could hold its own on the international stage. Beyers Truter graduated from the University of Stellenbosch in 1979 with a degree in BSc Agriculture with oenology and viticulture. At the age of 25 years, he became the winemaker at Kanonkop. A deeply devote and committed man, whose hard work eventually paid off. In 1991, at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, history was made when the Kanonkop Pinotage received the Robert Mondavi Trophy for the Best Red Wine and Beyers Truter, was nominated as International Winemaker of the Year. Pinotage had finally arrived on the international stage. Local is Lekker!
The Pinotage King had launched a truly South African gem. In 1988, Beyers Truter planted his own vines and started Beyerskloof. The Pinotage Prince went on to establish the Pinotage Foundation which organizes the Absa Top Ten competition to showcase and celebrates the best Pinotage each year. This competition is only slightly more prestigious than our local Grootvadersbosch tastings but we also think that we are contributing something to furthering pinotage in South Africa and the world.
So what did we taste?
Odd bin 716 2020, available at checkers R65
Kanonkop 2019 R197
Beyerskloof 2020 R105
Arendsig Pinotage Inspirational Batch 8 2019 R185
Darling Cellars Old block 2019 R85
Diemersfontein Pinotage 2020 The Original R170
We originally planned for 6 wines but a newbie decided to bribe the wine master with an additional wine to taste blind, which was gratefully accepted. Bribery with wine is always accepted on Strawberry Hill Farm! So we added: Mooiplaas Pinotage 2020 R150
This week we had a bumper turnout for our tasting and the winners were very clear: Mooiplaas, Arendsdig and Dimmersfontein. Interestingly, the Prince of Pinotage's Beyerskloof was the least popular. The newbie had managed to call it with their wine addition and stole the limelight. Mooiplaas is available from Delish which is our local wine store on the N2. Definitely worth dropping in there to see their good local wine selection and to sample their excellent food and artisanal bread. All other wines, except Arendsig, can be found at the ever reliable Swellendam Checkers. Arendsig is available from the cellar in Bonnievale and its definitely worth the day trip.
Serious Wine tasting Awards
On Strawberry Hill farm we are passionate about many things. But two things stand out above the rest-wine and mountain biking. Our farm is perfect for those who like to ride trails..all day or those who like to sit and drink wine...all day and night. For those who like both, it makes for busy days (and nights) in the mountains. To celebrate this, we started a little wine club where we occasionally gather, with other wine-lovers, to taste and rate wine. In order to better document our findings and celebrate the winners, we decided to capture our findings in a blog. These are, without doubt, the most important wine tasting awards happening anywhere in the Grootvadersbosch valley so please take serious note!
Cinsault also known as the Black Prince
This week we tasted Cinsault, also known as Cinsaut, Ottavianello or the Black Prince! This cultivar has a famous South Africa wine heritage. In 1925, Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University, combined the qualities of Pinot Noir and Cinsault to produce Pinotage. Historically, Cinsault has been a lowly, blending, workhouse used in red blends in Southern France and the Rhone valley. It was also used for menial (but important) tasks like lubrication. The tiny grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon would clog up the press and so the bigger, juicier grapes of Cinsualt would keep the press running. In Southern France it is known as an excellent grape for Rose, producing floral and fruit flavors, to be enjoyed with some garden snails.
Climate change is assisting in the revival of this cultivar as the grape is tolerant to heat. A small silver lining to the planet's plight! In South Africa, the epicentre of the revival is the Swartland, where some of the oldest Cinsualt bush vines can be found (from 1990!). The grape thrives in warm climates and is now grown more widely in Chile, Lebanon, Morocco and California.
Cinsault produces a soft wine that is low in tannins with a light, brick red color and the flavours of cherries, strawberry and violets.
Similar to the prestigious, Michelin awards, the name of the judges will be kept anonymous. Dissimilar to all other tastings, we simply ask the judges to rank wines from most yummy (1) to least yummy (6). Wines are tasted blind. So what did we taste?
Our resident statistician then analysed the results and eliminated the highest and lowest for each wine. There was a clear winner: Rietvallei Estate Wine, Cinsault, Dark Cin. Dark Cin is a heavier, more mysterious and more complex representation of this cultivar. We highly recommend popping off to the vineyard in Robertson or the brilliant wineshop, Platform 62 to collect a few bottles (or cases). Roberston is on route to Grootvadersbosch from Cape Town via the N1.
Second place goes to Waterkloof, Seriously Cool which is an easy stop off the N2 on your way to Grootvadersbosch from Cape Town. Waterkloof also has a lovely tasting room and restaurant. Both of these are easier travel options than France, and clearly, accoording to our experts, have better wine!
Next time, we think we may continue to celebrate the excellence of South African wine and explore some Pinotage.
Water sisteem by Strawberryhill plaas
Water is een van die mens se belangriskiste hulpbrone wat in soveel doeleindes kan dien water is kosbaar, soos die spreek woord sê kinders moet nie in die water mors nie die oumense moet dit drink.
Moeder natuur kan soms met groot verrasings vorendag kom. Wanneer die natuurlike elemente ons soms omkant vang en jy het nie voorsorg maatreels getref nie, kan ons somtyds aan die kortste end trek. Baie keer is daar water in oormaat en dan skielik kan die water stroom opdroog. Hier by StrawberryHill moet ons altyd n alternatiewe plan van aksie het.
Met die buiten gewone reënval, het ons besluit om opgaar tenke op te rig vir waternoodgevalle.
Planne is beraam, struktuure is aan mekaar gepak en uiteindelik is finaale besluit om ŉ water pomp stellsel te implimenteer, wat reënwater vanuit ŉ opvangstenks oor ŉ afstand van 800m te stoot tot in ŉ tank wat sowant 40 000L water kan stoor. Hier by Strawberryhill probeer ons langtermyn dink want soos ons weet is niks sukses sonder ŉ plan nie.
Ons beskik oor ŉ bruin water bron wat tans water voorsien op die plaas. Enige iets kan gebeur, waar hierdie bron kan opdroog a.g.v uitmergende hitte. Daarom is dit belangrik om altyd n reserve bron in plek te he.
Vanaf ons opgaar tenk het ons pype in verskillende ringtings gelê wat afvoer na veral ons gaste hiuse. Ons prober ons gaste se behoeftes altyd eerste stel, tesame met die briljante stelsel het ons besluit om in elke gastehuis n water filtreer stelsel te installeer, wat 100% suiwer water filtreer. Om alles te kroon is by elke filter n pompie installeur wat vloei en druk soveel vergemaklik.
Niks is ontmmontlik nie, dis net ŉ kwessie van koppe bymekaar sit. Beplan en uitvoer, en sodoende omskep jy dit wat die natuur jou gee, in iets waardevol.waa
THE FIGHT AGAINST FIRE AT STRAWBERRY HILL
Life in a forest in the mountains