Our much loved South African country areas do not have to stand back for the city places when it comes to decor and refurbishment. Proof of this comes by way of an amazing refurbishment done at the Sanddrif holiday resort and working farm. Situated in the central Cederberg area of the Western Cape, the farm is a comfortable 4 hours’ drive from Cape Town, during which time you climb to 1 036 metres above sea level.
A geologically and culturally-rich area, the Cederberg is a favourite to many rock climbers, mountain bikers, hikers, adventure-seekers, even weekend ‘couch potatoes’ – and wine aficionados. Many overseas tourists return year after year to enjoy the crisp clean air, the environmental offerings and the produce of the farm.
Located within the heart of the Cederberg, the Cederberg Private Wine Estate and boutique brewery, homed on Dwarsriver Farm, is also the tourist centre and reception for guests staying at Sanddrif, under the deep red and orange-hued Wolfberg Cracks.
The resort and winery has much more than a South African outdoor-oriented following. It attracts hundreds of international guests each year, who repeat their visits year after year, a tribute to the warm welcome they receive from farm management and farm workers alike. Cederberg is an environmentally and culturally-sensitive area and is home, for example, to the Cape Leopard, of which a number of individuals roam the high crags and mountains, as well as the indigenous Clanwilliam Ceder Tree, Widdringtonia cedarbergensis.
Farm owners, David and Cisca Nieuwoudt along with David’s father, Ernst and family, speak with pride about their working farm, which also happens to offer 4 Star graded Cederberg hospitality. The Nieuwoudt’s are the fifth generation to operate the farm and are the most fabulous and welcoming hosts available to tourists.
David is an extremely well-known and famous South African winemaker and has expanded his horizons around the world, being principal winemaker in regions as far apart as Chile (Maule region) and Cape Agulhas (Elim) The Cederberg Vineyard is the highest altitude vineyard in SA.
Well known wine brands made in the Cederberg Private Cellar
- Ghost Corner
- David Nieuwoudt
Overall master planning
Over the past decade, David has explored and affirmed the family heritage on the farm, which goes back five generations. Advised by a London firm of architects called Instinct, owned by Leszek Dobrovolsky and Caroline Sohie, who are themselves regular visitors to the farm, the heritage and built environment upgrades to the working farm and tourist facilities have been remarkable.
This includes a significant consolidation of cellar operations under one roof from a number of previously standalone functional buildings, with an eye on both efficiency and sustainability. The tourist side of the farm has also received attention with road upgrades, new signage conveying a single uniform brand, and of course an exclusive artisanal brewery. The latter is thanks to the extremely pure mountain stream water which services the farm.
The old water mill on the farm was renovated and appears in the list of top 10 heritage mills in the province.
The family also has a unique relationship with the Waitrose group in the UK, who not only stock the legendary Cederberg wines in their stores but have actively become involved in social development on the farm via the Waitrose Foundation.
Accommodation makeover and decor
The farm and winery were as adversely affected as any other South African enterprise by the never-ending lockdowns in 2020, but instead of bemoaning their fate, David and Cisca decided on a bold revamp of legacy-stock accommodation units on the guest farm, some of which date back to the 1800s. In the true philosophy of the Cederberg mountains, ‘the tough survive’ and they soon realised that one silver lining to the global pandemic was the opportunity to accept the temporary closure of the busy accommodation facility and focus on the upgrade they had been talking about for years.
<Photo 0803 – caption> One of the premium cottages called Mars, after the planet, during renovation and landscaping.
“Our investment of R7 million was invested in the accommodation and road infrastructure upgrades, creating work opportunities for labourers, a building contractor and plumbing contractor from neighbouring communities,” says David.
The Cederberg is well-known for its sustainability thinking. Hence, considerable re-use was made of recycled building materials and objects that were found long-forgotten in the various barns and sheds on the farm, as well as in the attic of the main farmhouse.
<Pic 4798> Extensive use was made of repainted recycled wooden furniture.
David confirms that only limited new building materials were brought onto the farm to be used in the project. Meanwhile, Cisca, assisted by her friend, a Cape-based artist and decorator, Tia Gerber, painstakingly curated all kinds of found items from the farm and Tia scoured various flea markets for the balance of the collectibles. The main purpose of all the objects, however, is to tell the story of the farm’s centuries-old heritage.
<pic 0859> Collectibles from fleamarkets, framed art from family archives.
Tia picks up the story: “Cisca spent hours sourcing beautiful vintage furniture to add to the decor. It brings character and it is sustainable to reuse these, when compared with new furniture.
“For the main bedrooms, we had headboards made up in deep colours to pull the planet theme through. The bedrooms are calm and subtle. We framed vintage botanical prints for the second bedrooms and painted the furniture. Paint makes a big difference and is a cost effective way to having a new look.
“My objective was to create small surprises that add to a positive stay in the cottages. We discovered old metal trunks on the farm, that we repurposed into coffee tables and side tables. Using what we had to create the feeling that the cottage has always been there.
“It was my idea to add recycled roadsigns for some fun!”.
“We looked for a Mind the Baboons roadsign, but you can’t get those”, laughs Cisca (baboon are regular and sometimes unwelcome visitors to the tourist accommodation section of the farm).
“Cisca and I decided to keep the artwork subtle – no ‘real’ pictures. By keeping it calm and abstract, it should just enhance what is already there. My paintings are acrylic on canvas. I use a modeling paste to create loads of texture. I intricately layer the paint to create a colourful and vibrant piece. I strive to portray a balance of realism combined with loose abstraction, causing one to compliment the other.
“My goal is for the viewer to feel a connection with my paintings in a meaningful and unique way. For much of my work, refer to my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TiaGerberArt ”, she says.
Colour themes, materials and heritage
Guests in the cottages will also notice a distinct colour theme that has been followed. Brickwork has been left unplastered indoors to add an earthy effect.
Cisca explains that the inspiration for the indoor colour scheme comes from images of the solar system taken at the Cederberg Observatory located on the farm and also the seasonal green and pink flowers that thrive in the veld in spring.
“The idea was not to create ‘Coricraft cottages’ (with reference to SA’s fabulous and stylish furnishings and decor chain) but we wanted our guests to experience a Cederberg journey while at the same time having some of the luxury items of modern living, including a dishwasher, styled bathrooms with freestanding tubs and a heated floor for the very cold winter nights.”
“Because most visitors are short-term guests on the farm, Tia (Gerber) pushed me to be a bit brighter and daring indoors. So we tried to use the blues reflected in pictures of the solar system that we see and also in some colours of the veld,” says Cisca.
Each cottage has a generous balcony with access to a built-in braai, and the indoor living areas also enjoy a built-in braai and fireplace combo.
Essentially, the cottages most recently refurbished are the ‘Planets’ – so-named after the solar system was ‘visited’ by Halley’s Comet in 1986 with the Cederberg becoming the most famous viewing site in the country for comet watchers. In addition, legacy cottages on the ‘Old Sanddrif’, the original working farm dating back to C Louis Leipoldt’s parents and prior, were upgraded. The results are eclectic, including a large boulder built into one of the bedrooms.
“We could not take it out and we could not go around it, so we welcomed it inside,” says David, with a laugh. These really old buildings are the typical farm buildings built hundreds of years ago, with thick solid walls, Waboom timber roof beams and walls built of solid rock. Vines have been planted to cover the trellises and remind the guest of the extensive vineyard practices on the main farm.
Whilst there are many remarkable things to do and explore while on the farm, the attention to environmental sustainability matters has been remarkable. These include sustainable vineyards, avoidance of pesticides and a massive PV system which under optimum conditions provides power to a substantial portion of the winery and farming operations. A later article will explore these rural interventions further. Further information on the accommodation options can be obtained at www.sanddrif.com