17 July 2012

Stanford - Old Timer Village

Forget about a "Time Capsule" blasting into the future, think 1930's and Stanford, just 23km or so from Hermanus, in the Western Cape, comes to mind, A place where you need to "land" for a relaxing look  into the past.  We all struggle keeping up with today's fast-moving technology - tablet meant a pill for a head-ache when I was growing up -  now it is a sophisticated piece of computer equipment, small enough to fit into a hand-bag. Gone are the days of those huge rooms which were required to house the "computer" ! We don't want to go back to those times as we all love the modern technology - my favourite being my Kindle. However, for peace and quiet and a step back in time, Stanford is well worth a visit.

This village has the Klein (small) River running through it and there is a pleasant, short trail along the river. Do look out for the dog pooh as the local residents don't seem to "poop scoop" You can canoe, swim or just laze by the river during summer. The "African Queen" offers cruises down river with a minimum of 20 people. The source of the river is in the Hemel-n-Aarde Valley, just outside of Hermanus and the river winds its way along mountains before reaching Stanford and then flows 15 more km towards the Hermanus Lagoon. Birds, apparently are frequent - it was perhaps too cold on our visit to see many. The feathered kind, that is.

The town is named after Captain Robert Stanford who was born in 1805. He bought a farm in this district and was very successful until 1845 when many Irish were banished to the Cape after the severe famine and failed rebellion. Captain Stanford heeded a call for mercy for the Irish who had been at sea for over 5 months. Unfortunately, the Stanford family was severely ostracised for his actions. This resulted in the death of one of his children as the local doctor refused medical care when called upon. It seems barbaric that a doctor could turn a blind eye to a sick child, but he did just that. Stanford returned to England to put forward his case and this resulted in him being knighted and receiving a pay-out of 5000.00 pounds - a huge sum in those days. However, on his return to SA he found that his land had been illegally sold and his farm no longer belonged to him. The family returned to the UK where Sir Stanford died a pauper in Manchester at age 70.  Not a tale to be proud of and a sad beginning to a town which is so "olde worlde"

The Village Green is still just that - a huge piece of land surrounded by
'old" houses. One can just imagine a game of cricket on a lazy summer afternoon! Dating back to 1785, the Green is still used for events and markets.

The old-fashioned way of getting water to all the houses, still exists in Stanford and this is called "lei water" (water that is led or water lead).The sloots (furrows) run along the road and are controlled by small sluices - one is usually advised of the time of your "turn" at the water. As a child we had the same  system in Oudtshoorn and I remember my father having to get up at 03.00 to water the garden as water was so precious in the hot, dry climate of our town. He always cursed but never let a "water-lead" go by. It was more than his life was worth!

Stanford has a number of art and antique shops - worthy of a browse - who knows what you may turn up. We loved the art displayed on the pavement - amazing works for those with enough money to buy!

There are a number of restaurants in Stanford and surrounds - we choose @Art for a warm and inviting atmosphere with the walls adorned with art works. Great pizzas made in a wood-burning pizza oven and a number of chalk-board Sunday Specials. Good value for money.

The village was declared a conservation area in 1996 and this has preserved many buildings; some of which date 100 - 300 years old. The charm of the village is best seen on foot so take a slow walk along the streets of the village to admire the old achitectural styles of yesteryear. The pace of life here slows you down so much that you may not want to return to the hectic pace of the city. For myself, the country is great for a visit and some much needed R&R, but give me the city lights any time.

We did not have time to visit the Birkenhead Brewery or the Cheese Farm where picnics came be enjoyed during the summer months.

A spot certainly worth a week-end or more. Bring your cycles, your binoculars, your fishing rods and your credit cards!

© Judelle Drake

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