We invite you to explore, indulge and dream amongst the gentle hills and warm-hearted people who call the KwaZulu Natal Midlands home. The Midlands Meander route is situated between the city of Pietermaritzburg in the East and the majestic uKhahlamba Drakensberg mountain range (a World Heritage Site) in the West, in the uMgungundlovu district, one of eight regions of the ‘Zulu Kingdom’. In the Midlands, life is lived at a gentler pace, we take time to chat to strangers in the trading store and shell our own peas. On your visit, explore the forests and farmlands and the small villages inhabited by interesting characters. Gather inspiration and original art from world-class crafters, enjoy gracious hospitality, savour new flavours and celebrate memorable moments. May you be enticed to return to this Good Place.
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. During the 1970’s artists and crafters were drawn by the gentle landscape and settled into the beautiful valleys of KZN midlands, too. On a summer’s evening in 1985, four potters, a weaver and a couple of artists gathered at Caversham Mill to discuss working cooperatively. The concept of a Rolling Exhibition, held a couple of times a year, was conceived. 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. Since these early days the Midlands Meander has grown into a thriving route which offers more than exceptional art and craft. Nowadays visitors are invited to ride a horse, fish, fly, hike, bike, watch a cow being milked and ice cream being made – simple country activities which illustrate the farming foundation of the region.
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.