A treasure trove

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TUCKED BELOW THE CEDERBERG MOUNTAINS, CLANWILLIAM BOASTS AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES.

One of the ten oldest towns in South Africa, Clanwilliam has a literal cornucopia of nature’s largesse: craggy mountains, crisp clean air, floral feasts, rolling vineyards and orchards, stunning vistas and a mighty river.

This handsome town has a history worthy of a book. Suffice it to say its beginnings go back to 1660 when a team of Jan van Riebeeck’s explorers first reached the Olifants River. In 1732 the first farm in the valley was awarded to Pieter van Zyl and the town, established circa 1804, was originally known as Jan Disselsvalleij after local pioneer and botanist Jan Dissel. To score points with his father-in-law, Sir John Cradock renamed it after the Earl of Clanwilliam in 1814.

In 1914 the Bulshoekdam was built and 21 years later the Clanwilliam dam was completed. Since 1938 the town has had its own hydroelectric generator which provides electricity for most part of the year to its a population of 7 674.

Clanwilliam’s most famous sons are poet, dramatist, medical doctor, reporter and food expert Dr C Louis Leipoldt and his bosom friend, district surgeon and botanist Dr Pieter le Fras Nortier, pioneer of rooibos agricultural cultivation and father of the Clanor seedless orange tree.

Not only is this area renowned for being citrus paradise, home of the critically endangered Clanwilliam cedar Widdringtonia cedarbergensis and world capital of the health-enhancing Rooibos plant Aspalathus linearis, but it also has a veldskoen factory, the Ramskop Wildflower Garden with over 350 species of cultivated wild flowers, a lively arts culture and a champion Riel dance team.

With its natural splendour, colourful history and a slate of interesting places to drink, dine and do a little shopping, Clanwilliam sends one’s spirits soaring.