With its old-world charm as a reminder of its glory days, Hopefield carries its stature as the oldest West Coast town with aplomb.
In spring Hopefield and surrounds are ablaze with flowers, while rolling green wheat fields greet visitors in winter. Beautiful Victorian riverside homes on enormous plots serenely overlook the river, while sheep, horses, geese and ducks lazily stare into the blue yonder.
Way back in 1851, the town was established on the banks of the Zoute River on the farm Langekuil and named after the town planners, auditor-general Major William Hope and Mr Field. It became a municipality in 1914.
In those years it was considered the capital of the West Coast and the only access to Vredenburg, Langebaan and Saldanha was through Hopefield. The town was packed with banks, filling stations and retailers. However, with the re-routing of the R27 and the construction of the R45, the town’s infrastructure shrank radically. Today, Hopefield is accessed via the R45 between Malmesbury and Vredenburg.
Apart from being the West Coast wheat and sheep farming centre, the area is also well-known for its honey, thanks to the more than 500 fynbos species growing here. To see indigenous flora at ground level, hikers can walk the Langrietvlei and Helderwater trails on farms near the town.
Fossils excavated from Elandsfontein near Saldanha Bay, as well as a replica of the hominid skull Saldanha Man are on display in a museum at the Visitor Information Centre in the main street. Further along the street is a Hartebeeshuisie, the intriguing traditional reed houses for which the area is well known.
Hopefield’s quiet, dignified air is disrupted on the first Saturday of every month with its now famous Mill Country Fair. People visit from far and wide to shop for fresh produce, local crafts, vintage items, books, homemade breads and preserves to the sound of live music.
Photo: Graham Fiford