How green was my valley

Atlantic Gull, West Coast, Vredendal

The sheer audacity of so much greenery in what’s supposed to be an arid region takes one’s breath away when entering Vredendal.

Swathes of vineyards surrounded by the majestic Gifberg, Maskam and Koebee peaks announce bustling, fertile Vredendal. Advanced and modern with a developed infrastructure that includes an airfield and shopping centres, the town is situated on part of the old Vreedensdaal farm that dates back to 1748. That farm name came about after a peace settlement between two sparring parties. Laid out in 1933 as part of the Olifants River Irrigation Scheme, it received municipal status in 1963.

Holding the seat of the Matzikama Local Municipality, the town of 32 000 residents is the hub of the northern Olifants River Valley – developing fast economically with businesses such as the SA Dried Fruit Co-op, Malaqua Marble, Eckloweed Industry, Cape Lime Processing and Anglo American’s ever-expanding Namaqua Sands.

Hot in summer, the town laid claim to the highest global temperature for October since records began on 27 October 2015 – a searing 48.4°C.

This area has been recognised as one of the country’s ideal regions for wine production. With 16 wineries and three of the largest wine cellars in the southern hemisphere – Klawer Wine Cellars, Lutzville Vineyards and Namaqua Wines. This is wine production on a massive scale, not quaint little cellars. Oh, and the best spuds in South Africa are also grown in the area.

In October, all hell breaks loose with the annual ‘Madeliefie Makietie’ which brings together neighbouring towns for music, arts and crafts.

Vredendal is blazing a trail on the West Coast – an example of what’s possible with know-how, clout and energy.