More than meets the eye

Anchored in agriculture, Malmesbury is pure West Coast gold.

Just a short drive down the N7, a breathtaking green and gold tapestry greets visitors to Malmesbury, Heart of the Swartland. Incidentally, Swartland refers to the indigenous Renoster bush which turns black throughout the area during summer.

From its roots as a post established by Jan Wintervogel in 1655 on Commander Jan van Riebeek’s instructions, the former Khoi and San home has become known for its grain and wine cultivation, as well as sheep and poultry farming.

Named after the Earl of Malmesbury, the first farms were allocated in 1703 and settlers were encouraged to set up home here because of a tepid sulphur chloride mineral spring, renowned at the time for curing rheumatism. Astonishingly, this aspect was never developed and a shopping centre was built on the spring’s site.

About 36 000 people live in Malmesbury and apart from its fine wines cooled by the Atlantic breeze, the town boasts delightful old architecture. Apart from many residential homes, these include the old Jewish Synagogue, now the Malmesbury Museum, and Ant Sienie se Huisie on the banks of the Dieprivier.

Over the years the town has always attracted visitors with its diverse sporting activities: mountain bike trails, 4×4 routes, hiking trails, golf and skydiving through the Swartland skies. Several restaurants are dotted throughout the town – from fine dining to ‘egte boerekos’.

The aspiration to become a high-tech exurb does not sit well with Malmesbury – traditional farming continues to roll along. And quite rightly.