VAAL EXPLORER 

Vaal Explorer is an information platform dedicated to the greater Vaal Region where information on Leisure & Adventure Activities, Accommodation options, Restaurants, Wedding, Function & Conference Venues, Spas and information on Events in the region can be found.

The region offers a wealth of adventure activities, such as skydiving, ziplining, abseiling, scuba diving, tree-top adventures, river rafting, tubing, kayaking, waterskiing, stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, tubing, quad biking, trail running, hiking, mountain biking, game and nature reserves, animal parks, indoor go-karting. it also boasts 9 golf courses, horse riding, 4x4 tracks, berry farms, cheese farms, lion farm,cheetah centre, craft breweries, bee farm, art farm, quaint shops, beautiful lodges, hotels and various other accommodation options, historic villages, museums and the world-renowned Vredefort Dome where qualified guides will take you on amazing tours.

Towns included in the Greater Vaal Region: Vaal Marina, Villiers, Deneysville, Balfour, Greylingstad, Grootvlei, Val, Heidelberg, Meyerton, Midvaal, Henley on Klip, Vanderbijlpark, Vereeniging, Sasolburg, Loch Vaal, Lindequesdrift, Parys, Vredefort Dome, Venterskroon, Walkerville, Oranjeville, Frankfort & Heilbron.

 

 

 

 The Vaal Dam was constructed in 1938 and lies 77km south of OR Tambo International Airport. The lake behind the dam wall has a surface area of about 320 square kilometres (120sq mi) and is 47 meters deep. The Vaal Dam lies in the Vaal River, which is one of South Africa’s strongest-flowing rivers. The Vaal Dam has over 800 kilometres of shoreline and is South Africa’s second biggest dam by area and the third largest by volume.

The construction of the Vaal Dam started during the depression of the early thirties and the dam was completed in 1938 with a wall height of 54.2 meters above lowest foundation and a full supply capacity of 994,000,000 cubic meters. The dam wall was subsequently raised in the early fifties to a height of 60.3meters which increased the capacity to 2,188,000,000 cubic meters. A second raising took place in 1985 when the wall was raised by a further 3.05 meters to 63.5 meters above lowest foundation. The capacity of the dam is currently 2,536,000,000 cubic meters and a further 663,000,000 cubic meters or 26% can be stored temporarily for flood attenuation.

The dam has its own island some 5km long. The island hosts the annual Round the Island Yacht race, which holds a Guinness Book of World Records title for the largest inland yacht race.

On 4 May 1948 BOAC (British Overseas Air Corporation) introduced Short Solent flying boats on the UK (Southampton) to South Africa (Vaal Dam) service. The small village of Deneysville was used as a stop-over point by the old BOAC flying boats.

 

 

Vaal Marina is a quaint growing town on the Vaal Dam and as the name suggests, many small harbours can be found along its shoreline.   It lies due south of the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, outside Johannesburg. 

Vaal Marina is described as a “holiday town”. It is one of only three towns bordering the dam.  The other two are Deneysville on the Vaal Dam wall and Oranjeville on the southern bank of the dam. Vaal Marina is by far the largest of the three.  Demand for the type of lifestyle that living on the edge of the water provides, means that much of the area has found itself subdivided into security developments, smallholdings, some of which have become game farms and guest farms.

Not all sought after homes in Vaal Marina necessarily have water frontage, but most will have views, and access to water sports.  The marina attracts many visitors from out of town to purchase weekend homes, as it is easily accessible from Johannesburg and surrounding areas and offers fishing boating, skiing, sailing, kayaking, wind surfing, jet skiing and other water sports.  The amount of residents opting to live on this beautiful part of the Vaal Dam on a permanent basis is also increasing.  Homes are more affordable than a few years ago and great opportunities are currently available and worth investigating.

  With Suikerbosrand on its doorstep you could also enjoy a day’s worth of hiking, game driving and mountain biking.  A few restaurants in the area offer great food whilst enjoying the beautiful views and magnificent sunsets.  Harbour Town one of the most well-known security estates at Vaal Marina also offers a golf course, a restaurant and a magnificent marine.  A visit to this little village, if you have never been, is really one of those “must do” activities.  You might just leave as the owner of your very own weekend getaway to be enjoyed and to live life. 

 

 

 


The Vaal Dam was originally known as Lake Deneys, named after Deneys Reitz who was born in 1882.  It was however the town on its shoreline, rather than the dam itself, that was to become his namesake.  Deneysville was named after Deneys Reitz who was the Minister of Water Affairs and Agriculture at the time of the dam's construction and who was the son of a former president of the Orange Free State Republic, F.W. Reitz.

 Deneysville is a small, quiet, picturesque village regarded as the gateway to the Vaal Dam. It’s ideal position, right on the banks of the large body of water that serves as one of the primary sources of fresh water for Gauteng, makes it a major centre for boating, sailing, fishing and other water sports.  Deneysville has earned the rather apt title of ‘inland water mecca of South Africa’.

There is some debate as to which province Deneysville in fact belongs.  Although regarded as lying on the Free State shore of the Vaal Dam, next to the dam wall, Deneysville is also just 100 kilometres from the major metropolis of Johannesburg, and is subsequently regarded by many as part of the Vaal Triangle, Gauteng.

The Reitz family's weekend cottage on the banks of the Vaal Dam was two rondawel-like structures originally built and owned by Deneys Reitz’s brother.

It has been used as a Church since 1978 and its Foundation Stone was laid by Rev 'Bill' Meaker of the Methodist Church – Sasolburg. This tiny and beautiful historical stone and thatch building with inspiring views is known as the St Peter’s United Church which is an inter-denominational church used by Anglicans, Methodist, Presbyterians and all are welcome. It has become a very popular wedding venue because of its position close to the edge of the water and its quaintness.

Deneys Reitz was a Boer soldier, later a South Africansoldier in the First World War, author of many books, an attorney and a politician (cabinet minister).

His law firm,Deneys Reitz Inc, which he founded in 1922, was known as one of the “Big Five” law firms in South Africa with 230+ attorneys and offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.   On 1 June 2011 Deneys Reitz Inc joined the Norton Rose Group, simultaneously rebranding as Norton Rose South Africa.

The Historic Motorbike Museum is a living working museum on the premises of the Lake Avenue Inn and offers a Sunday Bikers breakfast as well.  The museum can be visited from Wednesday to Sundays.

 

 


HEIDELBERG

Heidelberg began in 1862 as a trading station built by German, Heinrich Ueckermann.  The town is nestled at the eastern end of the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, a large tract of land that is home to Gauteng's highest point almost 2 000m above sea level. The Dutch Reformed Church in Heidelberg was built from sandstone by the Voortrekkers as they moved inland from Cape Town. The first church they built became too small and had to undergo very expensive renovations. On 12 April 1890, the cornerstone of the new church was laid by Commandant-General P.J. Joubert, the vice-president of the then Z.A.R. The church was built in the Norman style, with large pillars, arch windows and an arch above each doorway.  A large hall was built underneath the church. The inaugural service was held on 13th March 1891.

Although 77 members of the congregation were killed in the second Anglo-Boer war, the church itself was not damaged.  Today, the hall underneath the church houses the church museum.

The Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve is a protected area in the Suikerbosrand Range and one of Gauteng's premier eco-tourism destinations, about an hour's drive from Johannesburg just outside Heidelberg.  The 11 595 hectare reserve derives its name from the Transvaal Suikerbos or 'Sugar Bush" (Protea Caffra) that flourishes and outnumbers all other plants and vegetation in the reserve and boasts a representative sample of the fauna and flora of the Rocky Highveld Grassland Biome.

The Alice Glockner Nature Reserve in Heidelberg is home to a rare and threatened (Red Data) butterfly species, the Heidelberg Copper Butterfly (Chrysoritis aureus, Vulnerable) This butterfly was discovered on Christmas day in 1959 by two amateur collectors. Heidelberg is also known for its annual "Varkfees".

 

 


 

Henley on Klip is a beautiful little village that has maintained its quaintness, is situated on the Klip River that flows into the Vaal River.  The village carries with it a wealth of history, beautiful guest houses, bistro's, tea gardens, wedding and function venues. The well known Bass Lake Adventure Resort is situated just outside the village.

 

 


 

Vereeniging is situated where the Klip River empties into the northern loop of the Vaal River.  The town is known for its beautiful hotels and guesthouses offering quality accommodation. The Treaty of Vereeniging was negotiated here, ending the Second Boer War.  Many historical events took place in the area of which some are still commemorated today.

Vereeniging – The River and the Land

In 1905, the age-old appearance of the Vaal River at Vereeniging was changed when T. N Leslie, the first mayor of Vereeniging, constructed a weir across the river to impound water for irrigation and the further development of the plantations and farmlands at Maccauvlei.  (Currently a golf course with a very rich history on the banks of the Vaal River, just outside Vereeniging)

 In 1893 Sammy Marks appointed a German horticulturist, Otto Brandmuller, to begin the afforestation of Maccauvlei.  Urged by Marks, Brandmuller proceeded with plans to clothe the area in forests. He wrought the remarkable transformation of Macauvlei into a magnificent forest which covers 2 000 morgen on the Free State bank.  In one year alone, he planted 100 000 trees.

Vereeniging Estates retained Leslie to build the weir, which he erected just above the present single-lane road bridge; and although on completion it was only five feet above normal low water level, the weir dammed back the Vaal for a distance of eight miles. 

 

When Leslie rode on horseback along the river bank to inspect the new weir, he came across part of a fossilised forest exposed in the drained river bed below the weir.  He saw before him in microcosm evidence of the process, interrupted millions of years before, that elsewhere in the area had been completed to form the seams of coal that George William Stow, the intrepid geologist, had discovered in 1878.  Some prints provide the only record of the forest’s existence.  It is to George William Stow and Senator Sammy Marks, the millionaire entrepreneur, who made the discovery commercially viable, that Vereeniging owes its existence.

  Leslie telegraphed the Government geologist, Dr E.T. Mellor, who left his sick bed to hurry to the site and both men planned to return the following day to make a thorough examination of the find, but even their preliminary observations were interrupted when a violent storm broke over the area and the river came down in flood.  The next morning, the forest was submerged.  It will never be seen again, because since the construction of the Vaal River Barrage, the site has been under 20 feet of water.

It was Leslie, too, who discovered remarkable collections of Stone-Age weapons and implements on various sites on the banks of the Vaal and Klip Rivers which converge at Vosloo Park in Vereeniging.  Certain areas of the Vaal River basin were unquestionably, occupied at various times by prehistoric man, and his rock engravings on the outcrops of flat sandstone are still to be seen near the giant Klip power station.

Cut with sharp instruments, some of these engravings crudely depict animals, while others are remarkable balanced geometrical designs, the significance which remains a mystery.

Fossilised plants and fruits preserved in clay deposits for 250 million years have been unearthed in the area and palaeo-botanists have learned a great deal about the evolution of certain plants from these finds.  Traces of Africa’s first insect fruit pests have also been found; and with practically every new excavation made in the area during the past decade precious unknown plant fossils have been revealed.  Leslie discovered several of these types which now bear his name: Bothrodendron Leslii, Samaropsis Leslii, Otocaria Leslii and Argyroderma Leslii are among them.  In addition he found several hitherto unknown living plant types of which perhaps the most renowned is Lithops Leslii, the window plant, which together with other specimens are kept at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in England.

Biblio: Vereeniging South Africa – Ramon Lewis Leigh (1968)

             Courier-Gazette Publishers (Pty) Ltd


Vanderbijlpark along with Vereeniging is growing in popularity as a tourist destination of choice offering many water sport activities, festivals and excellent accommodation and restaurants, many of these establishments are situated on the banks of the Vaal River.

The Emerald Resort and Casino offers many different accommodation options, the well known Aqua Dome and Animal World.  There are many luxury Lodges and Guest Houses, Wedding & Conference facilities in the town.

 

 

  A very interesting historical event that happened within the municipal boundaries of Vanderbijlpark is the Battle Of Vyffontein.

The Battle of Vyffontein never got its place in history as it deserves.

Neither has it been recorded by Boer nor British scribe. Nor is it even mentioned. However, it certainly played its part in altering South Africa’s history and it happened right here within the municipal boundaries of Vanderbijlpark.

Just before sunset on a late April day in 1900 it so happened that the advancing British troops marching from Bloemfontein to Pretoria, ran into a commando of Boers, camping under a clump of trees in the vlei.

The Boers started firing from their vantage point of trees and reeds at the British. The troops made a hasty retreat back to Viljoensdrift from hence they departed earlier to re-group.

The actual site of the skirmish was fought within the enclosed yard of the surveyor’s cabin a few hundred yards from the wagon trail linking Potchefstroom and Vereeniging.

After the Anglo Boer War a government school and two houses were built on the site. There are still some old-timers around that got there education under the old blue-gum trees that are still standing today.

Forgotten, but to a fortunate few, is this piece of land that:

  • Halted the eastern flank of British troops advancing to Pretoria to stop Pres Kruger leaving for Mocambique and eventually Europe.
  • Enabled the Boers to re-organise their commandos from the Vyffontein stronghold and Kaalplaats hideout, to rejoin the forces in attacking railway lines and blowing up telephone links in the southern Transvaal.

Vyffontein lies at the northern end of Frikkie Meyer Boulevard, slightly to the right of the bend in the road. A few shacks are built around the trees where the school’s foundation might still be.

Let’s assume the British troops were not halted and delayed by the Boers here in Vanderbijlpark. Then Paul Kruger would have been taken as a Prisoner Of  War, and what then?

Luckily we will never know.

Author - Nico Moolman

 

 


The Loch Vaal/Barrage is the most popular stretch on the whole of the Vaal River, offering 57 kilometres of navigable water and 3 kilometres just below the Barrage. Guest houses and hotels are dotted all along this section of the river and offer tourists an amazing variety of water sport activities and lifestyle options.

 

 

  A very interesting historical event that happened within the municipal boundaries of Vanderbijlpark is the Battle Of Vyffontein.

The Battle of Vyffontein never got its place in history as it deserves.

Neither has it been recorded by Boer nor British scribe. Nor is it even mentioned. However, it certainly played its part in altering South Africa’s history and it happened right here within the municipal boundaries of Vanderbijlpark.

Just before sunset on a late April day in 1900 it so happened that the advancing British troops marching from Bloemfontein to Pretoria, ran into a commando of Boers, camping under a clump of trees in the vlei.

The Boers started firing from their vantage point of trees and reeds at the British. The troops made a hasty retreat back to Viljoensdrift from hence they departed earlier to re-group.

The actual site of the skirmish was fought within the enclosed yard of the surveyor’s cabin a few hundred yards from the wagon trail linking Potchefstroom and Vereeniging.

After the Anglo Boer War a government school and two houses were built on the site. There are still some old-timers around that got there education under the old blue-gum trees that are still standing today.

Forgotten, but to a fortunate few, is this piece of land that:

  • Halted the eastern flank of British troops advancing to Pretoria to stop Pres Kruger leaving for Mocambique and eventually Europe.
  • Enabled the Boers to re-organise their commandos from the Vyffontein stronghold and Kaalplaats hideout, to rejoin the forces in attacking railway lines and blowing up telephone links in the southern Transvaal.

Vyffontein lies at the northern end of Frikkie Meyer Boulevard, slightly to the right of the bend in the road. A few shacks are built around the trees where the school’s foundation might still be.

Let’s assume the British troops were not halted and delayed by the Boers here in Vanderbijlpark. Then Paul Kruger would have been taken as a Prisoner Of  War, and what then?

Luckily we will never know.

Author - Nico Moolman

 

 


The stretch of river between the Barrage and Parys includes Vaal Eden, Vaaloewers and Oorbietjiesfontein. It is a very popular fly fishing destination with many lodges, campsites and beautiful destination wedding options, Chateau C' Elca, being the most popular wedding venues in the area.  One of the country's most modern shooting ranges is situated in this area called Hippo Creek.

 

Krugerskroon is one of the largest tourist and visitors attractions in the Lindequesdrift area offering a Heritage Car Museum, Restaurant, General Dealer and Soap Factory, regular Vintage & Classic Car Events, Fitness Centre, mini Game Park, Markets and Teambuilding events.

 

 

 

 


Parys was founded in 1883 to provide convenient access to a church for the local inhabitants and named by a German land surveyor who took part in the siege of Paris and who served in the Franco-Prussian war. The town reminded him of Paris and was duly given the same name. There are still a few historic buildings in Parys such as the Anglican Church that was built in 1915, the Dutch Reformed church in 1899, the Parys Museum, housed in the old magistrate's office opposite the Town Hall.  The Palms Hotel is also one of the older building that is still standing today. One of the old farmhouses dating back to 1930 is still occupied an in private ownership.

 

Parys situated on the Vaal River in the northern Free State, just over an hour's drive from Johannesburg is a small vibrant town that attracts hundreds of out-of-town visitors and tourists over weekends, many who have bought weekend homes in town and along the Vaal River. Various attractions bring visitors to the town, such as the many boutique type and quaint shops, excellent restaurants and many adventure activities and unique accommodation options. Parys is known as an arty town, with antique and decor shops scattered in little side streets and along Bree Street, the main road through town.  It can take a full day to browse the shops up and down the main road, with many little pubs, amazing restaurants, and coffee shops enticing one to enter and taste their offerings.

Parys and the stretch of the Vaal River from town into the Vredefort Dome is probably one of the busiest sections of river in South Africa, with many commercial operators offering kayaking, rafting, paddle boarding and watersport activities to individuals, families, groups and team building packages to the corporate market. Abseiling, hiking, 4 x 4 trails, fly fishing, quad biking, berry picking, skydiving, zip lining, horse trails and golf are just a few of the exciting activities that keep visitors coming back for more and more.

Mountain biking is very popular in the area as a vast number of trails are constantly upgraded, added and changed. The Crater Cruise is a well-known event that takes place annually attracting thousands of cyclists.  The town offers exciting festivals, such as the Flower Festival, the Parys Arts Festival and the Dome Festival annually. The Hartelus market takes place every first Saturday of the month and attracts both visitors and exhibitors locally and from out of town.

Once you have experienced Parys, you will be hooked as thousands of previous visitors can testify as they keep returning.

 

 

 

 

 


The Vredefort Dome is situated approximately 120km south-west of Johannesburg near the towns of Vredefort and Parys, in the northern Free State and dates back 2023 million years. It is the oldest, largest and most deeply eroded complex meteorite impact structure in the world with a radius of 190km. The Vredefort Dome Meteorite Impact Structure bears witness to the greatest known single energy release event on Earth and was listed a World Heritage Site in 2005 by UNESCO.

 

The Vredefort Dome is situated in both the Free State and North West Province on the banks of the Vaal River.  The landscape generally referred to as "The Dome" differs drastically from the flat plains of the northern Free State and the North West Province.  Apart from a favourable frost-free climate, the region is rich in plant, animal and bird life.

Before modern times the Vredefort Dome area was rich in wild animals. Hunter-gatherers roamed the area and left their art in the form of rock engravings (petroglyphs) of the animals they hunted on ancient rock formations. Clear signs that the early people and wild animals occupied the same space and lived in harmony. Evidence of human habitation and activity in the Vredefort Dome dates back to the Late Stone Age, Iron Age, early settlers, Anglo-Boer war and mining for gold to modern times.

Many stone-walled remains of settlements, inhabited by the Iron Age farmers and cattle herders, are scattered in the hills all over the Vredefort Dome. Various artifacts and remains of possible metal-smelting furnaces were uncovered at some of the settlements. Around the 1840's Europeans settled in the area as livestock and crop farmers and as hunters. In 1876 the town of Vredefort was formally established on the farm Visgat with the first erven sold on 20 April of that year. The town became an agricultural and religious centre and got its name after the peaceful conclusion of a threatened war between the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The farm where the dispute was settled belonged to Johannes Scheepers and was then renamed from Visgat to Vredefort, meaning "Fort of Peace".

THE GEOLOGY

The Vredefort Dome is the best-preserved impact site of its size and the only example to provide a full geological profile of an astrobleme below a crater floor. As such it has captured the fascination of scientists all over the world. The term dome in the Vredefort Dome refers to the central uplift that occurs after an impact. In the case of the Vredefort Dome, the dome has eroded away during the course of 2 billion years and only the crater floor is now visible.

Old mine dumps and tunnels in the hills, tell the story of fortune seekers who hoped to become rich since the 1880's. Mining for gold began in 1887 and in the same year, the Venterskroon Gold Fields was officially proclaimed by the government of the day. A Mining Commissioner's office was established at Venterskroon in 1889, from where the gold mining activities were regulated. The mining for gold either side of the Vaal River was also commonly known as the "Vaal River Diggings". By around 1930 mining operations in the Vredefort Dome came to a halt as the yield was too low to be economically viable.

 

THE FLORA

A great diversity of habitats exists, including open plains, riverine bush and hills and valleys with abundant flora, all in finely balanced ecosystems. Among the special flora are some bushveld trees that do not normally grow on the highveld, such as the Red Ivory, Jacket Plum, Velvet Bushwillow, Tree Fuchsia and a few more.  However, the most unique feature as far as trees in the Dome are concerned is the African Olive, (Olea Africana) forest on the slope of a hill in the Kpjeskraal area. This forest is the largest concentration of African Olive trees at a single location in the world.

THE FAUNA

The whole spectrum of wild animals roamed the hilltops, valleys and grass plains. Place names such as Leeufontein, Koedoeslaagte, Buffelskloof, Tygerfontein and many others, bear witness that all these animals once existed here. The strong eco-tourism focus in recent years in the Vredefort Dome resulted in the re-intoduction of large numbers of game animals.  Many farmers have converted their farms into game farms or reserves and it is not uncommon to see giraffe, eland, gemsbok, sable antelope and nyala in the area. Primates, like baboons and vervet monkeys and smaller predators, are still present in fairly large numbers. Nocturnal animals like aardvark, porcupine, spring hare and other rodents are still around.

Birdlife in the Dome is prolific and bird lovers can visit a number of birding hot spots along the Vaal River, Inland Sea, grass veld areas, rocky hills and bushveld areas. More than 330 species have already been positively identified in the Dome.

HISTORIC HAMLET

Venterskroon is situated in the Vredefort Dome, a small hamlet that was the hive of activity in the late 1800's when gold was discovered in the area. Although the gold was of poor quality, fortune seekers moved into town hoping to become wealthy and many prospecting contracts were registered on the surrounding farms. The little town has been beautifully restored and visitors are welcome to enjoy a meal at Venterskroon Inn (previously Old Imperial Inn), while seated under the old Shepherd's trees. Many accommodation options are available in Venterskroon and an ideal option to explore the Dome from here.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS

Adventure lovers can enjoy a wealth of adrenaline pumping activities in and around the Vredefort Dome. The Vaal River below Parys meanders through the Vredefort Dome and is the busiest stretch of river in all South Africa from kayaking and rafting point of view. A number of commercial operators offer rafting trips from Parys town along the river into the Dome and has become extremely popular for team building, company events, families and individuals seeking an adrenaline rush.

Other extreme sports activities offered in the Vredefort Dome is skydiving, abseiling, rap jumping, zip lining, 4x4 adventure trails, quad biking, horse trails, hiking, tubing, trail running and mountain biking. The area is well known for its variety and levels of mountain bike trails. From white-knuckle downhill descents to scenic country tracks that are moderately challenging exist in the Vredefort Dome and have taken years to pioneer and are continuously upgraded and changed.

Fly-fishing is very popular in the Dome as certain areas offer pristine facilities, The first documented catch of smallmouth yellow fish was done during December 1979 in the rapids of the Vaal River at Thabela Thabeng.  It is one of the few stretches of "virgin water" where fly fishing, catch and release only, is allowed. Some of the most beautiful destination wedding venues can be found in the Vredefort Dome. A variety of rustic country style to five-star facilities is on offer.  Most of the wedding venues offer accommodation for wedding guests with ample accommodation available in the surrounding area if there is an overflow.

The Dog and Fig Brewery, offering great craft beer and meals, is situated on the Kopjeskraal road.  Lodges, camping sites, small boutique style guest houses and self-catering options are available in the Vredefort Dome with every establishment offering a variety of activities.

A great experience is to explore the area with certified guides and getting to know the history of the area.

www.vredefortdome.tourism.info     www.parysinfo.co.za       www.facebook.com/VredefortDome       www.domeimpacttours.co.za

Establishment of Heilbron

Farmers settled in the area when the farm Rietfontein was bought for 800 pounds to establish the town of Heilbron that lies on the banks of a strong spruit fed from a perennial fountain; the name proclaims that the fountain would be a source (“bron”) of welfare (“heil”) for the community.

 

Anglo Boer War

The Heilbron district has a rich history concerning the Anglo-Boer war.  The Battle of Rooiwal took place in the Heilbron district. There are also black and white concentration camps in Heilbron which was also the capital of the Orange Free State from 13th May – 20th May 1900 when Bloemfontein was taken over by the English.   However, it was short lived when the town was also occupied by them.

Some of the prominent figures in Heilbron during the Anglo Boer War were the legendary General Christiaan de Wet who was feared by the British for his guerrilla warfare methods.  The blockhouses stretching between Wolwehoek , Heilbron, Frankfort and Tafelkop were used in the offensive to catch his commandos. Winston Churchill visited the farm Leeuwpoort of the Weilbachs.  It was used as a base for the British officers during the Anglo-Boer war.  Emily Hobhouse visited Heilbron and her reports of the precarious state in the concentration camps improved life a little for the inhabitants.

The arrival of different cultures

Different cultures played an important role in the history of Heilbron.  As the need for a Methodist Church already existed in 1882 it can be assumed that the community was made up of both Afrikaans and English speaking inhabitants.  You will find farm names such as Completion and Sunnyside which confirms the evidence. 

In 1902 the Jewish history in Heilbron started when Mr Imber arrived.  Mr Wenezeke and Shmuel Lotzof followed and in 1912 the cornerstone of the Synagogue was laid by Mr Festenstein, the president of the congregation.  Morris the brother and Mike the cousin of Shmuel Lotzof arrived from Lithuania and they all became farmers in the district.  Mr Imber’s daughter Annie married a Mr Levy. The Jewish community in Heilbron grew and some  became prominent business owners, adding to the growth of the town.  Max Milner who owned the mill, was famed for wearing white gloves, socks and a bowler hat and driving a Model T Ford.  At one stage 48 Jewish families resided in Heilbron.

During the Rebellion in the 1920’s, General Jan Smuts visited Heilbron and was taken back to Johannesburg in the only roadworthy car; a Dodge, owned by Mike Lotzof.  Mrs Ada Lotzof baked a cake and sent it with to Ouma Smuts.  She later received a letter of thanks.

The Greek arrival in Heilbron started when Nick Catsamas became the owner of the Heilbron Café and in 1910 the three brothers Costas, Dennis and Arthur followed Nick from Greece to South Africa.  They owned various cafés and tea rooms in the town.  There are many buildings in the town that is left as a legacy of a family who made an enormous contribution to the economic development of the community.

In 1913 a religious service was held on the farm of Wilhelm Krause.  This was the cradle of the Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische Kirche, Groenvlei.  The church was officially founded in 1918 and a church building was erected on six morgen of property received from Friedrich Kruse, entitled Krauses Gift.

In 1965 the Heilbron community got their own “fish and chips” shop with the arrival of Manuel Filipe.  He came from Madeira and it took 13 years of hard work before he could open his first shop in Heilbron.

Heilbron today

Today Heilbron is mostly dependant on agriculture.  There has been a spontaneous movement towards eco-tourism in the area since 2000.  Famers in different parts of the district started to register conservancies and many game farms were stocked with the plains game that traditionally roamed the Riemland.

Heilbron and the surrounding district offers a wealth of fun, leisure and tourist attractions; from historical sites, rallies, 4 x 4 excursions, wine tasting, hiking, mountain biking, wing shooting, hunting,  fishing, camping, game drives and spending time on a working farm or guesthouses of which there are many.

Historical Sites in Heilbron

  • Riemland Museum – housed in the old Jewish Synagogue
  • Voortrekker Centenary Memorial
  • Concentration Camp Memorial – more than 2000 women and children were detained in Heilbron during the Anglo-Boer war
  • Monument of British soldiers who died in the Anglo-Boer war
  • Monument of Boers who died in the Anglo-Boer war
  • Vechtkop Battle Monument and Museum
  • Water pump used in the concentration camp for drinking water

 96 on Bree, Dorpshuis and Heil Street B&B are just some of the guest houses that offer accommodation to tourists wanting to explore the town and surrounding areas at leisure.  Fraaihuis Nursery & Teagarden can be visited for a great meal in the garden.  Riemland Trading Post & Highlands Wood Craft as well as Janelle’s Coffee Shop can be visited in Bree Street and will keep you occupied for a few hours as they have so much to offer.

Donsveertjie Guest House outside Heilbron offers beautiful accommodation for hunters and guests wanting to take part in all the activities offered on the farm, such as mountain biking, hiking, horse riding, clay pigeon shooting, game and bird hunting.  They also cater for garden weddings and with 150 geese roaming the farmyard, the softest Donsveertjie duvets and pillows can be bought on the farm.

A wealth of Nature Reserves and Guest Farms in the area around Heilbron that can be visited are, Blaauwboschbank, Karoospruit, Francolin Creek and Goedehoop Guest Lodges, Lalapanzi Lodge, Leeuwpoort Safaris, Tago-Sweethome Fishing Paradise, Pride in Africa Game Capture and Lion Farm, Tau Thaba, Weltevrede Lion Farm and Moratwa Lodge, Wine Cellar and Restaurant.  These are just a few of many exciting places to visit in Heilbron and the surrounding region.