Words: Anne Schauffer | Images: Stephen Pilbrough
Part countryside, part little village, Assagay nudges Hillcrest. One of its major drawcards is that it’s sandwiched between the winding old M13, the sleek N3 toll freeway, giving quick and easy links to Durban and the northern and southern freeways, as well as the arterial Kassier Road which links Assagay to Old Main Road and the commercial heart of Hillcrest.
It’s immensely convenient to everything, even for those commuting to Durban or Pietermaritzburg. The name Assagay, or sometimes Assegay, originates from assegaai, the amaXhosa throwing spear, and the village’s name was taken from the underlying farm, Assagay Kraal.
Assagay and its country neighbours, Botha’s Hill and Alverstone, as well as the horse-country settlements of Summerveld and Shongweni, feature a wide range of properties, from smallholdings to farmhouses and gated estates. Elevated considerably from coastal Durban, it’s here where winter really means winter, and market gardens, horse riding, polo, and country fare are the order of the day.
Resident Carol Pool, says, “We come from farming stock, so a smallholding was the next best thing for us. We wanted our children to have a country upbringing, and here you have the best of all worlds.”
The smallholding reputation has gradually broadened over the years to include larger mid- to high-end townhouse complexes like Silver Oaks, Queensbridge, Highmead and Aintree Lane (Shongweni). The old Polo Pony Hotel, a well-known watering hole opposite the polo grounds, morphed into the Assagay Hotel, and today, you’ll find a brand-new retirement complex, the Polo Pony Lifestyle Estate.
Retirement property has certainly been on the increase with a number of popular retirement villages based in the area. Hillcrest Country Retirement Estate is situated in Assagay’s Country Lane opposite the Busamed Hillcrest Private Hospital, and at Botha’s Hill, perched over the magnificent Valley of 1,000 Hills, there’s the Rob Roy Luxury Retirement Village.
As resident Nigel Todd explains, “It’s only in the last few years that retirement villages started up in the area, and we were very relieved because we couldn’t envisage ourselves moving to the city! We’ve moved just down the road, same country lifestyle, just with a care facility.”
The schooling in the Outer West region is both prolific and excellent and, as the crow flies, schools from Kloof to Botha’s Hill – incorporating Assagay – are ten minutes in every direction.
Just up the hill, is the well-known private boy’s high school of Kearsney College and in Hillcrest, you’ll find the private schools of Curro Hillcrest, Waterfall College and Highbury Preparatory School for young boys. Slightly further afield in Kloof is St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls and the co-educational Thomas More. The government schools in Hillcrest and Kloof, such as Kloof High School and Hillcrest High School, cover the full age spectrum and have very good reputations – so, too, has Winston Park.
Given that Assagay is chosen for its country lifestyle, it’s not surprising that residents are often horse riders who stable their horses in the area.
From riding for the disabled to numerous riding schools and trails like those in Giba Gorge, the outdoor country life is a major drawcard for those who choose to call Assagay home. Over the N3, is Summerveld, a unique equestrian and residential area which houses the Summerveld Training Centre for Trainers, with stables, grooms’ accommodation and the South African Jockey Academy (SAJA). The latter offers an apprentice programme for youngsters destined to become professional jockeys.
As would be expected in this landscape, conservation matters. The Assagay Valley forms the original catchment area of the Umhlatuzana River which flows through the Madwala Reserves, and this neglected public nature area is in the throes of a major uplift.
Last year, the Assagay Conservancy, through Conservation KZN, began driving a project aimed at restoring the once beautiful Madwala, making it safe and enjoyable for the local community and visitors. Part of the drive is creating new paths and rest facilities, signage, toilets, an educational centre, and security. It’s a four-year project, and fund-raising is ongoing.
Neighbouring Alverstone has a Wildlife Park (a 100ha nature reserve) with well-marked trails, a wilderness adventure programme, environmental education course, and a plethora of indigenous wildlife like genets, bush pigs, and herds of zebra, impala, blesbok and more. It’s child-friendly, so it’s ideal for a day’s outing.
“I’ve been riding horses since I was in junior school, so it was great to move to Assagay once I got married. I stable our horses locally, and we can ride three or four times a week – I love it here.
Penny Jade, resident
- Chillifields Bed & Breakfast and Guesthouse
- Macnut Farm
- Assagay Country Guest House
- Lindisfarne Bed & Breakfast, Botha’s Hill
- Shenindor Bed and Breakfast, Alverstone
- Browse the stalls at Shongweni Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning
- Visit the Shogweni Brewery and try some local craft brews
- Spend the day exploring the Valley of 1,000 Hills
- Experience the Valley of 1,000 Hills by train on the Umgeni Steam Railway
- Enjoy a game drive at the Phezulu Safari Park
- Visit the Two Acres Tearoom for delicious food that’s truly seasonal
- The Mushroom Farm
- Woza Moya Craft Shop
- Watercrest Mall
- Fainting Goat Centre
- Sugarloaf Centre