WORDS: KIT HEATHCOCK IMAGES: MARLENE BRAND & SHUTTERSTOCK
The centre of the Swartland farming district and at heart a traditional Afrikaans country town, Malmesbury has always seemed a world away from the Cape Town metropolis.
Now that the N7 is being upgraded to dual carriageway all the way to Malmesbury, it suddenly feels closer, and people looking to escape the city bustle are realising it’s easily commutable and a desirable place to bring up a family.
“Malmesbury is not far from Cape Town, but still you live in the country. We always wanted our children to grow up in the platteland,” says Elna Burger, House of Health and Skincare, who has lived here for 24 years. “Almost everybody knows each other and the community is very supportive.”
While the town retains the warmth and friendliness of the traditional Afrikaans community with church fairs, potjiekos competitions and agricultural fairs, a new young energy harnessing the food and wine vibe of the Swartland wine region is adding fresh initiatives such as the monthly Swartland Street Market. And there’s lots to do in the area.
“When we moved here I thought it was in the middle of nowhere, wow, was I wrong!” says Rory Lambson, My Chefs, who with his chef wife Stella, after cheffing in the UK, Cape Winelands and Joburg, returned to her home town to open their own restaurant. “It’s actually very central for Stellenbosch, Paarl, Table View and more. When we get time off we love taking drives just to take in the scenery and visit some of the quaint towns in the area.” However close to Cape Town Malmesbury now feels, you never forget you’re in the Swartland. “Be prepared to get hot!” says Rory. “This town cooks in summer, regularly hitting 40 degrees and higher.”
Established leafy residential streets climb the hill in a grid behind the main streets, a mixture of older houses and cottages and modern family homes, all with gardens. The town is gradually growing, new gated residential estates at the top of the town including Mount Royal Golf Estate, Klipfontein Farm Estate and Fonteine Village retirement complex surrounded by fields. The lower end of town is mostly commercial and light industrial units servicing all the town’s needs, and the landmark Bokomo factory.
Swartland Primary School and Swartland High school have a really good reputation and draw students from the surrounding countryside with a boarding hostel available. CPM is a popular private primary school in town. Alternative options include the Paarl schools, about 35 minutes’ drive away, as are the nearest Cape Town schools.
Malmesbury is surprisingly central when it comes to exploring. The charming small towns of Darling, Hopefield, Riebeeck Kasteel and Riebeeck West are all within easy reach. “We love to drive to Riebeeck for brunch and just stroll through the shops there,” says Elna.
The Swartland Wine Route covers a huge area, so wine tasting takes you on a scenic drive as far afield as Piketburg for organic wine producer Org de Rac, Riebeeck Kasteel for Kloovenberg, Allesverloren, Meerhof, and into the unexplored back roads of the Paardeberg, where many of the innovative small wine estates do tastings by appointment only.
When summer heat hits and beach-time beckons, head out to the West Coast at Yzerfontein or Langebaan, or visit the monthly market at Groote Post followed by a beach walk at Grotto Bay. Get out into the Ceres mountains for hiking, ziplining and camping, or go sailing at Vogelvlei Yacht Club. Within the town itself Bill&Co hosts a monthly farmers market, and plans a heritage lunch in November with chef Chris Erasmus of Foliage, himself originally a Malmesbury boy. For date nights and lunches the place to go is My Chefs, then there are Friday pizza nights in the garden at Granny Jeans.
On the culture front Malmesbury Museum takes you on a trip down memory lane with displays of artefacts recreating the homes and shops of previous centuries and a photographic history of the town.
I love the history of the town; there are so many amazing old buildings. The dynamic of the town is changing and it’s just a really exciting place to be at the moment. The area has some fantastic wine producers, which is great. I also like the pace of life and it’s still an affordable place to live. RORY LAMBSON, MY CHEFS
- Wine tasting in the surrounding countryside on the Swartland Wine Route
- Golf at Malmesbury Golf Club
- Malmesbury parkrun every Saturday at Die Bos
- Skydiving from Diepkloof Airfield with Mother City Skydiving
- Swartland Birding Route with maps and checklists from Swartland Tourism
- Spar for groceries, cafe and sushi
- Voortrekker Road and surrounding streets for all the high-street stores, banks and post office
- De Bron Centre: Pick n Pay, clothing and furniture stores, and a wool shop
- 24-hour Woolies Foodstop at the Engen Centre
- AgriMark: everything farm, animal and country lifestyle related
- My Chefs: date nights and family lunches
- Bill&Co: wine bar and deli with monthly market
- Beef and Barrel: owner-run steakhouse and burgers
- Granny Jeans: breakfasts, burgers and pizza nights in the garden
- Cherry Lane: breakfasts, cake and coffee
- Fynbos Estate Sunday Lunch Club