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WORDS: ANNE SCHAUFFER IMAGES: STEPHEN PILBROUGH, SHANE VAN ECK, PAULO MENEZES

Living ‘on the Berea’ is a broad phrase, one which encompasses the wide swathe of land and properties from Berea Road all the way across the Ridge to beyond Trematon Drive, incorporating Morningside, Essenwood, Musgrave and more.

Unsurprisingly, the Berea is one of Durban’s oldest suburban belts, the settlement that overlooked the sea in the early days of the then province of Natal. Its great advantage was that homes were on a good gradient – many old Victorian homes had so-called widow’s walks high up, for a bird’s eye view of the goings on in the Bay. The seafaring life in the early days was crucial to Durban, and the Berea was the lookout point.

Shiny, happy people

Residents of the Berea fall into a few categories. Because the area stretches both wide and high, there’s a property here for nearly every pocket. The innumerable apartment blocks and sectional title townhouses draw first-time homeowners. Lower down the Berea on the edge of the City – or over the hill towards Brickfield Road – prices are affordable, and these properties in demand.

In Musgrave and Morningside, in the prime roads, gracious, spacious apartment blocks fetch a pretty penny – these are either old, renovated blocks with high ceilings, vast rooms and panoramic views, or today, increasingly brand-new, large, modern apartment blocks for the well-heeled, with parking up to the front door.

The Berea really does have a wide range of architecture, from Victorian mansions to Edwardian bungalows, massive modern blocks to traditional Durban veranda-style homes… Old, tall, established trees adorn many of the streets, and residents celebrate the beauty of those which flower seasonally.

But the residential composition of the Berea is also about educational facilities. Near the base of the area, is the Durban University of Technology (DUT), so student accommodation is in great demand.

Up in the more rarefied air of Musgrave and immediate surrounds, are some of the country’s top private schools like Durban Girls’ College, Maris Stella and Clifton College. These schools have had a marked effect on the property market, as parents jostle to build or buy homes on their doorstep. There’s no doubt that many parents remain on the Berea for the duration of their children’s schooling at these elite establishments, then either move to a north coast gated estate, or semigrate to Cape Town or Stellenbosch where their children will attend university.

Then there’s a large group of residents who love life on the Berea – wouldn’t say thank you for a home north or west. They love the proximity to the city and beaches – even if only to walk on the promenade, join in Saturday’s parkrun, or do their yoga on Circus Circus’s rooftop – and are often involved in the artier side of city living, like concerts and plays.

“Durban is so small,” is heard repeatedly, and true, because Durbanites want it to be so – everybody enjoys that near-village type existence. Pop into Charlie’s or Mark Gold, and it’s rare not to bump into a friend or acquaintance. Many of the old Durban families lived the high life on the Berea, and although some have flown north, many have remained for the convenience and familiarity of people and landscape. Retirement homes like The Caister and Garden Grove are popular.

Living here on the fringes of town, is largely for the sociable. No matter whether it’s regular dinners with friends, or the twice-weekly bridge, the older generation are alive and well.

And now, there’s Florida Road, where everybody, particularly the younger generation, are working, living and playing… sometimes a little loudly for the surrounding residents’ taste, but nevertheless, they’ve breathed new life into an area which was fading. This is very much a case of Watch.This.Space.

When we were downsizing, we looked north extensively, and said ‘No chance – we’re Morningside people’. We love the trees and parkland here, its proximity to everywhere and everything, and that the building bylaws don’t allow high-rise buildings! MERYL AND COLIN MARSHALL, MORNINGSIDE RESIDENTS

INSIDER TRADING

Greg Hayes of Stepping Stone Studios has been in Florida Road for the past 24 years. “I saw the potential then for what is happening now.”

The business deals in fine art, custom and antique mirrors big and small, and framing. He services the entire Berea area, including those who’ve moved north but still have children at private schools. “They still support us, and business is good.”

Greg says, “We also handmake antique mirrors, and that’s very popular now. Our clients include architects, interior designers, artists, businesses and homeowners.”

Stepping Stone recently moved to Florida Fields, but for various logistical reasons, will be returning to their old Florida Road shop soon.

SCHOOLS

EAT

  • Café 1999: Silvervause Centre
  • La Bella: Italian restaurant and takeaway
  • Spiga D’Oro: new home for Spiga, opposite Mitchell Park
  • Jack Salmon: Delicious seafood and steaks at Florida Fields
  • Seed and Glamwich: healthy dining options at Florida Fields
  • Two & A Half Men: purportedly the best Hilal Bunny Chow in Durban
  • Barn Owl: Florida Fields, little permanent pop up for coffees
  • Lupa Osteria: Homemade pasta and thin-crust wood-fired pizza
  • Istanbul: newly-opened Turkish dining
  • Roti & Chai: a market favourite opens their first permanent spot
  • Republic: grass-fed beef burgers
  • Paul’s handmade ice cream: Nutella, Oreo and a whole host of innovative flavours
  • Romano’s ice cream: gelato and creative desserts
  • Love Coffee: wonderful little coffee shop with al fresco seating
  • Sugarlicious: macaroon ice cream sandwich parlour
  • Scoop: Ice cream made with all local dairy ice cream
  • Charlatan: Specialist cocktails bar with light dining options
  • Falafel Fundi: bottom of Florida with wonderful falafel

CONVENIENCE

GREEN SPACES