Klein Doornrivier is an old whitewashed homestead at the heart of a once flourishing fruit farm situated somewhere between Barrydale and Calitzdorp in the little Karoo. It’s surrounded by a huge werf that’s enclosed by a dry-stone wall, and it once straddled the old wagon road to the interior. Ancient barns and cottages, craggy oaks and orchards, pepper the landscape all around and to the south-east the huge, secret Langeberg shield it from the sea. On the other side, over the river and beyond the ridge, is the great, grey interior that stretches on and on, it seems, for ever until finally you hit the Plains of Camdeboo. Although the building’s origins seem to be 18th Century, its character today is mid- to late- 19th century when it was embellished by the owners and enlarged. Inside, the floors and ceilings of poplar wood, the electricity is antiquated and the plumbing prehistoric.
There’s a yellow Art Deco bath on the bathroom, a magnificent Aga in the kitchen and an old teak built telephone kiosk in the pantry that was rescued from Ladysmith Railway Station in the ‘50’s and turned into the grocery cupboard. Freezing in winter, its also cool in the searing summer when all the shutters are closed early-morning to shut out the sun and keep in the cool, and left that way until dusk settles in when they’re thrown open once again. Four square bedrooms face a deep east-facing stoep: tow of them each open into it via a set of lovely double doors, and a third set is the main entrance which opens onto a square hall leading to a 20-foot room that takes up the bulk of the building’s interior.
Everywhere the walls are painted in off-white, no-nonsense enamel and the furniture’s a mix of things that have always been in the hous – some heirlooms and a variety of chairs, tables and cupboards that found there way here intermittently over time. Some are appropriate for their setting: big squashy sofas for the dogs, a bit of riempie from the Outshoorn district, the bones and skulls of dead creatures of the veld found on walks and brought inside, some Mission cupboards and seats possibly from nearby Zoar, old carpets from Hans Niehaus in Cape Town and pictures and maps of the area hunted down in sales and warehouses throughout the district and further afield. Today this is a comfortable weekend home that’s still in the possession of its original family, and inhabited by descendant, and it has a cheerful provenance enlivened by full-on weekend suppers and lunches (slow roast lamp) for the neighbours.