An unforgettable weekend at The Milkhouse, Hankey

Milkhouse Farmstyle Bar
The Milkhouse was the biggest surprise and delight of my trip to the Gamtoos Valley


The Milkhouse - old buildings
Was this where I would find the Milkhouse Bar? Fortunately a new sign drew me to the other side of the property.

Stepping out of the car in pouring rain, on a rather delapidated-looking farm, looking for the Milkhouse Farmstyle Bar, I wondered what I was letting myself in for.  I opened the door in what appeared to be a renovated part of the rambling complex and walked into the room rather tentatively… and what I found was the last thing I expected!

A young woman greeted me and said, “You must be from CapeInfo.  My mother said we should expect you.”  I was bowled over!

Milkhouse Farmstyle Bar
Soon the restaurant was full for a long weekend Sunday lunch, the rain forgotten and the roaring fire adding to the conviviality

I’d been in Jeffreys Bay which had been without electricity since during the night.  The rain had knocked something out and a whole area south of Uitenhage was without power, and should expect it back before late in the day or tomorrow.  So I decided I should find out about this Milkhouse Bar and Guesthouse in Hankey — not too far away — because I’d been really pestered to visit.

I’d met Carol Pearson while having supper at the Ripple Hill Hotel in Patensie a few nights before and she had been really, really insistent that I visit.  So I called — no reply — and sent an email.  And that’s when all cell reception went down too, so I decided to head off and take a chance.  Half way there, I almost turned around thinking this was crazy, but I kept going.

Wow, was I pleased I did!  Carol, husband Andre and daughter Amber are phenomenal hosts.  And Carol must have been sure that her persistence would work, and that I would visit.  I was invited for lunch and to stay the night in their guesthouse — a renovated house full of style and whimsy alongside the restaurant.

Attic at Milkhouse Guesthouse
The attic suite is superlative simplicity and style! There’s the elevated sleeping area, a huge living area (with two more beds) and the bathroom.

It was a long lunch and I learned how Andre & Carol had come about the property on the banks of the Klein River, just 3.5km outside Hankey.  They are from Port Elizabeth and had been looking for a country home.  A golf course was at the top of Andre’s requirements and Hankey Golf Club is rated as one of the best 9-hole courses in the country.  So they bought a house in the town but kept looking.

The Milkhouse was very run down when they bought it and what attracted them most was the garden — which defies description.  Huge trees, unbelievable variety… it is a place to explore for days and get lost in.

Milkhouse garden
The garden is a wonderland and, since Andre is a creative electrical engineer, it’s spectacular at night too.

Amber’s bold rescue
Hankey has had recorded floods in 1832, 1847, 1861, 1900, 1905, 1916, 1932, 1944, 1961, 1971, 1983 and 1996.  And 2015 was almost added to that list.  We were still sitting around the table late in the afternoon when someone said that the neighbours cows were tethered in the flood plain alongside the river.

Amber was up in a flash, determined to rescue them, and off she went.  I went to get my gumboots out the bakkie and found them filled with water!  So what’s wrong with wet socks?

Down at the river, we found a calf in danger of drowning and the three other cows were just helpless.  Amber was set on storming into the fast-moving current so I ripped up some irrigation pipe for her to hold on to, just in case.  I held on to the other end with one hand, and Beezus in the other — he would have disappeared in the water in no time.

The video clip alongside shows part of the rescue.  Extra help (and a sharp knife) arrived and all four animals were saved.  Well done Amber!


The next day, Andre and Carol took me on a drive to see some of the sights around Hankey.

Hankey scenic view from alongside te Sarah Baartman grave site
View from the hilltop alongside the Sarah Baartman grave site across the orchards to the mountains which make the Valley so special

I wrote about the Sarah Baartman grave site and memorial (which is under construction) in another post — click here.  The same hill top provides an excellent view of Hankey’s sundial –the largest in South Africa with a diameter of 34.6m. The gnomon (the part that casts the shadow) is 18m high and weighs one ton. Its is Hankey’s 160-years Founders’ monument.  Andre tested its accuracy and it seemed spot on.

Hankey's sundial -- the largest in South Africa
Hankey’s sundial — the largest in South Africa

They tried to take me to InniKloof at the top of the Klein River Road, but crossing the river looked too dicey.  And thank goodness we didn’t try  — had we crossed, we would probably got stuck on the other side for the night.  It came down in flood again 30 minutes later.  But the scenery we saw en route was breathtaking.

Hankey - a very, very beautiful part of the world
Hankey – a very, very beautiful part of the world


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