Arriving in the Midlands region in Natal one could easily be forgiven for thinking you had entered the Cotswolds. As you pass through the rolling, green hills and villages dotted with stone houses you can quickly get lost in this beautiful part of the world. The quaint farming area of the Midlands offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life - this is real country living where fresh produce and honest labour reign supreme.
The area is relaxing yet full of activities. Enjoy a picnic on the banks of a calm, clear stream; go horse riding through the forests or simply sit back and read a good book in the comfort of one of the many wonderful guesthouses in the area. If you enjoy history, you will find the Midlands teeming with the history of the many battles that took place between the British and the Zulus. The various battle sites and many interesting museums in the area make for a great day out.
Perhaps it's the misty mornings, the peaceful farm life, or the charm of the locals, but the Midlands has given inspiration to many an artist. A great number of creative folk have moved to the Midlands over the years, setting up their galleries and studios on quiet farm roads and enjoying the peace that the area affords. In the 1980's an art and craft route called the Midlands Meander was set up by artists who wanted to showcase their work. Take a drive along this aptly named route, stopping at galleries to meet some of the characterful locals, purchase beautiful handcrafted goods and sample wonderful fresh produce or even enjoy a wine tasting at a small distillery.
Below are some of the many artists in the area, to name but a very few. For more details, it's advisable to pick up a brochure from a local tourism office when you arrive in the Midlands which will point to the galleries and artists in the area.
Dargle Valley Pottery
Situated on a farm in the Dargle Valley, the shop showcases the work of Ian Glenny one of the award winning artists who started the Midlands Meander. Clay is his primary medium and his artworks include terracotta, porcelain, and stoneware. Ian's pottery can be found in various galleries and private collections around the world.
Helen and Andy Shuttleworth moved to Fort Nottingham in the 1970's and built a house out of stone on a hilltop surrounded by indigenous forest. They started a weaving company called Shuttleworth Weavers and employ a number of skilled crafters making carpets, throws and shawls that are sold nationally and internationally in New York, Milan and Rome.
Marrakesh Cheese Farm
The Marrakesh Cheese Farm produces 15 varieties of Mediterranean-style cheese including goat's cheese and blends of goat and cows milk. Owners Chris and Sue Coetzer offer cheese tasting sessions where one can also try their homemade jams, marmalades and fudge.
Starting out as a timber farmer, John Early developed an interest in turning wooden bowls. Soon he started selling his creations and The Woodturner was born. Today John and his son, Andrew, create elegant bowls from salvaged wood including jacaranda and African mahogany. Their bowls are sent around the world and are sold in studios in New York, Los Angeles and Cape Town.