I discovered this magical place at the end of February whilst visiting Cape Town. Upon entering the ‘werf’ I was swept away by memories of my grandparent’s farmyard. The bare earth is swept clean; chickens and a few turkeys forage in the undergrowth of nearby vegetation. The fence posts stand out against the backdrop of the pastures beyond where a few donkeys graze lazily. This idyllic place is the brain child of Karen Roos, well known TV personality and editor of a glossy magazine. She was enchanted by the setting of the farm which lies in the rolling green vineyards of the Groot Drakenstein area. She recognised the beautiful historic location of the place and the feeling of limitless space, but the idea of starting a garden, and what it should entail, was a daunting question.
In search for ideas she went overseas to research historical gardens and right in the heart of France she discovered Prieure d’Orsan. The linear construction of this medieval garden inspired her to design the rectangular 8 acre plot. Pathways of gravel, grass and peach pips lead to orchards of citrus, fig and guava. Vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants of every description have been planted in squares within the rectangular design.
There is a maze of prickly pears; another ‘allotment’ is dedicated to canes of raspberries, blackberries, red currents and gooseberries; and then there is the magnificent pumpkin patch where the largest pumpkins I’ve ever seen lie basking in the afternoon sun.
Dating back to 1690, Babylonstoren is one of the best preserved farm yards in the Cape Dutch tradition. The formal fruit and vegetable garden of botanical diversity, inspired by the Company’s Gardens in Cape Town, supplies Babylonstoren’s restaurant Babel with fruit and vegetables.
When visiting Cape Town again, make the detour and visit this remarkable place.
Text & Photographs: Esther Townsend