Thursday, September 8, 2011

The 'Big Five' Trees of Vergelegen Estate

‘Vergelegen’ is the Dutch word for ‘far flung’ and refers to the position of Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West which, in the 1700’s, was right on the edge of the Dutch colony in the Cape.

In 1700 this magnificent estate was settled by the Governor of the Cape at that time, namely Willem Adriaan van der Stel. He set about bringing this large tract of land into production as well as building a lovely farmstead and, amongst other things, planting 5 superb Camphor trees (Cinnamonum camphora) on the estate.

To achieve all this, he used, unwisely, resources as well as slaves from the Dutch East India Company without prior permission from the Netherlands, with the result that in 1706 the free burghers complained to the authorities about his illicit activities.

Predictably this led to his dismissal as Governor, and in 1708 he was recalled to the Netherlands which was followed by orders from Amsterdam to destroy the entire estate. Whoever was given this unfortunate task was not very thorough and although the farmstead and other parts of the estate were destroyed some areas were fortunately left untouched.

Among these are the octagonal walled garden and the 5 magnificent Camphor trees that are now over 300 years old and are named as ‘Champion Trees’ under the National Forests Act.

After having a succession of owners the estate was restored to it’s former glory by Lady Florence Phillips whose husband bought the estate for her in 1917. The beautiful homestead you see there today was built at the beginning of the 20th century. After the Phillips couples death, the estate was purchased by the Barlow family in 1941 and they were as dedicated to maintaining the estate’s tradition as the former owners were.

Anglo American has owned the estate since 1987 and today, Vergelegen is renowned worldwide for their superb wines as well as being an outstanding tourist destination.

Why not make a booking to have a picnic in the Camphor forest and spend some quality time absorbing the history and the majesty of the magnificent ‘Big Five’ Camphor trees of Vergelegen Estate.

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