IT MAY be common knowledge to people born and bred in the Eastern Cape, but for those of us who cut our South African teeth in the former Transvaal, the name Sir Percy Fitzpatrick makes you immediately think of Jock of the Bushveld with its very definite links to the then Eastern Transvaal.
And while the author, politician, editor and mining financier did move to what is now known as Mpumalanga in 1884, his origins lie in the Eastern Cape, being born in King William’s Town on July 24 1862.
After his father’s death in 1880 he moved to Cape Town and then to the former Eastern Transvaal in an attempt to support his mother and her family.
After a long, and often illustrious career, which saw him being knighted after serving as official adviser on South African Affairs to the British government during the Anglo-Boer War, he returned to the Eastern Cape, a province in which he pioneered the growth of the fruit industry.
He died in Uitenhage on January 24 1931, and was buried at the Look-Out, a spectacular spot with amazing views over the Sunday’s River Valley.
While all of that may come as old news to many Eastern Cape residents, we were taken totally by surprise to be shown the graves of Sir Percy, his wife and children, as well as to the Look-Out monument by the jovial owner of the charming Lupus Den Country house near Addo, Noel Walton – himself the descendant of fruit farming pioneers who settled on the land he still farms, in 1894.
These tours, as well as his tour of the Walton family’s lemon and orange orchards, are an absolute must for visitors as Noel has incredible knowledge of the area, its history and its “scallywags” .
You learn that the vast majority of the luscious fruit grown in the area is not destined for the shelves at Woolies but instead wings its way to around 34 countries throughout the world.
Prior to being taken on this informative tour we had booked in at Lupus Den, where we were greeted by Noel’s gracious and youthful-looking wife Priscilla, who has created a haven of country living for anyone wanting to get away from the city for a night – or as a base for people wanting to visit the nearby Addo Elephant park.
While decidedly up-market no matter what option you plump for, accommodation at Lupus Den comes in two distinct forms.
Rooms inside the house, perhaps suitable for the elderly, are R300 per person per night, inclusive of breakfast, while the more spacious garden cottages are R500 per person per night, also inclusive of breakfast.
We were in the Kingfisher cottage for our too brief, one- night stay at this delightful escape from the rat race.
Accommodation included a large patio, lounge with writing desk (and thoughtfully placed bottle of Sherry with two glasses), three-quarter beds with luxury linen (which can easily be converted into a king-sized bed), dressing area with fitted wardrobes and the bathroom of all bathrooms.
There’s a huge double, wet- room style shower, sink, toilet and free-standing bath. As an added bonus, there’s also a double outside shower, offering a perfect back-to-nature experience on the warm summer nights for which the Addo area is renowned.
There’s no TV in the room (a blessing at times) but a radio/CD player is provided.
Lupus Den also offers a communal TV lounge, dining room and more formal lounge.
Exploring the B&B before our tour, we got chatting to Priscilla and learnt that the concept was born 10 years ago out of tragic circumstances.
On February 22 1996, the Walton’s only daughter, Belinda, was involved in a tragic car accident in Johannesburg.
Pronounced dead on the scene, paramedics fought to save her, with their resuscitation methods seeing the comatose Belinda spending almost six months in hospital, after which the severely disabled young woman went through years of therapy, helped along the way by her mother’s unwavering support.
Proof of what a mother’s love can do lies in the fact that over the years Belinda penned a book simply entitled Belinda, which chronicles her recovery and which is an inspiration to anyone trying to overcome life’s obstacles, be they as dramatic as Belinda’s or mere hiccups on the life path.
Belinda has now sufficiently recovered to have become engaged to a man also suffering from handicaps – mainly short- term memory, which benefits Belinda as he keeps proposing, forgetting that he has already done so!
Throughout the book, Belinda’s humour shines through, humour she has obviously inherited from her father – and determination from her devoted mother.
As the foreword to the remarkable book states: “My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.”
So how does the concept of a B&B emerge from such tragic circumstances?
“The idea was born from the fact that I simply could not leave Belinda alone. I love entertaining, and cooking, so I thought ‘if I cannot go to the people, why not bring them to me’?”
And so began a journey which started with three rooms in the house and later extended to the three larger cottages set in beautiful gardens.
Since opening its doors, Lupus Den has been a home away from home for many overseas tourists who revel in the opportunity to explore a working farm and the surrounding area.
They also enjoy the sheer tranquillity of the setting. In fact a stay at Lupus Den is so relaxing that even after a brief one-night sojourn, after being away from the city for less than 24 hours, we felt like we had been away for a week. When that happens you know you have found a very special place. Very special indeed.
Belinda’s book, as well as the unusual and reasonably priced cards she makes, are on sale at Lupus Den Country House.
The book, which was published in 2011, costs R150. – Helen Crooks