East on any fine morning. The hills over which the sun rises are
called Groene Kloof. There’s gold in them thar hills. The
name Groene Kloof, the green valley, dates from at least 1682. Sergeant
Bergh mentions it in the journal of his expedition to Namaqualand
in that year. The presence of water attracted the traveler and determined
the roads, for draught animals must have water and grass. It was
then the prime grazing of chief Ocdasoa’s cochoqua people,
the group sometimes called Saldanhars Hottentotten in the documents
of the time.
Looking East on any Fine Morning.
green-ness remained the dormant factor in the region’s history.
The hills are softly rounded, the valleys hospitable and generous.
They are green because the elevation of the hills above the coastal
plain creates a higher rainfall there. In the old days it was even
better watered than it is now. A commission that was sent to chart
the fountains and streams of the Groene Kloof at the end of the
18th Century had to postpone the task for a drier season, as everything
was under water. If the aboriginal Koina had a name for the Groene
Cloof, it was lost when they lost the land to the Dutch East India
Company that governed the Cape from 1652 to 1795.
governors of the Company appointed four butchers to provide it with
meat and hides, and granted them, rent free, the entire coastal
strip from Koeberg to Geelbek, on which to graze their stock. The
area was called Slagtersveld. It included the Groene Kloof, and
naturally, Jakkalsfontein, but it excluded three of the finest adjacent
properties on which the Company kept its precious draught oxen and
horses. The three government reserves were called buitenposten,
and named Ganze Craal, Groene Cloof and Klaver Valleij. They could
be recognized by the Company’s flag outside the posthuis,
and were manned by the posthouder and his postvolk. Their main task
was to guard the draught animals, like cowboys. The animals were
grazed and rested until they were demanded by the transport depot
Groote Schuur, from where all land transport was managed, and a
batch of yoke-worn oxen was at the time returned to rest and recuperate
at the three government buitenposten.
Craal was first sold, to the enterprising Van Reenen brothers, in
1791. Lack of space prevents a list of the fare consumed at the
auction. Its fine old farmhouse was a National Monument when it
was razed by fire and the remains bulldozed, about twenty years
ago. Klaver Valleij was not sold, but leased to the Van Reenen in
1971. The Company’s only buildings there at the time were
a hut and a chicken coop. It was here that the pure bred merinos
were isolated, that were to become the ancestors of the vast Australian
wool industry. Today there is a winery at Klaver Valleij that sells
Groene Kloof wine under the Groote Post label. The third government
reserve, Groene Cloof post was leased to the salt merchant Van Wielligh
in 1701, and remained a government property until 1808, when it
was given to the Moravian Church as a mission station, and is now
called Mamre. Many of the Company’s old buildings still stand
grouped around the church. The remainder of Slagtersveld was then
sold off, piecemeal, by successive governments to private farmers.
Jakkalsfontein was only privatized in 1837.
are many hills and hillocks in the Groene Kloof range, and almost
every one has a descriptive name. Slightly south of east are the
two mounds of Rondeberg. You will recognise them easily enough.
Approaching from the South, Rondeberg is the one with the vast rectangular
scar in its western slope, as if a large mouse took a bite out of
it yesterday. Look East again. Behind Rondeberg stands Kapokberg,
in the heart of the Groene Cloof. Why Kapokberg, you ask? Because
of the shrub kapokbos, the one with the white fluff that small birds
gather to line their nests. Klipberg, just north of Darling, is
obviously appropriately named.
said that there is gold in those hills. Several of the old Groene
Kloof farms have fine Cape Dutch houses on them that are loved and
cared for. Some are National Monuments. Groote Post is a case in
point. Klaver Valleij is another. Most of these farms have long
and well-recorded histories. Groene Kloof is the heart of Duckitt
country. The family ancestor was sent out by the British government
in 1800 with a party of skilled farmers and craftsmen, implements,
seed and animals to improve the agriculture in the newly acquired
colony. He set up his experimental farms at Klapmuts, but had to
leave when the country was returned to the Dutch. Under the next
British government he continued his work at Groote Post, which remained
a “government agricultural estate” as late as 1844.
I found a sheaf of correspondence between Duckitt and government
officials in the archives, recently, addressed to him at both Groote
Post and Claver Valleij, and all undisturbed, possibly unresearched,
definitely unpublished. I was surprised by the excellent relationships,
the familiarity of tone and custom, and by the unusual nickname
that he had among his friends. Remarkable old fellow. He bought
Klaver Valleij from the government in 1825 (did he retire in that
year?), and now rests there by the side of his wife. Their descendants
in habit the green hills.
Duckitt I remember vividly. When I was a child of six, living at
Geelbek, my absolute hero was an eighteen-year-old lad called Willie
Duckitt. He was a great horseman, often riding bareback, and I clearly
remember the evening he came to say good-bye. He had brought a bag
of huge crayfish. He was off to war the next morning. And he never
returned. He was killed in action with the 6th Armoured Division
in Italy, within the year. My father also joined soon after, and
we left old Geelbek. My second Duckitt was a spectacular Edwardian
apparition. When I was at high school in the middle 50’s,
our town’s rugby side occasionally used me to fill a gap.
And it came about that one balmy autumn day we were playing darling,
in the green heart of that pretty village, and there stepped from
a motor car onto the field a referee from the time when Prince Obelensky
scored that impossible try for Oxford… but you probably won’t
know of that. Apart from the wide waxed moustaches he wore a brown
flat cap, a cream blazer and a blue cravat with badges on it, and
a very dark pullover with a V-neck. His trousers were chequered
plusfours, with black hose and white shoes. He carried a rattan
walking stick and used a police whistle. We were nearly intimidated.
Here was the laird come down from the great house to investigate
the commotion on the village green and give judgment. Our opponents
treated him with deference, calling him “mister Duckitt”
instead of the usual “meneer” (“Ja, maar hulle
slaan eerste, mister Duckitt.”) I will never forget the sight
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