This is a love story. A story of a love for a place, a place for love, a love of nature and wild spaces- and horses, Wild Horses.
Wild Horses is the labour of love of Jon and Trish Hawkins. It’s a five-star luxury sandstone villa at the end of a long bay on my favourite dam, Sterkfontein Dam, in the Free State. It’s been a favourite for the Hawkins for a very long time. They had timeshare around the corner for many years and, when that property was subdivided, bought a piece and built what was initially a private getaway. Happily, it became open to the public 11 years ago and I visited a tad over seven years ago.
I loved it then. I love it more now. Property developer Jon has not been idle and has just finished substantial changes, with all the rooms now having private patios so that each have that delightful dam view.
Guest accommodation is in just four suites, a little apart from the main building. They all have their strengths, and are quite different, apart from the gorgeous cherry wood floors. Choose according to your taste or take pot luck. You won’t be disappointed.
A garden and a rim flow pool separate the rooms from the main building, with an indoor restaurant that opens onto a large terrace for warm weather alfresco meals, guest lounge with underfloor heating, fireplace, impressive sound system and bar. A few steps up and you’re in the open kitchen area, separated by balustrading from the lounge. Here chef Marelize Viljoen sat us down for a delicious ribeye pita concoction on famished arrival (the only time you’ll be hungry at Wild Horses). The substantial wine collection- and the perfect romantic dinner venue- is to one side.
Below the main lodge, past the beautiful koi fish and down some stairs, is a lounging deck for sun worshippers, in front of a rather good library where you might curl up on a wintry day.
Jon loves wine, so there’s a balanced selection with something for every palate. The food? Well, we managed to “wikkel” a few of Marelize personal twists and tips out of her- like how she gets her beetroot reduction just so, what makes her poached pears different.
Jon and Trish also have a love for horses and nature. The horses have roamed the land for some time, and guests can too. If they have the right vehicle they can drive past the horses and up above the lodge to the permanent picnic/ view point on the clifftop, the perfect spot for a sundowner.
Hiking is another way to get about in the 19 0000 hectare nature reserve that surrounds Sterkfontein. On horseback too of course. The swishest way though is Jon’s state of the art 29ft Sea Ray Bow Rider boat. The nooks and hidden bays are delightful, summer or winter, and Wild Horses is a big hit with lovers, as they aid and abet in proposals, ferrying the (hopefully) soon-to-be engaged couple to a secret spot, where a romantic picnic has been prepared to set the scene.
Jon has also acquired the 40 ft yacht that he sailed to Rio on twice in the 1973 & 76 Cape to Rio Yacht Races. Golden City is being restored and should be on the water in early 2019, affording a very private, exclusive space for one couple.
If you’re not planning a proposal or wedding, Wild Horses still plucks the heart strings. It certainly did for Hilary and I. Whether it was gardener Hilary’s delight at the marvellous gardens- the commitment to maintain such a visual delight through the harsh winters is quite something- or the wine cellar dinner, with rose petals strewn on the floor, the candle lit setting and chef Marelize’s wonderful fare, we left more in love with life and everything we experienced. Soppy? Try it, you’ll like it!
Our overnight stay- even though we arrived early and departed late- was way too short. But so was my previous, longer stay. Both times I can’t say I did very much, though others rode or hiked. Wild Horses is, for me, a place to simply indulge and be indulged, with the subtle and thoughtful touches that set it apart.