For Fredo the valley around Franschoek, and lower down into the Groot Drakenstein, also have had special significance because these have always been outstanding fruit and wine growing areas.
This valley has been the place where the modern day South African fruit industry started. In the area around Simondium Cecil john Rhodes, with the help of Harry Pickstone, the man who had a plum named after him, started the Rhodes Fruit Farms Empire. Bochendal and Pickstone’s own farm, Lekkerwijn (Nice Wine), formed the heart of it. Rudyard Kipling was a regular visitor and had many hours of leisure under the trees in front of the homestead. This is also the spot where the two of them designed the first logo which was supposed to be used on export fruit from the Cape.
There is an interesting tale as to the origin of the name – Lekkerwijn. The original owner was a French man called Lecreven and it was always assumed that the name derived from its original owner. Legend has it that it could have originated from a rather tragic accident on the farm. The wine on the farm was stored in an underground wine tank. When wine was needed, out came the bucket and rope and some was brought to the surface. One day, when the level of the wine was running low, someone noted a skeleton in the tank. Someone with a taste for wine must have fallen in in the past. Hence the Dutch name – Lekkerwijn or Nice Wine. As far as we can establish it is merely a legend and the farm was most likely named after its first owner.
Here and further up the Valley, unlike the tracks of the English Colonials at the site of the Rhodes Farms, we pick up the trail of the French Huguenots who settled on the banks of the Berg River and the other little divers flowing out of the mountains which completely encircles the valley and tower over the sprawling community. Around the town there are many fruit farms which Fredo visited during his many years as communications manager for a large exporting company.
Fredo and Janey have not been to Franschhoek for a while and as we reached the town we were struck by the phenomenal changes that have taken place over the years.
The town is sprawling and perhaps the saddest was to see the informal settlements creeping up the mountain side near the famous old stone fruit farm, La Terra du Luc. Surely there must be other land in the valley where space could be found for the essential need to provide housing?
Franschhoek still has its fruit packing cooperative and we visited when the fruit orchards were about to roll out their spring blossoms. Whatever happens in the future, one hopes that the Valley’s precious fruit and wine heritage, in fact that French spirit which will inspire all locals to sing Le Marseille at least once a year, will endure forever.