Nottingham Road, Natal Midlands
As a child, I always thought Nottingham Road was the equivalent to ‘The Wind in the Willows’ in KwaZulu Natal, and indeed, this beautiful part of the world with its old-world country taverns and traditional old family farmland is reminiscent of the children’s classic written in 1908.
Nottingham Road is a village easily reached from the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban, only 20 minutes from the foothills of the Drakensberg.
The landscape here is truly the green rolling hills of Natal, dotted with fly-fishing dams and an ordered beauty that has earned Nottingham Road its place in the heart of the Midlands Meander – an eclectic mix of arts and crafts, restaurants, and a wide range of sporting, environmental and historical pursuits that was originally created to attract visitors off the beaten track.
‘Notties’, as the locals are apt to call Nottingham Road, began as a tented camp, set up by the Sherwood Foresters in 1856 as a military fort to protect farmers in the area from raiding San hunter gatherers, who were indigenous to the area. In 1880 work on the Durban-Johannesburg railway began, running past the original Fort Nottingham by over 20 miles, to stop at Karkloof Station. The village that grew as a result of the station later became known as Nottingham Road.
Nottingham Road locals are a friendly bunch, and there is plenty to do in the area, starting with a visit to the Nottingham Road Brewing Co – a rustic brewery that produces beers with original names like a ‘whistling weasel pale ale’, a ‘pie-eyed possum pilsner’, a ‘pickled pig porter’ and a ‘tiddly toad lager’ – you can understand why ‘Wind in the Willows’ would come to mind.