Free State DestinationsVerkykerskop, Thabo Mofutsanyana
Although it has been described as a 'small scale agricultural town' Verkykerskop, on the R722 north of Harrismith in the Free State, is more akin to an intentional community. The little green living village lies within a 700 hectare working farm and conservancy in the foothills of the Klein Drakensberg.
There is more, though, to Verkykerskop than the scattering of buildings in the village. It is also a socio-economically inclusive town that is still in the process of developing.
It lies at the crossroads between an historic livestock route, and a new tar road known as the Moloto tourist corridor. Rather than trying to spread a new town on either of these routes, the town intends to insert itself in amongst existing farmland and buildings.
Verkykerskop's centre is what they term an 'uitspanning' – a space of assembly, designed as the main activity space for the town's anticipated 1 500 people (at the moment this part of town is very small – a fistful of buildings that include a general dealer and a restaurant). Around this the town proposes 300 mixed-income residences, most with their own intensive home farm.
On the fringe of these residences is conservation, or farm land, where Verkykerskop intends having schools, a day clinic, meeting halls, shops, recreation facilities, a retirement cluster and a boutique hotel.
By adapting existing buildings and structures, the idea is that the area can re-emerge and take part in the village's economy. The plan is to create 'public opportunities to live, work, farm, learn and play in direct response to the natural cues of the location'.
Visit Verkykerskop (it's all rather quaint and rustic) and you will find the old general dealer is full of antiques and artefacts. Enjoy lunch at Smiley's Slow Food Restaurant. The locals hang around this part of town, and you will probably find that residents from Clarens (just up the road) are regulars. Verkykerskop has its own gymkhana club, and they also hold regular art, craft and woodcraft workshops.
On the estate enjoy hiking, mountain biking, Nguni cattle, and fly-fishing, whilst in the area find wetland birding, river-rafting, rock climbing and day trips up Mullers, DeBeers and Normandien passes.
Verkykerskop is a popular wedding venue.
ps: Verkykerskop has not ATM facilities, although Smiley's does have card facilities.