KwaZulu Natal DestinationsEstcourt, Battlefields
Lower down in the valley from Van Reenen’s Pass, and in the heart of the Anglo-Boer War territory, Estcourt is a fairly large town that serves as the gateway to the central Drakensberg, together with Winterton just 40 kilometres to the north.
Initially known as Bushman’s River, due largely to its location near water, Estcourt was renamed in honour of Thomas Estcourt, an English parliamentarian who sponsored the immigration of settlers to the area. Aside from its obvious Anglo-Boer War connections, Estcourt is also popular because it is close to the Weenen Game Reserve, a KwaZulu Natal conservation park, and the Thukela Biosphere – about 100 000 hectares of valley bushveld that supports a range of wildlife elephant, white rhino, wildebeest, leopard, warthog, hyena and some buck.
Estcourt’s turbulent past began with the murder of Piet Retief and his followers at the hands of Dingane, followed by the murder of Boer families near Estcourt, where a memorial now stands. Other sites include the Armoured Train Cemetery, where a young Winston Churchill was captured, and Brynbella Hill, 10 kilometres from Estcourt, which represented high ground for the Boers as they pressed further south. The stone wall used by both the Boer and British forces during the skirmish on 23 Nov 1899 is still visible, and is a national monument.
Hiking and walking trails in and around Estcourt include the New Formosa Nature Reserve, which is great for viewing game, the old Furrow Walking trail and the Moor Park Nature Reserve, which offers interesting trails and excellent bird watching.