Villiers, Northern Free State

The little town of Villiers only just makes it into the Free State, lying as it does practically on the border with Mpumalanga, east of the Vaal Dam. Villiers, named after the farmer Lourens de Villiers on whose farms the town was founded, is built on the banks of the Vaal River, just off the N3 - a major highway through the Free State that brings visitors to the town more frequently than other little Free State towns that lie off the beaten track.

The town's historical value lies in its being placed at a crossing over the Vaal River, giving it status in terms of transport between Durban and Johannesburg. There were toll houses on either bank of the Vaal River just where wagons used to cross from Villiers, where the steel bridge crosses the river today, and they claimed money from travellers right up until 1910 when South Africa became a Union.

It must have looked something like our current tolls on highways throughout the country, as some 300 wagons stood waiting to cross the river during heavy rains. As a consequence of all this historical activity, the town has some wonderful examples of restored eastern Free State sandstone buildings, and a magnificent church in the centre of the town worth a photo or two.

Park your car in town and stroll through the village, or visit one of the coffee shops or tea garden and chat to the locals about what they think of their village. A good conversation topic might be Villiers' gardens as these have won a floating trophy more than a couple of times for making the town one of the pretties in the region, particularly during summer.

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