Baynesfield, Natal Midlands

Baynesfield is a tiny little village roughly 22 minutes' drive south west of Pietermaritzburg. Pretty to drive through, it is the home of Baynesfield Estate, a museum, and a little railway station, but little more.

Named after Joseph Baynes, who arrived in South Africa with his father as a settler in 1842, the role of the village is principally as support for Baynesfield Estate – a series of farms bought by the keen agriculturalist.

Baynes died in 1925 without heirs and left his over 9 000 hectare estate in trust for South Africans. Today it remains a working farm with pigs, timber, maize, avocados, cattle and soya as the principle crops. The estate still has the largest breeding piggery in the province – a testament to Baynes' having initiated the bacon industry in the country.

A beautiful Victorian style building, Baynes House was built in 1882 by Joseph for his second wife, Sarah. Filled with a lot of the original Baynes' furniture, the house is open to the public (by arrangement, so phone ahead). It lies in a beautiful garden filled with trees.

The house of his first wife, Maria, also remains standing - a far simpler affair with stables at one end and a bull ring at the other. In it visitors can see a rather large collection of antique wood crafting tools, now held in custody by a group of woodcrafters, amongst whom there is a resident blacksmith, who have set up their workshops here. They use the tools as part of their work.

The estate has regular visits from local schools, and has a vegetable garden behind the house that supplies the Salvation Army Joseph Baynes children's Home with produce. The heritage centre does museum tours, tea or lunch tours for groups.

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