Dargle, Natal Midlands

The Dargle Valley and conservancy area is set in the midst of the Midlands Meander in the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg - a land of magic waterfalls, river gorges, grassland, indigenous forest, wild flowers and wetlands.

There is an array of short-term accommodation in Dargle that showcases the loveliness of the Natal Midlands and the untouched beauty of South Africa.

Home to a variety of bird species and a major attraction to the fishing enthusiast - the area around Dargle, Fort Nottingham and Balgowan, is renowned for excellent fly-fishing. The Dargle Valley experiences dry, cold winters - sometimes with snow - and hot, wet summers with intermittent late afternoon thunder storms followed by heavy rains. No surprise then that the countryside has sprawling wattle and pine forests, and rock pools that invite closer scrutiny.

The Midlands Meander, a collection of artists, shops, restaurants and accommodation that gives new meaning to the term ‘arts and crafts’ was initiated some 20 years’ ago by Dargle potter, Ian Glenny, whose work includes porcelain, stoneware and terracotta and whose address is simply - ‘first farm on the right, Dargle’.

An exciting cycle trail, which offers an alternative model to the current and ever-increasing threat of inappropriate development and ‘estatification’ of the Midlands, has been set up by the Guduza Trust and offers those with ‘armour-plated rear ends’ the chance to ride through indigenous forests, past huge old trees, grasslands, wide blue streams and rocky waterfalls. Get hold of the meander for details.

Travellers' Reviews

2 Reviews from SA-Venues.com travellers. All reviews are verified.

Verified reviewexcellent

Dargle is simply beautiful, everything that the "countryside" should be. It is so green and lush, I felt like I could be anywhere in the world. The farm stalls were the perfect touch to our Dargle experience and we came home with fab reminders of our time there.

Rebecca (St Francis Bay)

Verified reviewvery good

I’m fortunate to actually live in the Dargle Valley but am still constantly delighted by this part of the world and this past week was particularly lovely to be exploring. Firstly, there is a delicious autumn chill about one’s ankles and the days are clear and blue. Secondly, it’s the Butterfly Season when many butterflies swirl about gardens and forest edges. It is a good time to be out and about. Over the weekend I ambled along to visit some of the creative spots which the Midlands is renowned for. At Corrie Lynn and Co, housed in an old red barn along the Petrusstroom Road, I was really taken with the handmade felt cushions. Not only was the felt made by hand, the wool was clipped from Jeffrey the sheep (whom I met just outside) hand spun and hand dyed too! The colours obviously inspired by the herd of Nguni cattle which roam across the farm. Renowned for their wooden furniture, Corrie Lynn & Co use local wood as much as possible and certainly none from the planet’s dwindling forests. I was fascinated by the ‘box of secrets’ which Robin Fowler had created using left over pieces of lacewood, cedar and blackwood. This small chest of drawers only opens in a particular sequence, so is perfect for storing treasures and special memories. Next was St Verde on the D666, where Sharon Trickett indulges her passion for all things succulent. This spectacular feast of cacti, agaves and other interesting plants is so unexpected in the misty midlands that I spent ages simply absorbing the shapes and colours of this splendid nursery. Fortunately, a tall glass of homemade lemonade and delicious tomato tart were available to allow me to linger in the walled garden a little longer. These places open for the last weekend of every month, so mark your diary and take a drive out here one slow Sunday. Just down the road is Meander icon, Dargle Valley Pottery. Exuberant and charming Josh, Ian Glenny’s oldest son is running the show these days. As always it was fun to explore the nooks and crannies in this shadowy gallery – all filled with hand thrown tableware, lamps and their famous outdoor fireplaces. There were bargains are to be had and I headed home with a few more one-of-a-kind bowls to add to my collection. Earlier that morning I had popped down to Greg’s Farm Stall next to Thokan’s to top up on local veg – I found old fashioned cucumbers grown just up the road and plump butternuts and gem squash grown nearby too. I simply had to have a couple of their delectable pecan nut tarts for teatime. Their little fridge is always full of treasures – divine Boerenkaas cheese and farm butter too. The cucumbers desperately needed some yoghurt, so I headed for Piggly Wiggly to buy some of Gilly’s (Wana Farm) natural yoghurt and couldn’t resist a couple of real French baguette while I was there. Unfortunately, I hadn’t got up early enough for the Country Pumpkin Farmers Market at Lion’s River – who knows what treats I might have discovered? Later in the week, I joined a small group to wander in the mist-belt forest at Kilgobbin Cottage. On the first Thursday of every month, long time resident Barend Booysen hosts walks in the forest beside his home. There are still some really big Yellowwoods (home to the rare and endangered Cape Parrot) which obviously escaped being felled for timber because of forks in their trunks. Old saw pits provide evidence of this pioneering activity. We admired a few protected Prunus africana and a strangler fig vigorously overtaking a giant Celtis as well as a Cape chestnut which blew over in a violent ‘tornado’ last year. The walk was mostly easy but a steep climb to a Lemonwwood tree reputed to be about 2000 years old was really worth the effort! This old tree is quite hollow and it didn’t take much imagination to believe that a pixie or two might reside there. Many of the forest trees are fruiting at the moment and attract crowds of birds. During quiet moments we heard an Emerald Cuckoo, lots of Prinias and Cape Batis calling and marvelled at the swoosh of red as Knysna Loeries flew overhead. Autumn is a great time to take a drive in the Dargle, picnic besides the dam at Corrie Lynn and Co, climb up iNhlosane or stock up on creative inspiration.

Nikki Brighton (Dargle)

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