Harburg, Natal Midlands

Take the Midlands Amble (not to be confused with the Midland Meander) and you'll find yourself on the lesser-explored perimeters to the south-west and north-east of Pietermaritzburg, with the Albert Falls Dam as the fulcrum.

The Amble incorporates the towns and villages of Pietermaritzburg, Hilton, Ashburton, Umlaas Road, Tala Valley, Richmond, Albert Falls, Bishopstowe, Wartburg, Harburg, New Hanover, Noodsburg, Greytown, Muden, Weenen and Hermannsburg.

Harburg lies off R614 just beyond Wartburg, one of several German communities that mushroomed after 1840. German settlers arrived to grow cotton for the Natal Cotton Company, but their attempts failed and many of the Bergtheil colonists who had settled in New Germany, Westville moved inland to the area around Pietermaritzburg and New Hanover.

In 2011 Harburg's beautiful Neuenkirche celebrated 125 years. The church is a hangover of the mission station established here by missionaries who originally set sail for Ethiopia, but could not land and continued on to Durban. After getting permission from Zulu chiefs they set up a few mission stations – Hermannsburg first and then New Hanover.

Harburg only came later when several of the families broke away from these original mission stations, because of the distance they had to travel every Sunday, to build their own chapel, which they called Neuenkirchen (new church). Their town was originally known as Honey Grove. Only in 1893, once a trading store and a few houses had joined the church, was it named Harburg.

Today descendants of these same German settlers still live in Harburg – a pretty rural village that is still only a few homes and a converted post office (now a self-catering cottage). The original police station and community hall no longer stand. The school has been converted into a retreat. But the Neuenkirche still stands and continues to celebrate regular Sunday services in German and English.

There is a caravan park just outside the village.

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