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Article by Private Property | Lea Jacobs

Waterval Boven - The Town That The World Almost Forgot

It’s hard to imagine that the beautiful area surrounding Waterval Boven, a small village in Mpumalanga once staged some of South Africa’s most famous, hard fought battles between the Boer and British forces. Apart from a ghost, some war graves and Krugerhof, the home where Paul Kruger resided before he was exiled to Switzerland, very little remains to indicate the heartbreak the area once witnessed.

Sadly the Wayside Inn, an old hotel in nearby Waterval Onder that once featured a number of historic artefacts has been vandalised, forever erasing an important part of South African history. The site has housed a number of historical buildings over the years including a British Military hospital that treated soldiers injured during the battles before it was transformed into the well-known hotel.

Folklore has it that a Boer nurse assigned to the hospital would meet with her British military beau on a nightly basis under a pepper tree in the infirmary grounds. After their deaths sometime in the early 1900s, many locals reported seeing the ghosts of the lovebirds until the tree was destroyed by lightning in the 1960s. The legend proved to be a boost for local tourism; the nurses old cape and the story surrounding her life were on display in the pub at the hotel and when the steam train was still in operation ghost tours were commonplace attracting large numbers of people hoping to catch a glimpse of the apparitions.

The village of Waterval Boven that once housed a large contingent of South African Railway workers has been transformed over the years. The fact that the area is a mere three hour drive from Johannesburg has appealed to many who want to get away from the dust and grime of city living. The railway houses have been sold and the makeup of the village these days comprises a mix of holiday homes and permanent residents.

Considering the size of this tiny village, sales have remained fairly strong during the countrywide property slump although the current figures cannot be compared to those reflected at the height of the boom which show that in 2004 a total of 67 properties were sold. Lightstone’s most recent statistics indicate that there have been 15 freehold sales concluded over the last year. Prices in this area have remained extremely low hovering around the R350 000 mark. This is perhaps surprising given the local amenities on offer and the high prices paid for property in other nearby areas. Dullstroom in particular has boomed in recent years, piggy backing on the regions trout fishing industry.

Despite the villager’s best efforts, the village has been become a victim of the modern age. The famous steam train that once chugged through the surrounding hills has been stopped because stream locomotives are no longer allowed to travel on SA railways main lines. This has taken a little magic away from the village and the old station that had been restored to its former glory, now sits silent welcoming no travellers to these beautiful parts.

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