This Kwazulu Natal midlands town is drawing buyers in droves who are attracted to its rural village lifestyle, top-rate schools, low crime levels and the myriad activities on offer.
Established in the early 19th century, Nottingham Road and its surrounds has an interesting history and many of the town’s residents can trace their ancestry back over a century to some of the first farmers to settle in the area. The name Nottingham Road derives from the regiment of british soldiers dispatched from Nottingham in england to help local farmers deal with the problem of cattle- and sheep-rustling, who built a garrison here in 1856.
Today, Nottingham Road’s main industry is tourism and there are myriad attractions for visitors and locals alike. The busy little town in the heart of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands provides a centre for much of the activity, both commercial and social, in the area. A very popular weekend getaway for both Durbanites and Joburgers, it has also become known for its fabulous wedding venues and spas. while it has an english country town atmosphere, the ample modern amenities and distinctly south African flavour of much of the area give it a unique character. Situated 130km from Durban and 480km from Johannesburg, Nottingham Road – with its scenic beauty, mountain views and relaxed pace of life – feels a world away.
There is plenty on offer in the area, though, with many people making a living from cafés, restaurants, B&Bs, guesthouses, wedding venues and spas. There is also a community of artists and crafters who work in the area and ship their wares all over the world from their Midlands workshops and studios. The excellent schools in the Midlands include Hilton college, Michaelhouse, St Anne’s Diocesan college and Clifton Prep Nottingham Road, and a country lifestyle is becoming an option for more and more families attracted to the security, outdoor activities and community feel of the area.
Where to shop, sleep, eat, relax and tie the knot
There are fabulous wedding venues in Nottingham Road to suit every taste and budget. Netherwood Farm (netherwood.co.za) and The Windmills (thewindmills.co.za) offer contemporary settings with magnificent views, while Granny Mouse Country House (grannymouse.co.za) and Woodridge (woodridge-estate.com) provide traditional settings for the big day. They also offer dining and accommodation for weekenders. Spas in the area include Indigo Fields (indigofields.co.za), Fordoun (fordoun.com) and Brookdale (brookdale. co.za). The area is a shopaholic’s paradise and you’re spoilt for choice with eateries, too. A quick round-up of shops would have to include Things We Love (facebook.com/thingswelovemidlands), a variety of stores at The Junction (nottiesjunction.co.za/shops) and Country Company (countrycompany.co.za). Don’t miss out on a meal at Café Bloom (033 2666118), where you can also stock up on Mick Haigh’s ceramics, or a roast by the fire at Rawdons Hotel (rawdons.co.za). St Andrew’s Retreat (standrewsretreat.co.za) is a deconsecrated church that’s been lovingly restored and converted into luxury accommodation.
Merewyn de Heer, owner of Hellooow Handmade (hellooow.co.za, relocated her family and business to Nottingham Road.
"We’ve been here almost two years. For the first six months I was homesick for Kloof and Hillcrest where I had lived my whole life, but now I wouldn’t go back for anything! We were attracted to the open spaces, green fields, fresh air, authentic people, lower levels of crime and country lifestyle. The lifestyle here has a lot to with what drives you, what your passion is when you aren’t working, and what makes your soul smile. The sound of a bubbling river and seeing my horses in big free paddocks and my kids on their bikes, covered in mud, does it for me. When I have free time, I want to be out walking, riding horses and bikes, building veggie gardens or paddling on a river, and the opportunities for that are endless here. The kids go to Clifton Nottingham Road and it is the most amazing school. The children are so well rounded – they love being free to be country kids, academics aren’t everything and they are treated as individuals based on their strengths. Isn’t that what life is about? It’s been fairly easy to run a business from here as mine works around my website, decorators and people I meet at trade fairs. We crate and send orders to clients, so where we live doesn’t really matter. Must-visits in the area are Barbz Café & Deli (barbz.co.za) in Gowrie Village for great coffee and Fly Cast Waters (076 208 5602) for an unforgettable fly-fishing experience, from clinics for beginners to guided day trips for seasoned fishermen."
Lou Harvey runs her textiles business from Durban and has a second home in Nottingham Road, where her daughter goes to school.
"I would describe Nottingham Road as the English countryside with a touch of Africa. We were drawn to the area by the outstanding schools. I also love the beauty of the area – it is very peaceful and good for the soul! I am definitely not a city slicker so love to be out in the countryside. We spend as much time in Nottingham Road as we possibly can. We try to go every weekend – it really is our second home. We enjoy the people, the beautiful shops, fresh produce and the chance for downtime in beautiful surroundings. We travel to Durban often. The roads are in great condition. The community is amazing! Very friendly, down to earth and willing to make you feel right at home. The residents are very proud of their beautiful area. My favourite Nottingham Road shops are Things We Love (facebook.com/thingswelovemidlands), Country Company (countrycompany.co.za) and Ardmore (ardmoreceramics.co.za). My favourite restaurant is definitely La Lampara (082 416 0195), and Brookdale Spa (brookdale.co.za) is a little piece of heaven!"
Nottingham Road in numbers
33% of property owners have lived here for more than 11 years
35% of property owners have lived here for less than 5 years
42% of buyers in the last year were aged 36 to 49
58% of buyers in the last year were aged 50 to 64
67% of recent sellers were 65 years old and above
80% of owners live here permanently, while the remaining 20% own holiday homes in Nottingham Road
Sales at a glance
R86,5 million - highest priced property on the market (a working farm)
R27 million - highest sale (a farm)
R7,5 million - highest prices homes (both in golf estates)
R6,95 million - highest prices smallholding on the market
Who's buying and what are they paying?
Nottingham Road has a wealth of property options and buyers are diverse. "There are six housing estates in the immediate vicinity of Nottingham Road, ranging from nine units up to 135 units," says peter Greene, principal of Meander Real estates. "There are also houses in the village itself, as well as a range of smallholdings in close proximity to the village. As it is a rural farming area, there are obviously also commercial farms available – although these are in high demand and seldom stay on the market for long when they become available. A small three-bedroom house in the village can be obtained for as little as R800 000, while a large four-bedroom home with berg views can cost up to R6 million. As far as the estates go, three-bedroom homes in Gowrie village sell for between R1,8 million and R2,4 million, and the larger four-bedroom homes on the Gowrie Golf estate sell for between R4 million and R7 million."
Nikki Anderson of Pam Golding properties Nottingham Road says that they have properties ranging in price from R350 000 to R86,5 million on their books. "Buyers are really looking for the country lifestyle and security that are on offer here," she says. "Buyers range from parents sending their children to the local private and government schools who want to give them the freedom we are privileged to experience in the Midlands to folk wanting to retire to the area and farmers wanting to expand or invest here."
Greene agrees, saying that buyers fall into three categories: "Firstly, we have a number of private schools in the area and parents with children at these schools acquire a second home for the duration of their kids' stay at these schools. The second category of buyers are those who want a lifestyle change and a move away from the city. Many of these have businesses that can be run via the internet and others commute to Johannesburg for a number of days in the week while basing their families in the Midlands. The third type is the retirement buyer."
"With school parents and retirees, we have found that Gowrie village and Gowrie farm are very popular estates within Nottingham Road as they are lock-up-and-go, convenient to schools, restaurants and the village and within easy commute of doctors, dentists and hospitals,’ says Anderson. She adds that the established nature/game estates, such as Eagle Crest Wildlife estate, Siteka Country Estate, the Bend and Mziki are also popular, as are Rawdons Country Estate and Spurwing: "Lifestyle properties, such as smallholdings, are popular within Nottingham Road and the immediate surrounds, as are working farms."
A few years ago Fordoun donated 150 hectares of natural veld and wetland along with two neighbouring properties to the KZN Crane Foundation, creating some 450 hectares of land that is now a registered reserve. The purpose of the donations was to create in perpetuity an area that will remain natural and undisturbed as a sanctuary for the wattled crane and Oribi antelope – both of which are critically endangered. The sanctuary is named the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve (kzncrane.co.za).