A more perfect setting for a town couldn’t be imagined. With the beautiful Heldeberg mountains as a backdrop, the whole of False Bay laid out as a sunset panorama, and historic wine estates all around, Somerset West really does have it all
It’s no surprise that the once small country town has grown rapidly, its outdoor lifestyle and proximity to Cape Town and the international airport making it a favourite destination for South Africans relocating to the Cape from upcountry. However, despite the addition of numerous secure developments and lifestyle estates around the town, at heart Somerset West remains a small town with a strong sense of community.
“Somerset West is a place for any age group,” says resident, Megan Cooper. “There’s a vast mixture of old and young, families new to the area and families that have been here for centuries.” Part of the attraction that appeals to 20-somethings as much as families and retirees, is the way that green spaces and nature are woven into the fabric of everyday life. The Helderberg Nature Reserve dips right down among residential streets, close at hand for impromptu picnics, summer sunset concerts and fynbos walks; historic wine estates wrap around the town’s eastern border and offer the perfect playground, whether for picnics under the ancient camphor trees at Vergelegen, Sunday markets at Lourensford, or tastings of Morgenster’s award-winning olive oils. Another attraction is Radloff Park on the banks of the Lourens River, its meandering paths busy with runners and dog-walkers, the sports fields and club facilities fostering many a budding Western Province player.
When it comes to shopping, photographer and stylist, Henrique Wilding, avoids the malls and heads for the town centre. “The Bright Street area is very trendy with a walking Kloof Street feel; there’s everything from a raw food restaurant to great artisan coffee roasters. Chelsea Village is a brilliant place for interesting prop-hunting or gifts, with gorgeous French country antiques at Karlo and Guy, vintage decor at Gister, lovely things at Chelsea Decor and organic veggie baskets and Deluxe coffee at Chelsea Bean,” she says.
Chic Waterstone mall with its huge flagship Woolworths Food store entices many residents. “Walking past there on a Sunday morning is treacherous, as you’ll definitely be tempted into buying the freshest croissants you’ve ever had,” says Megan. If you do want to shop till you drop, Somerset Mall has as much variety as Canal Walk.
Somerset West has always prided itself on the high academic standards of its private and public schools. “I love the tradition that I’m able to send my children to the same school that I went to. It’s a very stable and secure community for children to grow up in,” says Henrique. The choice of high schools has recently grown, with Somerset College and Parel Vallei High School now joined by the new Curro and Reddam House schools in Sitari and Somerset Lakes respectively, new country estates along the N2 adjoining the town. And nearby top Stellenbosch schools Paul Roos and Rhenish Girls’ High are also popular choices.
With beach and watersports close by at Strand, mountain adventures, excellent sports facilities and a trendy town centre, it’s a lifestyle that once you taste, you never want to let go. “Family and friends in Joburg often ask what it’s like to stay in such a small town,” says resident, Chaz Malan. “Once they have spent a few nights here, watching the sun set behind Table Mountain across the ocean, fantastic local wine in hand, they understand why I call this my home.”
We have the whole of the Heldeberg wrapped around us. We can go to a nature reserve, to the sea, to the mountains in five minutes. It’s a really family-orientated place, that still feels like a small town and you feel part of the community.
-Henrique Wilding, resident.
Best in food:
- Camphors at Vergelegen
- The Restaurant at Waterkloof
- Millhouse Kitchen at Lourensford
- 95 at Morgenster
- Benguela on Main
Things to do:
- Watch Starlight Classics concerts at Vergelegen.
- Olive tasting at Morgenster
- Play golf at Erinvale or Somerset West golf clubs.
- Visit Cheetah Outreach.
- Hike the mountain trails at Heldeberg Nature Reserve.
- Somerset College
- Parel Vallei High School
- Reddam House Somerset
- Beaumont Primary
- Somerset House
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.
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