Reminiscent of a tranquil old English village, with its narrow, tree-shaded roads, Irene provides country-style living in a historically rich setting.
Between the R21 and N1 highways in Centurion lies the picturesque village of Irene. Proclaimed a township in 1902, it offers country-style living near the city and an abundance of bird life and animal. Large properties, narrow roads shaded by old oak trees and stone walls surrounding properties covered in wisteria are characteristic of the area.
Forty-one-year-old Jaco van der Westhuizen, the chairman of the Irene Landowners’ Association, says he and his wife, Madelein, moved to Irene in November 2010 because they enjoyed the farm-like atmosphere of the village. He adds that their new neighbours welcomed them with flowers and food and made them feel at home.
We knew more people in our new home in the first week of moving to Irene than we ever knew in the complex we lived before. The people in this suburb care about each other and you can talk to your neighbours across the wall and know they are looking out for you. When I travel, I know my neighbours will look after my wife at home
He says the road closure of the suburb four years ago made the area safer for residents by reducing crime, and although it is not a security complex, they know they are reasonably safe. Jaco says it is almost as if the village comes alive after 6pm when all the gates, except for the main gate to suburb, are shut, and residents can be seen walking their dogs to the oval while children cycle safely on the streets, without their parents needing to keep a watch on them.
Adrian van der Byl, a 57-year-old farmer and the director of the Irene Dairy Farm, has lived here for most of his life and says it has a unique sense of community. Residents are not bound to a set of homeowner association rules, as with many other some residential estates, but rather share a spirit of like-mindedness. He says that in Irene, trees continue to be planted and grown, and the cows still produce the best milk in the country.
The Irene Dairy Farm, bought on auction by Adrian’s great-grandfather, Johannes Albertus van der Byl in 1895, is an integral part of the suburb and is well known across the country as one of the last few working dairy farms still producing certified raw milk. Residents can take a walk through the leafy suburb to the farm for fresh milk and other dairy products, or enjoy a bite to eat at the Barn or Deck restaurants on the farm.
“Children can watch the cows being milked and the calves being fed and see the black and white swans and wild ducks. Farm, dairy and home-made products such as milk, cheese, honey extract bee products, peanut brittle, cold meats, koeksisters and body butter are popular items available at the Dairy Shop on the farm,” says Adrian.
The Irene Village Hall was given to the community by the Van der Byl family in the 1920s. Local schools hold concerts and exhibitions there, and community members hold high teas and flower shows for senior residents of the community.
Ward councillor Christa Spoelstra (69) has been living in Irene for 35 years. She says that the Irene Country Club, is one of the oldest golf courses in the country. Van der Byl established the course in 1912. Originally it had nine holes but was extended to 18 in 1922.
Says Christa, “There are many cultural and historical buildings in Irene, including the Irene Concentration Camp national heritage site, which honours Boer woman and children who died at the camp during the Second Anglo-Boer War. The old post office and train station also form part of the rich heritage of this suburb”.
Irene is also home to the popular Irene Village Market, which takes place twice a month at the Smuts House Museum and includes a tea garden, food stalls, arts and crafts, antiques, flowers and curios. Christa explains that the museum, a wood-and-iron farmhouse, was home to General Jan Smuts for more than 40 years.
“Irene is a special place and its residents are proud to stay here,” adds Christa. “My three children – Tania, Collette and Christa – all grew up in Irene and Collete even had a horse kept at the Irene Dairy Farm stables. This is one of the last residential areas in South Africa where the original township developer still has the power to protect the area from overpopulation and subdivisions and to keep it country-like.”
- Pick up a litre of certified raw milk at the Irene Dairy Farm.
- Attend a community event at the Irene Village Hall.
- Play a round of golf at the Irene Country Club.
- Attend the Irene Village Market at the Smuts House Museum.
- Have a bite to eat at the Barn or Deck restaurants at the Irene Dairy Farm.
Property prices in Irene
- A typical property for sale in Irene is a four-bedroom house at an average asking price of R3,7m
- Average asking price for properties in complexes: R1,25m
- Average asking price for flats and apartments: R650,000
- Average monthly rental for a three-bedroom house: R23,000
Properties for sale in Irene comprise 1% of total sales listings in the Centurion East area. They receive:
- 2% of the interest
- 3% of the total rental listings
of all properties in the Centurion East area.
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.