Hear about the small town of Napier from the locals.
Nicola Thomas speaks with the passion of a fresh convert: “It’s like I’ve been saved from materialism – from the need to spend and to be constantly doing stuff. It has been a huge release! Living in Napier teaches you to really rest and to enjoy time off. And you learn to seek out people because you aren’t surrounded by people all the time.” You might be tempted to dismiss this as the gushing enthusiasm of a city slicker freshly intoxicated by county life if it wasn’t for the fact that everyone you talk to in Napier speaks with the same zeal, including those who’ve lived in the tiny Overberg town most of their lives. Take Gert de Kock, who owns Groei, the local nursery. A born and bred Napierian, Gert has lived overseas and in Cape Town so it’s not like Napier is the only life the 32-year-old landscaper knows. [By the way, if you don’t have the foggiest idea where Napier is, you’re forgiven only because if you blink you’ll miss it. The little farming town – with a population pushing 3000 – is less than two hours outside of Cape Town and 55km from Cape Agulhas, the southern-most tip of Africa.] Gert moved back to his beloved home town four years ago for what he describes as “the good life”. “It’s the rural lifestyle, the quaint village vibe and the pace of life: if you pass three cars en route to work in the morning, it’s a lot of traffic! In Napier, everyone knows everyone and yet you can still live a private life.” That’s private, not hermitic. If a cloistered life is what you’re after, forget it. Napier’s not for you.
Locals like Gert and Nicola speak of a roaring social life of dinner parties with an eclectic mix of people and friendly foraging expeditions to local farms, including a few superb wine farms. The sense of community in Napier is strong and the folk are warm – “moerse” warm, in fact. As you drive through this one-supermarket town you’ll pass such places as the Moerse Farm Stall, where you can be assured of a “Moerse welkom”, “moerse pies”, “warm, sexy bread” and “moerkoffie” – which I regrettably never had the guts to try.
But the town is good for more than hot bread and coffee with a kick. Property in Napier is the big attraction these days. The market in Napier is said to have outperformed the markets in all of the other towns in the Agulhas region (ie Bredasdorp, Arniston, Struisbaai, L’Agulhas, Suiderstrand and Elim). When Nicola and her husband Ryan bought in March 2008 they bagged a bargain, picking up their 20-hectare farm for R1.2m. “We’d had enough of city life and were looking for a change when this place came up at the right time and at the right price. It was such a bargain, we couldn’t resist it. And we’ve fallen in love with Napier. The community has been so welcoming and helpful. It’s such a change from suburbia, where you don’t even know the people who live five metres over the wall.” The Thomas’ property in Napier has two dwellings and two worker cottages, which they’ve converted into guest cottages. Since renovating both houses and cottages, their charming working farm – Journey’s Rest – could now easy fetch R4.5m, according to the estate agent who sold them the property less than two years ago. The couple work in Cape Town during the week and retreat to the farm at weekends, which is not uncommon for Napier folk, according to local estate agent Pat Cowan. “People who come to Napier are looking for a lifestyle – that special place – which is what Napier is: a magic, magic spot. We have a lot of people relocating from Joburg and Cape Town and abroad. So the town’s a mix of Irish, Scots, Germans, Brits and English- and Afrikaans-speaking South Africans. We’re like a huge family,” says Pat. Pat and her husband Neville are ex-Natalians who moved to Napier six years ago to start up a Pam Golding franchise, which they ran up until a year ago. As a result of the recession, the franchise was shut down and the Cowans decided to take the gap and open their own agency, Cowan Properties, doing things a little differently. And it’s obviously working. “We’ve sold 10 properties since June. I think most of the cheapies have been sold.” That said, you can still pick up a property for under one bar, which is something to crow about these days – especially in a country town that has all that Napier has.
Browse Pat’s website www.cowanproperties.co.za and you’ll be itching to buy when you see what’s on offer: a 5000sqm plot with reservoir and almond trees for R510k; an original two-bedroom farm cottage on a 1200sqm erf for R495k; a large three-bedroom room (house size 245sqm) for only R950k. Property in Napier has character and value for money in truckloads. It’s almost too good to be true. According to Deeds Office data supplied by Lightstone, only 27 properties in Napier changed hands over the past 12 months. The average price of a property over this period was R625 000. Another Napierian who has done well out of property in the town is Merolyn Wessels. About 15 years ago, Merolyn bought her first 2000 sqm property for a song. She renovated it and then bought the adjoining plot. Merolyn made a great profit from her first property and is now selling her plot. “The people who bought my place moved to Napier from Cape Town.
It’s just so safe in Napier, and the farm feel is very appealing. We don’t believe in making big plots small or tarring dirt roads. When it rains the ducks sit it in the puddles in the road and we drive around them. “The town has developed over the years – we now have about nine restaurants and a big supermarket – and more and more people are staying permanently. You do still get those who go to Cape Town every fortnight or so, but we’ve also got a lot of younger families running small businesses from home and home schooling their children.” Merolyn’s unstoppable: “We’re close to the sea and there’s a good government hospital in Bredasdorp and good private hospitals in Hermanus, which is only an hour away.” What more could you ask for? Pat Cowan says that every property in Napier has a view that is in some way special. Certainly, the oceans of Overberg wheat and barley fields are a tonic, but it seems like it’s a combination of natural beauty and same-hearted people who make this town special. “I love the folk here,” says Pat. “We all have the same vision: to be part of a community, to say hello to the neighbours, to walk around and visit one another. There’s a sense of history here [the town was established in 1838] and a great many beautiful old homes.” The last word goes to Gert, the handsome bare-footed nurseryman. “Ja, we sit on the stoep a lot; we drink wine a lot and we spend a lot of time looking out on to nothing.”