The Magical Place that is Hogsback

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

The earliest known written reference to Hogsback is found in the journal of Thomas Baines, the famous English artist and explorer, who left England for South Africa at the age of 22 and worked in Cape Town as a scenic and portrait artist.

The breathtaking natural scenery and distinct ties to an English country garden is perhaps one of the factors that makes this area unique. Initially set up as home to English farming settlers, the village began to take shape under the influence of some of the earliest colonists, including Thomas Summerton. An immigrant and gardener from Oxford, Summerton went to great lengths to recreate the English countryside by planting apple orchards, hazelnut trees, berry fruits as well as flora typically found in his motherland.

Legend has it that JRR Tolkien, author of the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy, took much of his inspiration for the magical scenery in the books from the area. Tolkien is rumoured to have received a number of sketches and descriptions of the Amatola Forest from his son, Christopher, who frequently visited Hogsback.

The South African-born author’s books were adapted for the big screen and went on to become some of the highest earning box office hits in cinemas around the world. Thanks in part to the success of both the books and the films, many visitors to the area seek out the mystical forest and explore the peaks, waterfalls and streams that add to the character and mystery of this magnificent woodland.

At the turn of the 20th century, as the town’s reputation as one of the most beautiful regions in South Africa spread, many who farmed in nearby areas and others who lived in towns close by began to build holiday homes in the area. Not much has changed since then.

Hogsback’s chapel, St Patrick’s on the Hill has become a landmark and a favoured choice of venue for couples tying the knot. The quaint basilica was built in 1935 by Kenneth Houghton as a place of worship for his beloved wife.

It goes without saying that property in this beautiful part of the world would offer peace and tranquillity to those who chose to purchase a home here. Statistics recently released by Lightstone reveal that all seven of the sales in the area in the last 12 months fell into the freehold sector of the market. No sectional title sales have taken place over the same period. The average price paid for freehold property was R1 368-million and the highest price paid for a property in the area was R2 800-million. In terms of municipal valuation, the town is seeded first in the Nkonkobe Municipal district, with the highest average municipal valuation in the region.

One of the town’s residents, Diana Graham has built a unique Ecology Shrine which could be likened to a modern day labyrinth, featuring Graham’s distinctive artwork, her interpretation of the synergies of a number of natural phenomena. Visitors to the shrine are amazed by the breathtaking views of the mountains, waterfalls and valleys and it has become a popular tourist attraction as well as an educational facility for school day trips and workshops.

When prompted about the origins of the magnificent structure she is quoted as saying – “I built the Ecology Shrine because I felt impelled to make a place where art, nature and science and a sense of the sacred came together”.

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