Established in 1911, situated in the foothills of the majestic Drakensberg Mountains in the north-eastern Free State and only about 20km from the KwaZulu-Natal border, the picturesque town of Memel is rapidly becoming a popular destination among those seeking an accessible weekend getaway, says Phil Medlock, Pam Golding Properties area principal in the Vaal Dam area, who also operates in Memel.
“An easy two-and-a-half hour drive from Gauteng, this is an appealing farming town in a beautiful setting, with fresh mountain air in a Highveld climate and an abundance of bird species and outdoor leisure activities. A small town with about 300 permanent residents, Memel is much like Deneysville was about 10 years ago, when it was still relatively undiscovered. It’s also within reach of those from KwaZulu-Natal, being close to Newcastle and about 350km from Durban,” says Medlock.
“This area has much to offer those wanting to escape the hurly burly of city life and get back to nature in a healthy environment, with snow in winter and the beautiful mountain views making it very appealing. Apart from the quaint village, with art galleries, cafes and craft shops, just to the north of Memel lies the Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve – itself a world-renowned birding site with over 250 species documented.”
Medlock says with stands in the village priced from just R160 000 and houses starting at R450 000, the town has already started attracting numerous crafters, artists and those who simply want to enjoy the clean mountain air and numerous outdoor pursuits the area offers, including hiking and mountain-biking.
Eco-friendly Rammed Earth building
“Investors have already purchased property in the village, including an American developer who has introduced to the area the ancient Rammed Earth building concept. Utilising natural materials such as earth, clay and gravel in order to build walls, this eco-friendly method has considerable potential as today more and more people look towards an eco-friendly lifestyle and aim to use more sustainable building materials – and even live ‘off the grid’.”
Already a number of buildings – including a guest house, have been built in Memel to promote this concept. The guest suites are eco-friendly, incorporating features such as solar heating and recycling of gray water for the under floor heating.
Says Medlock: “The Rammed Earth technique is more cost effective and the developer has empowered the local community by showing them how to build in this way. Furthermore, the guest units are built among an organic vegetable plot which supplies fresh vegetables to the local community as well as some top restaurants. This is also a project by the American developer and his wife who gave up careers with the United Nations to settle in Memel, where they have been instrumental in setting up such initiatives in the village with the support of local government. The aim is to attract like-minded people who are looking for a cleaner living environment and at present they are bringing in American students to assist with the local school as well as building projects which include a community centre – currently in the process of being built using a semi-earth build.”
Memel is also known as a high quality farming area. Pam Golding Properties recently listed arguably one of the finest game farms in the north-eastern Free State, comprising 1155ha with over 600 head of game across 21 different species. In mint condition and priced at R22 million, the farm is fully game fenced to the highest standard and includes two sandstone homes, numerous outbuildings, stables as well as a separate lodge and game capture boma. Water is plentiful with six dams on the farm, fed from natural mountain streams, with three of the dams stocked with trout and three with bass.
“Another appealing option is a 33 percent share in a 1232ha game farm, which is fully managed, making it ideal as a weekend leisure getaway. The asking price for the share is R2.8 million and this includes traversing rights over the farm, use of the lodge as well as the opportunity to build a home on the farm, which is also fully self-sufficient and forms part of a registered conservancy,” adds Medlock.