Situated only about an hour from Grahamstown and 150km from the coast, the quaint town of Bedford is rapidly becoming the new hotspot for weekenders and those looking for a change of pace through a different lifestyle.
Says Daphne Timm, Grahamstown area principal for Pam Golding Properties, who recently opened an office in Bedford: “This charming village, very reminiscent of an English country town due to its architecture and fertile countryside, has become a haven for artists and urban dwellers who seek a tranquil, scenic destination.”
Historically a support village for the local farming community who farm mainly cattle, sheep, goats and dairy, the town’s residents have been primarily local business people and retirees. Bedford sits at the foot of a beautiful mountain range, the Kaga Mountains (named by the San after the stripes on a zebra), which creates a micro-climate in the area, making this a green town with a more temperate climate and better rainfall than most Karoo towns.
To the south are expansive rolling farmlands dotted with cattle, while the entire district towards nearby Adelaide and Fort Beautfort is picturesque, as is the scenic drive to Port Elizabeth – some two hours away. In the opposite direction, towards Tarkastad, the mountain views are breathtaking and the exceptional vistas from Bedford and the surrounds are one of the reasons why artists are so drawn to the area.
Says Timm: “In recent years the village has started to grow, much like other small towns in the country. The boom really began in 2004, when the average price for the 56 properties sold that year was R55 000. By 2006 the average house price had increased to R264 000 and today Bedford continues to grow, with local residents who include artists and designers, photographers, journalists, teaching professionals, doctors and other medical providers.
“We are fortunate to have a local hospital which has a new crop of final year students every year and some of these young professionals have elected to extend their stay and live in Bedford. One of these is the local dentist whose now husband, a dental technician, joined her a few years ago and they have purchased a home here. We also find that new residents come here from East London, Johannesburg, Cape Town and abroad, and all are made to feel welcome.”
Timm says that WiFi internet access has been a huge benefit to the village and ADSL is expected to be introduced this year (2014). According to Lightstone statistics, about 20 percent of Bedford’s property owners are under the age of 50, while 60 percent of recent buyers are under the age of 64, so essentially the community is becoming younger.
Bedford Country School, which is supported privately and funded by the community, opened just over five years ago, catering for children up to Grade 3, and this year has 60 learners. It is a registered eco-school, using the latest teaching methods and aiming for very high standards. Local children above this grade attend school at St Andrews, DSG or Kingswood in Grahamstown or Grey and Collegiate in Port Elizabeth. There are also schools in Adelaide, just 12 minutes’ drive away.
With a stable property market, homes in Bedford offer good value for money and for R850 000 you can acquire an appealing period home with three bedrooms, large garden with a great view and friendly neighbours. Says Timm: “Currently, although we are experiencing a shortage of stock, we do have a mix of homes available for purchase priced from R385 000 for a large three bedroom, two bathroom house with double garage and large garden to R1.4 million for four bedrooms, three bathrooms, double garage, large garden and swimming pool in a good neighbourhood.”
PGP sells home for highest price
Last year Pam Golding Properties sold an immaculate three bedroom home for R1.3 million – the highest residential price achieved in the market to date in Bedford, and also sold the historic Stonehouse, the town’s oldest residential property, which fetched R950 000. This was purchased by an Austrian who plans to retire in Bedford soon.
Abigail White, Pam Golding Properties’ agent in Bedford, has been living in the town for five years but purchased her property in 2006. “I’m married to a farmer but we love living in the village,” she says.
“At present there is also a shortage of rental stock as increased employment created by the windfarms – which commenced construction last year, have attracted contract workers to the area, as well as created opportunities for local unskilled and semi-skilled labour. The population increase has also resulted in an improved demand for services and supplies, which is positive for local business owners. Due to the shortage of supply, rental accommodation has increased to between R10 000 and R12 000 per month and beyond for a home with four or more bedrooms, which typically would be rented by a group of four workers, each of whom is allocated a rental budget by the company which employs them.
“Generally, companies are looking for large homes with additional bathrooms, not necessarily for families but for contract workers and mainly for a two-year period. Flats for single people are also currently in great demand with rents exceeding R2500 per month for a garden flat. Although the demand is high at present, we expect it to taper over the next few years,” says White.
The town of Bedford has two supermarkets, two banks, other amenities and a 9-hole golf course, while the owner of The Duke of Bedford Inn is currently developing business premises in Hope and Cradock Streets. Three shops, including the Pam Golding Properties office, have already opened this year while a further 10 commercial spaces, all with tenants waiting, are currently being renovated in previously run-down buildings, and should be completed by the end of the year (2014).
The old Bedford Hotel was one of two Victorian hotels in the village – the other long since demolished, and dates back to the late 1800’s. Last year, after a major two year renovation project, it finally reopened as the Duke of Bedford Inn. Although not yet fully completed, the old hotel has been converted from a 28 bedroom, derelict building into a mini hotel of 11 bedrooms (with en suite bathrooms), bar, ladies lounge and restaurant. Two refurbished function rooms catering for up to 120 people will be completed later this year. The Duke’s Courtyard connects the inn with the appealing new Hope Street shops, which all open onto it.
At present Pam Golding Properties has two B&B’s listed for sale, the Mirror and Stone guesthouse, priced at R698 000 for three bedrooms, each with bathroom en suite, and Lavender Haven, priced at R498 000 for three bedrooms, all en suite. White says both establishments were previously very busy and successful but are no longer operational as the owners decided to pursue other interests. Each establishment is set on a large erf in excess of 3000sqm so there is plenty of scope for improvements and expansion.
During the Bedford Garden Festival – which takes place in October each year – Pam Golding Properties sponsors an art exhibition showing the works of local and Karoo artists, as well as sponsoring six annual music concerts for the Bedford Music Appreciation society. A new addition to the Bedford calendar is the now bi-annual Bedford Soul Food Festival. Says White: “Our festivals can attract up to 2000 people, sometimes more, from all over the country, while our Sunday music concerts draw a small crowd from around the district.”
Other activities in the Bedford area include horse riding, hiking trails, mountain biking, fishing, rock climbing and bird watching. There are numerous game reserves in the area such as Addo, The National Mountain Zebra Park and Shamwari, which are all accessible and it’s not far to Katberg and Hogsback.