JOBURG FOR INTROVERTS is a guide for those of us who just want to find a quiet spot in this frenetic city and be left alone. Next up is Riversands Farm Village in Midrand…
During the higher levels of lockdown I went on the hunt for outdoor spaces that weren’t filled with hoards. My usual haunts like The Wilds and Modderfontein became incredibly busy (and still are; I no longer go to Modderfontein as it’s just too crowded).
I decided to look further afield – I even went north.
A pandemic will do things to people.
To my surprise, I ended up discovering a few places that are good for my soul: one of them is Riversands Farm Village in Midrand (another one, near Woodmead, is going to be selfishly kept secret). The last time I ventured to this far-northern part of Jo’burg was in 2017 when I wrote about a gold-domed Russian Orthodox church.
Riversands Farm Village makes you feel like you’ve almost escaped the city. It had its beginnings as a free-range chicken farm in the 1940s (when the whole area was just farmland) and you can still get their famous chicken pies (I’ve yet to have one, admittedly). The main area has farm paraphernalia like vintage tractors, and spades hanging on walls – there’s also a huge, wooden statue of a Native American man, which confuses me.
Do not go there on a Sunday as they have a ‘bustling’ market. Just that word, ‘bustling’, should put you off. Rather get there very early on a Saturday – most places will be closed but the Broken Mill Café is open from 7am and you’ll find strong coffee (or, as it’s known in our house, ‘magic juice’). They use a brand called AVANTi which I use at home.
When I’ve visited on a Saturday it’s been very quiet, but to my horror, I now see that a running event has started up again. It appears to take place between 7:45am and 8:15am. During the week you’ll basically have the place to yourself.
Another spot that’s open on a Saturday is The Pancake Pantry. Their pancakes are a spiritual experience, and the owner, Kerry, is an effervescent woman who calls everyone – no matter age, gender, orientation, or creed – “lovie”. Kerry claimed she was ‘too shy’ for a photo, and after I told her I have a blog she expressed dismay that I was there on a quiet day. I added that I deliberately seek out quiet days, and, despite the fact she was wearing a mask and large sunglasses, I knew she looked a little perplexed.
Riversands Farm Village is also home to a very talented sculptor, Washington Mashaka (he has a Facebook page, too). On weekends you’ll find the farm’s expansive lawn dotted with African animals – thanks to Washington Mashaka Crafts. He has a workshop in the Jo’burg CBD and he struggled to make sales during lockdown, but things are picking up.
A thing that I really like about Riversands Farm Village is that you can park off anywhere. I’ve sat on a bench at the taphouse (closed on a Saturday morning but I’d imagine pumping from lunchtime onwards), and I’ve sat on the sprawling lawn next to the dam (it has since been drained but should be full in a month or two). The last time I was there, I sat at a table under a mulberry tree next to the kiddies’ farm area, where I overheard two young moms talking while a child banged on a xylophone (“There are some really kak nursery rhymes out there”/”I just need a two-day break with my girlfriends”).
Another thing I like is that you can really get away from people and take a long walk on the property. After Washington’s sculptures, just cross the bridge over the water (or, non-existent water at the moment), take a short walk through the forest (it has a tree-top obstacle course, plus you’ll see a paintball section on your left).
You’ll pop out onto a large, open area of veld and MTB/walking trails (you may see the odd horse-rider). In this section of the farm, you really feel like you’re out of the city. The images below were taken in late August so I’m sure it’s much greener now.
Riversands Farm Village is pretty strict on COVID protocols (there is hand-sanitiser everywhere), and no mask, no entry. It’s a little off the beaten track: head north on the gauntlet that is William Nicol until you get to the capitalist monstrosity, Steyn City. Take the Erling Road slip road; at the T-junction turn right. Drive under the bridge and turn left at the second road into Riversands Commercial Park.
Go through seven circles, at the eighth circle turn right into Rose Road (I had to google how many Circles of Hell are in Dante’s Inferno and it’s nine, so we’re good). Parking is to your left. You’ll be given a plastic token that’s dripping in sanitiser, which you’ll need to hand back to the security guard on your way out of the parking.
You can find Riversands Farm Village at Riversands Commercial Park, Rose Road, Knopjeslaagte, Midrand. Free entrance, don’t go on a Sunday or on a Saturday between 7:45am and 8:15am. No ATM and their card facilities aren’t 100% reliable so ideally bring cash (although I’ve always used my card). On their website they state: “We want to be known as a festive place, not a noisy one.”