Hart of the Karoo

glen avon

Bill Brown of Glen Avon Farm – hard at work in the shearing season.

Glen Avon Farm is a bit of Old England in the Karoo, thanks in part to its situation up against the thickly vegetated Boschberg near Somerset East, where rain clouds from the south disgorge their moisture.

The original patriarch of the farm, Robert Hart, lies in a Gothic crypt below the main graveyard. This stern, dynamic and able man was given Glen Avon in 1821 for his service to the colonists and the Crown. For years, Hart ran Somerset Farm (where the town now stands), which supplied wheat and fodder to the British forces on the frontier. And when the Scottish settlers arrived, Hart was there to welcome and supply them with produce from Somerset Farm.

glen avon

The Glen Avon shearing team.

The Browns married into the Hart family and today Bill Brown is the laird of Glen Avon. Almost every corner of the farm bears a story. Robert Hart’s great-grandson, Lennox Brown, once went to America and, while ambling about, picked up some pecan nuts and put them in his pocket. He brought them home to Glen Avon and planted them. The huge pecan trees are still there, dropping delicious nuts every season.

The central part of the shearing shed was once a mess hall for British soldiers stationed at Middelburg during the Anglo-Boer War, now more correctly known as the South African War. The storeroom at the back of the shed is full of history, like the small school desks used by generations of children, the ploughshares and orange box labels from the citrus days of Glen Avon. And nowhere is there a greater feel of history than in the old mill, which once ground corn for the district.

This is an extract from Karoo Keepsakes I: A Traveller’s Companion to the Heartland of South Africa, by Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit (MLM Publishers, 2009).

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