Cape Hills in the Sunlight

Katherine Heywood

Banhoek in 1918

“The farming district presented an enchanting scene -- quiet, with long avenues of oaks and flowering gums and streams set in a valley guarded by the great peaks of the Drakenstein and the ever-rising undulations of the Simonsberg with deciduous orchards in blossom as far as the eye could see. The beauty was intoxicating; a veritable Kingdom of Heaven set in the encircling arms of these great mountains on the top of the Helshoogte Pass.”

This was the Banhoek of 1918, where the author met her husband, Arthur Heywood, who before going to war, had cycled up the Helshoogte Pass to survey a farm which was on the market. On reaching the top, he exclaimed: “This is where I shall spend the rest of all my life!” And then bought Morgenzon, spending the next fifty years of his life there, convinced that it was the most glorious spot in all the world.

Earlier, his father had bought a smaller adjacent farm, Glen Arum, in 1914. There his parents converted the veld into a lovely garden with grass, roses, oaks and hedges. After his return from the war, Arthur took over the Glen Arum farm and built his mother another house across the road -- Avonduur.

Arturo Lister Heywood married Katherine van Helsland Duminy in April 1921 and they settled on Glen Arum with a Schiedmayer piano and an extensive collection of books. Katherine was an accomplished pianist and she tutored the Alston daughters. Colonel Alston was related to the royal family and soon Banhoek hosted the Prince of Wales -- later Edward V111 ---- who was on a visit to S.A. When he passed through en route to the Paarl, Alston organised a rally on the Helshoogte Pass, famous for its beauty and Banhoek resounded with royal chatter about the future king.

The farmers in the area all grew export fruit and Arthur followed suit, marketing his deciduous fruit under his own brand name, The Squirrel Brand, direct to T T Poupart, their agent at Covent Garden, from whom they received encouraging reports of the perfect condition of their fruit. Fruit was handpicked, packed and graded, being at first a family affair, especially over Christmas and New Year, but always assisted by their band of trusted workers from Kylemore.

Brookes was born in 1925 and Christopher in 1928, both at Glen Arum. In 1930, their education was discussed by their parents: either they had to go to boarding school for seven years, or taken down the Helshoogte Pass daily, which was not even to be considered. They had on their farm, rolling foothills to be explored, a rambling garden to play in and above all, a father gifted in practical things and an intellectual.

Convinced that no schoolmaster could do more for them than their father, Katherine founded the Simonsberg Garden School, undertaking their formal education herself. This school was the precursor to the Montessori Schools of today.

The school started off with Brookes and 6 children of friends in Glen Arum’s large 37 ft. lounge. All the furniture was removed, leaving only a bookcase, piano and an upholstered window seat. Each pupil had a vase which they filled every day with flowers of their own choice. Small tables and chairs were placed under the oaks or on the lawn or the long stoep. Wooden trays held concrete apparatus and a blackboard, low wash table, relaxing mats and a doll’s house were carried to wherever the weather permitted. A special workshop under the oaks was built and used by the boys to make props for their theatricals, furniture for the doll’s house, aeroplanes, carts and warships. Tennis lessons were given once a court was built and then swimming lessons followed after a pool had been constructed and gradually the school gave opportunities in all round education.

School hours were from 8h30 to 12h30 and after 15 years, Katherine was pleased to note that the pupils of this school had made a worthwhile contribution to life in their various professions and homes. She and her husband were eager for the natural unfolding of the child-mind through his/her particular interest. Corporal punishment was a practice rejected by them, believing that children, happily engaged in occupations of their choice needed no punishment.

Montessori apparatus was ordered from London, Vokkelt apparatus from Germany and the author’s own Froebel apparatus were all used together with her own individual creations.

Then the author attended a world conference as a delegate to the New Education Fellowship International Education Conference in Nice, with its theme: Education in a Changing World. After this she spent time in France and England visiting learning centres all over. On her return she was invited to give talks on the Principles of Education in a Changing World to colleges, universities, schools, women’s associations, study circles etc.

Back on the farm, Arthur had developed a vast Early Dawn peach orchard to fill the need on the London market for an early peach. A Jersey herd produced butter under the Squirrel Brand name. Vineyards were planted and this necessitated a borehole on the northern slopes, where at 200ft they struck crystal clear water.

Electricity came to Helshoogte in 1935, and then came motor cars, the pass was tarred, Stellenbosch developed, and a tea-room, Welcarmas, was opened on the boundary of Glen Arum when Helshoogte became a popular drive.

In 1945, Arthur and Katherine decided to sell Glen Arum, their lower lands, and concentrate on Avonduur and Microloma above the road. Helshoogte Pass had become a great highway, cutting their farm in two. Clement Green, a returned soldier, bought and then settled on Glen Arum.

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