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The Prynnsberg Estate
  Eastern Free State, April 2009

Near the small town of Clocolan in the foothills of the magnificent Maluti mountains an old sandstone mansion rises up against the side of a small koppie, surrounded by landscaped gardens, a rock pool and a view over green fields with grazing horses.
This is The Prynnsberg Estate.

The Prynnsberg Estate, a twenty room sandstone mansion, was built in 1881 by the mining magnate Charles Newberry after he made his fortune on the Kimberley diamond fields. For generations the Newberry's lived in the house, but sadly not all the heirs appreciated and maintained the property, and as time passed this jewel of the Eastern Free State fell into a deep state of disrepair, until finally the last penny of the Newberry fortune was spent and the mansion was sold in what became known as “the country house sale of the century”.

Today, under new ownership, the house is gradually regaining it's past splendor with subtle restoration, yet without spoiling the charm of it's warm patina from the history of past neglect. This is art from a bygone era of true craftsmanship which should never be over restored,
much like a vintage Rolls-Royce or Bentley motorcar.

Our journey to Prynnsberg began with an early start and meeting up with a few of our friends along the way at one of our many coffee stops.

The Eastern Free State welcomed us by putting on display a most magnificent kaleidoscope of autumn colours.

Upon arrival at Prynnsberg one is made aware that this is a strictly "by invite only" affair!

Bentley's and Rolls-Royce's of various vintages arrived throughout the afternoon, all having just enjoyed a journey of several hundred kilometers to join in on what promised to be a most unusual, but enchanting weekend.

Architectural and automotive art...a feast for the eyes!

The interior of the house is ever so slightly eerie, almost mysterious, yet warm and welcoming.

Shortly after arriving at Prynnsberg our hosts welcomed us with a delicious lunch...

...followed by an afternoon of relaxing and enjoying each other's company.

That evening we all met in the smoking room for pre-dinner drinks.

The theme was "Elegance with a Twist", and we all had to bring a suitable table decoration of Bentley or Rolls-Royce origin.

Dinner was a formal affair in the billiard room, elegantly decorated by our hosts Rick and Sue, owners of Prynnsberg.

Various Rolls-Royce and Bentley items were used to decorate the room. Note the salad bowl, it is a Rolls-Royce hubcap!

Our host Rick Melvill told us a bit about the history of Prynnsberg, followed by a demonstration of sabrage which he expertly executed. The home has always played host to many festivities, and as a tradition a toast is made to all previous residents and guests who came before to enjoy Prynnsberg's pleasures.

Large quantities of champagne flowed generously which no doubt assisted the creative process required for the speech we all had to deliver to describe the Rolls-Royce or Bentley item we were required to bring to the table. Much fun was had by all!

The following morning even the house seemed to suffer from a slight hangover...

...but the sun soon made an appearance which prompted Ali to settle down for a few hours of painting.
(Two of Ali's paintings of Prynnsberg are now on display in the house)

Early morning coffee on the "stoep"
Our son Jamie, who is an enthusiastic eater, decided to befriend the kitchen staff and in no time was enjoying meals with them in the kitchen. Here he is sitting next to Molly, the chef who is responsible for the culinary delights at Prynnsberg.

Ali very patiently giving Jamie a hand at drawing...
...followed by a story read by mom before his afternoon nap.

Our hosts took us on a guided walk to the top of the koppie for magnificent views of the farm and surrounding area.

There are many hidden treasures to be found at Prynnsberg, like this old workshop which is almost totally camouflaged by its surroundings. You will only find it if you are told exactly where to look. That is the charm of Prynnsberg.

That evening we had an early dinner...

...followed by a movie under the stars at the Prynnsberg outdoor theatre, The movie is projected onto a natural flat rock face.

After two magical days in this surreal setting we had to assemble our "horses" and pack them for the journey home...

...but not before we secured our booking for the same time next year!

As we drove out and left the old mansion behind us we knew that we would be back.

Just a short drive from Prynnsberg we stumbled upon a small railway siding called Vailima on the nearby Sandstone Estate. There are a few old steam trains on display, so we stopped to let Jamie experience his first close encounter with one of these iron beasts from the past. He loved every moment of it!

On the way home our Bentley clocked 248550 miles, or 400 000 km's!!

(With thanks to Kevin Smith who supplied some of the photographs and helped with the story)

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