Getting back to basics with small town living in the Western Cape

As modern life gets more and more demanding, there is a growing counter-drive towards returning to basics, embracing wholesome living and a natural lifestyle.

As part of this movement, many city dwellers are starting to reassess their way of life and are coming to the conclusion that the rat race is just not for them. In search of a simpler, cleaner existence, they are increasingly turning to small farming towns for a taste of good, old-fashioned living.

“A lot of people are moving to Bonnievale from up-country,” says Jean Donaldson, an agent for the Rawson Property Group’s Robertson franchise and previous Bonnievale resident. “They are escaping from the city looking for a wholesome place to bring up their children – or even to retire – with a real village atmosphere and some of the most beautiful natural surroundings in the country.”

Bonnievale is certainly blessed in the looks department, following the curves of the Breede River’s banks and bordered by majestic mountains on two sides. The area is also famous for its cheese and wine, winning awards in both industries and providing the locals with a ready supply of culinary delights.

“Bonnievale is, at its heart, a farming community,” Donaldson says, “but it has a complete mix of residents from all walks of life. We’re seeing an increasing number of people commuting to and from towns like Ashton, Montagu, Robertson, Swellendam, McGregor and Riviersonderend, and rental properties in Bonnievale are definitely in demand.”

Properties in the town range from working farms and smallholdings to lifestyle estates and apartment blocks, with prices starting at around R650 000 and heading all the way to R6.5 million and more.

“There is something for everyone in Bonnievale,” says Donaldson, “whether you’re looking for a quaint little cottage, a work-from home business opportunity, or a full-on family farm. The community is wonderful and the activities are plentiful – there’s a golf course, a bowling green, tennis and squash courts, bird-watching groups and bridge clubs. If you’re good to Bonnievale, Bonnievale will be good to you.”

Almost directly south of Bonnievale, heading closer to the coast, lies Bredasdorp – another farming town seeing an increase in residents from previously urban lifestyles.

“There are a lot of locals that were born and raised in Bredasdorp,” says Marthie Jones, the Rawson franchisee for Cape Agulhas and the surrounding areas, “but more and more people are arriving here from the city, looking for a quieter lifestyle.”

With agriculture and sheep farming forming the basis of the Bredasdorp economy, quiet is definitely the status quo for the town. Annual events like the Foot of Africa marathon inject some liveliness into the social calendar, but most residents enjoy the simple outdoor pleasures of the spectacular Heuningberg Nature Reserve, regular rounds at the local golf course, and the comforts of entertaining friends and family at home.

Properties in Bredasdorp are mostly freestanding, with a few sectional title developments and the occasional block of flats designed for retired people.

“Prices range from R1.020m for an average house to around R2.365m for a stone and thatch property,” says Jones. “Sectional title property prices start at around R730 000 and retirement apartments at about R500 000. There is good demand for rental properties and rental stock is limited, so there’s definitely an opportunity in the buy-to-let sphere as well.”

Donaldson and Jones agree that it’s the old-fashioned, quiet, low-stress lifestyle that is attracting people from all over the country to small towns like Bonnievale and Bredasdorp. As city living becomes ever-more chaotic and smog-choked, all signs indicate that this trend will continue to grow.

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