Millwood, near Jubilee Creek in the Knysna forests of the Garden Route National Park, was the site of South Africa’s earliest gold rush following the discovery of alluvial gold in the Knysna area in 1876, and reef gold a few years later.
Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately! – Millwood only produced a limited amount of gold, and the village that grew up around the diggings became something of a ghost town after only a short burst of glory. Part of the reason for this, of course, was the world’s biggest gold rush, which happened after Jan Gerrit Bantjes found the first reef on the Witwatersrand in 1884, and George Harrison found South Africa’s mother lode at Langlaagte in 1886.
But if Millwood was a disappointment for the diggers and the businesspeople who followed them, it was, literally, a literary gold mine – because it gave birth to some of Knysna’s most wonderful and endearing stories.
Which is why I say – a guided tour is funner.
I visited Millwood on a clear, balmy autumn Friday on a Historical Goldmine Tour organised by the owners of Tottie’s Farm Kitchen, which is one of the stops on the local tourism route – the Rheenendal Ramble.
It was an interesting one, because we drove from Tottie’s into the forests in an open game-viewing vehicle – the first time I’ve ever seen these vehicles used for forest tours. It works well: probably second only to walking.
Our guide, Andrew, drove us to
- The Dalene Matthee memorial at the Big Tree at Krisjan se Nek (Dalene was the author of four extraordinary novels about the forest);
- Mother Holly’s – the only building still standing in Millwood, and now a tea garden and (tiny) museum;
- The spot where the old Lanigan’s Hotel once commanded magnificent views over the goldfields themselves; and
- The Bendigo Gold Mine – a low tunnel which reaches about 40 metres into the hillside.
Along the way, we peered through a wire fence at a number of pieces of steam-driven mining equipment that were rescued from the forest at one time by some local enthusiasts but which seem, sadly, to be rotting away once more. (Between the state of the forest roads and the state of these historical pieces, you have to wonder what the Park managers do all day…).
But best of all, we swapped stories.
- Contact Tottie’s Farm Kitchen for their Historical Millwood Goldmine Tours – and their guided forest tours and guided forest mountain bike (MTB) tours tottiesfarmkitchen.co.za – telephone 0027(0)44 389 0092
My outing was hosted by Tottie’s Farm Kitchen, for which many thanks! MH