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The Design Train blogs are a series of articles researched and written by Andrew Knapp for submission to various publications and sites. The articles cover a wide range of topics and can be adapted and edited for use in various styles of media application.

  • Writer's pictureAndrew Knapp

Clarens & Surrounds, the ULTIMATE Guide Spring 2018 Newsletter

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

Spring is well and truly here and the new season brings a fresh new batch of events and happenings around the area. We mentioned a few events happening in October in our last newsletter, and in this edition we have added some more fun October attractions for you to include on your calendar.

Of course, November heralds the cherry season, and what better way to celebrate this wonderful fruit than to visit the annual Ficksburg Cherry Festival, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! You’ll find a whole lot of information about what to expect in the November section.

Important information is for all beer lovers!!!  Ticket sales for the Clarens Craft Beer festival open on the 2nd October.

Fans will know how quickly these tickets are snapped up, so be one of the first in line for this premier event. Keep posted on

For our feature article we keep the cherry theme and explore the history and symbolism behind the fruit and blossoms of the cherry tree. Be warned; what we thought would be a straightforward subject led us to some interesting information that we are sure you’ll find surprising.

So, head for the hills, OUR hills that is, and experience everything that the Eastern Free State has to offer!

Happy Reading


Elathia Scrapbooking Weekend:  4th – 7th October - Fouriesburg

Fouriesburg Country Inn is the venue for a Scrapbooking weekend being hosted by the well known Johannesburg based craft shop, Elathia Scrapbboking, with well-known guest teacher and scrapbooker, Shain de Bruyn. 

The 3-day event offers full board and accommodation packages with workshops, expert tuition and tips, goody bags and lots of spoils! Contact Elaine: 073 153 7785.Marthia084 504 3981 or email

Visit Elathia’s Facebook page for more information

Clarens Comedy Festival:  4th – 6th October – Clarens

We briefly mentioned the Clarens Comedy Festival in our last newsletter, and we’re happy to bring you the line-up and venues for this popular event. This year’s top billings go to…

Loyiso Madinga – African Correspondent on America’s ‘The Daily Show’, hosted by our own Trevor Noah. Claudine Ullmann – Improv specialist and Comedic Actress Gilli Apter – Award winning Comedy Writer Richelieu Beaunoir – Gut busting comedian  Martin Evans – over 10 yrs experience makes him one of the funniest in SA

See these side-splitting acts at the following venues:

4th Oct: Grouse & Claret, Clarens, Atmosvuur, Bethlehem

5th Oct: Friends Pub, Clarens – Grouse & Claret, Clarens – Clarens Kooperasie, Clarens

6th Oct: Friends Pub, Clarens – Protea Hotel, Clarens – Clarens Kooperasie, Clarens

For tickets, times and more info visit the Clarens Comedy Facebook page @clarenscomedy

Clarens Fire Association 4-Ball Fundraiser: 6th October, Clarens

The Clarens Fire Association serves a crucial role in the local area. We’re calling on all our golf fans to support this worthy fundraising event being held at the Clarens Golf Estate.

For information and bookings contact 058 256 1270 or email

Ficksburg Tuinbousaal Sokkie:  

13th October,  Ficksburg

You haven’t experienced the Free State unless you’ve attended a ‘sokkie’. Put on your dancing shoes and join the fun at this community get-together.

DJ Vettie will rock your sokkies off!

Contact Imperani Guest House - 051 933 3606

Café Chocolat: Cabaret Theatre, Ficksburg

Café Chocolat is keeping cabaret theatre alive and well in Ficksburg with a line-up of stellar shows set for the rest of the year. Their calendar goes through to December, so mark these dates in your entertainment dairy!

Follow their Facebook page or contact them on 082 920 5551

This is a reminder to all of our runner friends that these challenging races are just around the corner!  We mentioned these great events in the last newsletter, but here’s another reminder for those who haven’t registered yet.

This year will see the running the 96th  Harrismith Mountain Race, so come and conquer South Africa's oldest trail run!  There are 2 routes to choose from, the original 15km route and our new 30km route which was launched in 2017. Both routes are challenging and included some technical terrain, but are definitely worth running! A 5km fun run is available for the less adventurous who just want to come along and support. More information about the race history, profiles etc can be viewed on the Harrismith Mountain Race website

Join in The Canon Run on the 27th October for a scenic trail run in the Eastern Free State along easily navigable trails!

There will be three routes: 6.5km (R65), 10km (R125) and 21km (R250). Refreshment stations are provided on all routes and medals for all finishers!

Go to for more information!

The Old Mutual Wild Series Golden Gate Challenge  19th –  21st October. 

The Golden Gate Challenge is a 3-day track and trail run through some of the most rugged, yet scenic, mountains of the Free State, situated in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The race will traverse through restricted parts of the reserve rarely seen by the public. For more information or to enter visit:

Earthrise Mountain Lodge Summer Market and Sunday buffet: 28th October, Ficksburg

Those who enjoy the back roads should head out to Earthrise Mountain Lodge for their Summer market and  Sunday Buffet on the 28th October. The scenery along the dirt road to the lodge (ex-Rustler’s Valley) is some of the best in the region, and Wanita, your hostess, will ensure a warm welcome and a great meal.

All products grown, made and produced are all locally made and support the area's community.

Contact 064 484 3980 for bookings and directions. Follow the Earthrise Mountain Lodge Facebook page for more information.

Roosskou: 27th October, Oranje Guest Farm ( R711 – Clarens / Fouriesburg Rd)

The Fouriesburg Rose Show / Roosskou is a Spring tradition that attracts rose enthusiasts from around the country. Held at the beautiful Oranje Guest Farm it is a fun and informative day out for the family. Stalls, kid’s playground, pony rides, gifts, food and, of course, roses!

The guest speaker this year is the highly acclaimed motivational speaker, Lynette Beer, whose was awarded the Presidential Business Women of the year in 2016 and elected as the Nation Patron of The South African Council for businesswomen, in 2018. ( For all the information contact Oranje Guest farm - 084 712 0427


Every month’s end until May 2019, Afriski hosts an MTB Weekend catering for novice and experienced riders who want to take their skills to the next level. The assisted riding (thanks to the ski lift) and shuttle services add to the ease of your MTB adventure.

Although Afriski is often thought of as just a ski resort, it has built a solid reputation for hosting great events throughout the summer. MTB lovers can look forward to:

  • +- 40km of groomed trails

  • 5 Enduro stages

  • 5 Downhill tracks (which include the UCI African Continental Cup Track and South African Cup Series tracks)

  • A 6km XCO track (official UCI African Continental Cup)

  • Untouched bridal paths

  • Marathon routes

  • Slope Style course with multiple features and jump lines

  • GPS guided out rides to the Escarpment, which overlooks KZN and allows you a glimpse of the famous Amphitheatre. These views cannot be explained and you need to see them for yourself.

  • A kid’s pump track.

  • GoldiLocks, the newest addition to our trail network. With 10.3km’s of mountain biking bliss, running from the top of the resort all the way down to the  Malbamatso river, Goldilocks will provide you with non-stop fun.

  • We are busy constructing a 5km flowtrail which will start from the top of the slope and wind its way down to finsih back at the ski lift for your next run. Enjoy the variety of having a trail where very little peddling is required, but the benefits of berms and turns are still there.

Give them a call at  0861 AFRISKI or visit for information about their various activities.



1st – 4th November, Afriski

We stay in Lesotho for our next event. Also for MTB enthusiasts, this is a premier event that has fans flocking from all over the country. CrankChaos brings together all your favourite brand names in mountain biking. Not only will you be able to test and rate the tech on show, but you will also be able to engage with and ask questions of the respective brands and manufacturers themselves. 

The event categories for 2018 include The Avalanche Strava Challenge, The NorcoBicycles Downhill Eliminator, The Fox Racing South Africa Enduro, Dual Slalom, Hill climb and Whip Off are some of the fun events.

There will be an inter-lodge competition this year: Book an 8, 10 or 11 sleeper chalet or apartment for you and your mates to be a part of the EPIC competition, you will also get a value-added hospitality package: Your fridge will be stocked daily with beer, water and Red Bull and we will brand your chalet/apartment!

You will also get 20% OFF if your house has a 6:4 rider to spectator ratio! Follow the Facebook page for all the info

14th Annual Pinotage on Tap: 3rd November, St Fort Farm - Clarens

Join wine lovers from around the country for what has become known as the Best Wine Event in the World! Pinotage On Tap is brought to you by Diemersfontein Wines, the home of the original Coffee & Chocolate Pinotage.

Over the 14years of the festival's existence it has grown a cult-like following gathering for superb wine, great music, splendid food and company, and is something you definitely do not want to miss!  Tickets are R295 per person and includes a goodie bag on arrival, Pinotage wine flowing abundantly from the barrel taps, popular local live music bands and the best wine festival experience you will ever have! SA’s superstars, Freshly Ground will be the headline act supported by the brilliant Jerry and the Bandits. 

Tickets available at Computicket For more information link

Maluti Motor Show: 10th November, Bethlehem

Lovers of vintage and veteran vehicles can revisit their favourite eras of cars at the Maluti Motor Show, hosted at the Caritas College in Bethlehem by the Antique Auto & Machine Club of Bethlehem.

Bring the whole family for fun day visit into automotive history. For information contact

082 889 4294

The 50th Annual Ficksburg Cherry Festival: 15th – 17th November, Ficksburg and surrounding areas

The annual Ficksburg Cherry Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.  It has grown from modest beginnings into one of the major events on the country’s tourism calendar.

The festival is the longest running crop festival in South Africa and began in 1968. The main events in the early days were the street parades, the festive Cherry Ball and the crowning of the Cherry Queen. Festival-goers will enjoy a re-energized festival this year, with fresh products, new events and different exhibitors than see in recent years. Some of SA’s top musicians and some hot new up-and-coming acts will rock the crowds and as usual there will be plenty of sporting events, marathons, farm tours and cherries, cherries, cherries galore!

Numerous programs will run concurrently with the main program throughout the festival. These will include fun children’s events for different age groups, live music and various workshops. The popular demand the ‘wine and chocolate’ pairings will be on offer, as well as an introduction to cooking with cherries for avid and aspiring bakers.

Cherry farm tours are extremely popular. With the Constantia farm cherry tour, Ionia Cherry Farm and Ben Nevis tours being amongst the most established.

At Constantia farm you can roam around cherry orchards and learn about the picking and packing of this wonderful fruit.

On completion of this fun and informative tour, you are presented with a free punnet of delicious cherries. You will also be able to see how the fruit is processed to make various delectable products and the owners will be on hand to explain the organic origins of their delicious range of cherry products that are available all at the Constantia farm stall on the R26. They have expanded their range into the popular cream liqueur market with a unique blend of cherries, cream and alcohol which is already a sure-fire winner. Whatever your taste, you`re sure to find something you like here.

Constantia farm also offers farm picnics as a part of the tour. Take a picnic basket, packed with delicacies, and feast in the shade of the cherry trees. It is billed as a foodie delight!

Ben Nevis Tours: Ben Nevis is not only the second oldest cherry farm in South Africa but, in 1996, became the only farm in the area with its own licensed cellar. While some aficionados may have already sampled these unique alcoholic cherry beverages at food markets and cheese and wine festivals in other parts of the country, a visit to this farm is a must for most Ficksburg festival-goers.

Ionia Cherry Harvest Festival: R26, Fouriesburg / Ficksburg Rd

Take a tour of the Ionia Cherry Farm and experience the beauty and magnificence of the Ionia cherry farm, made up is made of five farms with more than 15000 cherry trees planted.

The Harvest Festival is a fun family day with lots to see, experience, taste and do. You can also experience cherry liqueur tasting. Don't miss the opportunity to see and taste why they call cherries "fruit of the gods".

For a great family outing during the Cherry Festival contact Ionia on 072 585 3684.

The Medihelp Cherry MTB Challenge is an event for all levels and ages held during the Cherry Festival with courses ranging from 8km to 60km through beautiful surroundings. Contact Rossouw 083 501 4010 or Derik 083 274 9077 for registration and information

It is impossible to give you information on all the events and activities that the organisers have lined up for this year’s celebration, but keep up to date and book tours on


December in our area really kicks off  with a bang with the Clarens Jamboree, held over the 16th December long weekend at Clarens Backpackers, and hosted by well known local musician and businessman Rick Schwimm. A great line up of music can be heard at this ‘open house’ event in Clarens when Rick’s muso friends descend on the mountains to make memorable music and merriment.

The final details for the official ‘turning on of lights’ and Christmas flea markets in Clarens have yet to be confirmed but we will keep you up to date with this, and more December happenings, on the Clarens & Surrounds Facebook page as the information becomes available on

Compiling the 2nd edition of Clarens & Surrounds, the Ultimate Guide is well underway and set for publication in December. We will be bringing you updated information and a section covering Ficksburg and beyond. We are thrilled to have received permission from ex-Claranite and digital photographer (among many other talents), Vanessa Coetzee Isaacs, to use her striking image of Titanic Rock for the cover of our new edition! Here’s a mock-up of the new cover to whet your appetite!

For information and advertising rates call Valerie - 079 873 1318 or Andrew – 071 785 3178

For your free PDF download of Clarens & Surrounds, the Ultimate Guide, follow this link to our webpage, where you will also be able to read the guide online AND find the option to sign up to our quarterly newsletter.


In keeping with ‘all things cherry’, this month’s feature article delves into magic, mystery and mythology of this succulent fruit and the enigmatic cherry tree Artist: Tang Bao Long

In Japan the ‘Sakura’, or cherry tree is representative of good fortune, new beginnings and revival. The short-lived blossoms are not only a symbol of beauty and innocent pleasures, but also of the briefness of life which increases our appreciation of the short time we share together with loved ones.

The Hanami festival is held annually in Japan to celebrate the coming of the cherry blossom in Spring. Friends, family and loved ones congregate amongst the cherry trees to celebrate and reflect on their happy relationships together.

Eastern mythology gives the fruit of the cherry tree the status of containing the elixir of life which gives the gods their immortality. Chinese law believes that the phoenix slept on a bed of cherry blossoms to bless it with immortality and regeneration.

Buddhist stories claim that the cherry represents fertility and femininity. According to legend, the mother of Buddha was supported by a holy cherry tree as she gave birth. The symbol of the cherry fruit is said to bring good fortune and future happiness in the coming days.

Image: Hanami: Blossom Viewing Party. Kitao Shigemasa (1739 – 1820)

On researching this information I came across a fascinating, but sobering, article tracing how the cherry blossom has been used in rituals and ceremonies over a 1000 year timeline. This is taken from  the blog siteHeld above all other flowers by the rulers of Japan, Ohnuki-Tierney writes the cherry blossom or sakura has been a symbol of “the cycle of life, death and rebirth, on the one hand, and of productive and reproductive powers, on the other” throughout the history of Japan. The trees have been used as symbols for everything from predicting successful harvests of rice to giving the World War II kamikaze pilots courage for their one-way missions.

( Image: Hanami: Blossom Viewing Party. Kitao Shigemasa (1739 – 1820)) Here is a history of the cherry blossom and its evolving meaning, from ancient Japan to current day.

710-794: Ritual cherry blossom viewings begin and trees are transplanted to towns.

Cherry blossoms are connected to Japanese folk religions, a symbol of reproduction and new life.

During this period, the Japanese begin to transplant cherry trees from the mountains to areas where people lived. The cherry trees were connected to beliefs in Japanese folk religions; many Japanese would go into the mountains during the spring to worship the trees. The trees were seen as sacred since they were considered to carry the soul of the mountain gods down to humans.

Ohnuki-Tierney says that every spring, the mountain deity travelled down to the fields on the falling petals of cherry blossoms and transformed into the deity of the rice paddies, a critical crop for Japanese agriculture and productivity. Cherry blossom viewings, therefore, began from religious rituals.

While the Chinese prize the plum blossoms, the aristocracy of Japan raised the cherry blossom to a new status. The ritual of hanami — elaborate cherry blossom viewing ceremonies and celebrations with singing, dancing, and drinking — began at the imperial courts, practiced by elite classes, but commoners also celebrated in rural areas.

712: First known written reference of the cherry blossom is recorded in the “Kojiki.”

The “Kojiki,” a compilation of oral accounts of the origins of Japan, was commissioned by Empress Gemmei. The Tang Dynasty of China was at its height of cultural, economic and military influence. The empress, threatened by Chinese culture seeping into the country, sought to establish a unique Japanese identity that proved Japanese culture developed autonomous to other regions. Thus, the book described what came to be known as the “Japanese spirit.”

Image: A samurai on horseback from the Momoyama period, at the turn of the 16th century.

1192: The samurai class rise to

political power.

Cherry blossoms exemplify the noble character of the “Japanese soul” — men who do not fear death.

Image: A samurai on horseback from the Momoyama period, at the turn of the 16th century.

Yoritomo and the Minamoto clan seized power from the aristocracy establish a military government in Kamakura. Minamoto no Yoritomo defeated other powerful Japanese families to seize control of certain functions of the government and aristocracy. Minamoto then established a feudal system, with a private military known as the samurai who also had some political powers.

Constantine Vaporis, professor of history at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, says that as seppuku (ritual suicide) became a key part of the samurai’s Bushido code, the samurai “identified with the cherry blossom particularly because it fell at the moment of its greatest beauty, an ideal death.” The daimyo (or warlord) Asano Naganori captured this sentiment before committing ritual suicide: “Sadder than blossoms swept off by the wind, a life torn away in the fullness of spring.”

Vaporis also said that the Samurai decorated their military equipment with emblems of the cherry blossom, especially sword guards.

1868-1912: Meiji Restoration promotes imperial nationalism

Image: Emperor Meiji in 1872, four years after he restored the position of the emperor as the sovereign authority of Japan. Silver print by Uchida Kuichi/Wikimedia Commons.

Cherry trees reflect the sacrifice of Japanese soldiers in service to the state of Japan.

Emperor Meiji reclaimed all the governing authority from the position of the shoguns (military leaders) and asserted that the emperor held supreme authority, establishing the Empire of Japan. The samurai lost their social status and privileges. After universal conscription, a new Japanese imperial army was created and all of its soldiers were bestowed with the Japanese spirit or soul, which Ohnuki-Tierney documents as “an exclusive spiritual property of the Japanese that endowed young men with a noble character, enabling them to face death without fear.”

Ohnuki-Tierney writes that these soldiers were told: “You shall die like beautiful falling cherry petals for the emperor.” This idiom was only one part of the new Empire of Japan’s imperial nationalist goals and guided Japanese colonial efforts.

Cherry blossoms are planted at the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial specifically devoted to fallen soldiers since the Meiji period that the emperor visits occasionally. The cherry blossoms were supposed to console the souls of the soldiers.

1912: Japan gives U.S. 3,000 cherry trees.

Image:The trees given to the American people were planted along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., which is adjacent to the National Mall. Photo by NewsHour.

Cherry trees represent friendship and political alliances.

The Japanese government sends cherry trees to Washington on behalf of the people of Japan. The gift came after William Howard Taft was elected president and took office. Prior to the presidency, Taft served as the Secretary of War; he visited Japan and met with the prime minister so that they could affirm each other’s stakes and claims to colonized regions in Asia.

Japan has given cherry trees to many other countries besides the U.S., including Brazil, China, Germany and Turkey.

1945: Thousands of kamikaze pilots fly to their deaths defending Japan

Image: A tokkotai or kamikazi plane with a cherry blossom painted on its side. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

The cherry blossoms at the Yasukuni Shrine no longer mourn for the souls of the Japanese. Each petal that fell was meant to represent each soldier who had

Nearing defeat, Japanese vice-admiral Onishi Takijiro launched kamikaze operations as a last-ditch effort to save the Japanese homeland and the Japanese spirit. Tokkotai pilots affixed cherry blossom branches to their uniforms, with painted blossoms on sides of their planes. Cherry blossoms represent Japanese soldiers who died during World War II.diedtrying to protect the nation of Japan.

2011: A tsunami strikes Japan March 11.

Image: An aerial view shows debris that remained on the ground after a tsunami wave to have hit Hitachinaka. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images.

Cherry trees symbolize hope.

In the 2012 Oscar-nominated short documentary “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” a Japanese man reflects on the strength of the cherry trees to live on past the devastation. “This was all killed by the tsunami,” he told film director Lucy Walker. “But now, a month later, there are new shoots. The plants are hanging in there, so us humans had better do it, too.”

For many Japanese, the cherry trees were part of the life they knew prior to the renewal and rebuilding in the face of so much death and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

On a different note, cherries have taken on a sexual identity over the years and apart from being a euphemism for losing one’s virginity, the roots of go far deeper. These extracts from the blog site tell us:

Although the history of cherries extends all the way back to prehistoric Europe and West Asia, it wasn't until the 15th century that domestic cherries were widespread throughout Europe. By the 17th century, cherries joined peaches, pears and apples in the early transatlantic voyages to America. This was the start of what is now a billion dollar industry in the USA.

From this culinary history arose the cherry's legacy as a sex symbol. In ‘A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature’, Gordon Williams traces the cherry's cultural influence back to the 16th and 17th centuries, referring to some of the notable ways Europeans were using the fruit to talk about sins of the flesh: Poets Josuah Sylvester and Robert Herrick liken "Cherrielets" to "niplets" and "teates" in multiple works; Charles Cotton compares a "Garden-plot of Maiden-hair" to black cherries in Erotopolis (1684); and John Garfield refers to sex as "playing at Bobb-Cherry" in the erotic pamphlet Wandering Whore II (1660).

Image: Attributed to Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis(Italian, Milanese, active by 1472–died after 1508)

One of the most notable acknowledgements to cherries is one of the earliest. In the poem "There Is a Garden in Her Face" (1617), Thomas Campion likens the fruit to what itmost commonly symbolizes today: the sex appeal of a pure, virginal young woman. During the 17th century, English cherry vendors would call out "cherry ripe" to alert potential buyers to the fruit, which Campion refers to here: "There is a garden in her face... / There cherries grow which none may buy / Till 'Cherry-ripe' themselves do cry." Sadly for Campion, the poem suggests his beautiful virgin isn't quite ripe for picking.

It wasn't until the late 19th century that this figurative meaning started to become widespread. "The image [of the cherry] is based on an idea of ripeness—and thus the virginity tends to be seen as something that, sooner or later, is due to be lost,"

The cherry has become a common sexual symbol in popular culture. It is a very popular pattern on lingerie and adolescent girls' clothing, which considering its connotation of purity and sex appeal, is questionable!

Cherry references have also been used (and overused) in song lyrics by everyone from Neil Diamond to Joan Jet and ZZ Top.

But perhaps the fruit hit its peak of sensuality in the famous scene from the cult TV series ‘Twin Peaks’ (David Lynch 1989), when Audrey Horne slips a cherry between her bright red lips, eating the flesh and tying the stem with her tongue, she embodied everything (resoundingly male) artists have thought about the cherry: She was drippingly sexual but also innocent and pure. (And therefore ripe for entering the infamous brothel, One-Eyed Jacks.) Fruit itself is innately sexual—after all, it's defined as the enlarged ovaries of flowering plants—but cherries have always been on top!

And on those strange, but cheery, cherry thoughts, the Clarens & Surrounds team brings this newsletter to a close. We hope you’ve enjoyed the read and found the information useful. You’ll find the next edition in your inbox in January when we cover all the events and information leading up to Easter 2019.

It may be a bit early, but we wish all of our readers a wonderful rest of the year and a very Merry Christmas. We hope to see you here soon!

Cheers – The Clarens & Surrounds, the Ultimate Guide team

For your free PDF download of Clarens & Surrounds, the Ultimate Guide, follow this link to our webpage, where you will also be able to read the guide online AND find the option to sign up to our quarterly newsletter.

References: Written, curated and compiled by Andrew Knapp – The Design Train for Clarens & Surrounds, the Ultimate Guide quarterly newsletter

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