"WHAT first lured me to this place is the smell of cow dung.... I have fallen in love with the place and my friends and I come here almost every weekend," says a shy, heavily pregnant woman I met at Irene Farm in Centurion.

She was in the company of a friend, and shyly refused to give her name, although did say she was from Rwanda, and is now a refugee in SA. As soon as the woman left, walking in the direction of some cows heading towards their padlock, her friend added conspiratorially: "This one is very shy. She does not feel comfortable talking to strangers. The issue is we like the atmosphere here, and the people who come here are, frankly speaking, friendly."

The two women were among the hundreds — if not thousands — of people who flock to this tranquil place at weekends. Most of those I met were South Africans, a fair mix of black and white. Some were couples, others were with children. I felt guilty for leaving behind my seven-year-old son, who would have had the chance to see where milk really comes from — for the first time in his life.

Irene African Pride Country Lodge is the anchor of Irene Farm, which attracts mainly city-bored South Africans from Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Today the village is home to African Pride Irene Country Lodge and Irene Dairy Farm. The family has been responsible for building up the herd of dairy cows on the farm as well as planting hundreds of trees long before environmental consciousness became fashionable.

Its uniqueness, however, lies in its history. Owned by one family for five generations, Irene Village, as it is fondly known by the locals, was originally known as Doornkloof farm. Irene Estate was established by Alois Hugo Nellmapius before it was bought by Johannes Albertus van der Byl — better known as Bertie — in 1895. Perhaps the farm’s most illustrious occupant was former Prime Minister General Jan Smuts. Smuts bought a third of the original Doornkloof farm in 1908.

Today the village is home to African Pride Irene Country Lodge and Irene Dairy Farm. The family has been responsible for building up the herd of dairy cows on the farm as well as planting hundreds of trees long before environmental consciousness became fashionable.

Irene was first proclaimed a township in 1902 by Van der Byl, Nellmapius having renamed the farm after his daughter Irene. Today it is officially part of the municipality of Centurion and, although the population has grown considerably, legend has it that neighbours still know one another and find time to chat.

The Irene golf course, between Irene Dairy Farm and Smuts House, was originally laid out and started by Van der Byl and Smuts in about 1911. It remains one of the few golf courses in Gauteng where playing golf is still like a real walk in the country.

A visit to the Irene Dairy Farm is a must. There is delicious fresh milk available at the farm shop and the two restaurants. This is where the locals, often carrying the old-fashioned gallon pails, purchase their supply. The shop is licensed to sell certified raw or untreated milk. Cheeses and other fresh fare are also on sale in the shop.

Adjacent to the shop is the Deck Restaurant, an intimate spot ideal for relaxing while watching the sun set over the bustling farm yard.

The Barn Restaurant is situated in one of the original farm barns, built in about 1880 and used as a farm barn for more than 100 years. The barn looks out onto the dairy stable, also built in about 1880. Today, it is still used to feed the milking herd, just as it has been every day for more than a century.

From the Irene Dairy Farm, one can walk across to the African Pride Irene Country Lodge, which offers five-star luxury accommodation and delectable cuisine from its Meadow Green Restaurant, overlooking a large tranquil dam and Camdeboo Spa & Restaurant, which offers delicious light meals. The lodge was built and opened in 1998 and is popular for both business and leisure. Spending a weekend at the lodge will give you a chance to visit the Dairy Farm, the Smuts House Museum, the Rietvlei Nature Reserve or play golf at Irene and Centurion Golf course.

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Wed Dec 07 14:13:14 SAST 2016

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