Mills of the Cederberg

This blog post is an unashamed excuse to celebrate one of the finest wilderness areas in the world. The Cederberg runs through my veins and I welcome any opportunity to celebrate it.

Mountains so ancient, they make my brain ache

Located a few hours drive north of Cape Town, it’s the place to go to really get away from it all. It’s the real deal. The place to re-charge batteries with its bucket-loads of big-sky beauty, mystery, coca-cola-coloured rock pools, walks to nowhere, ancient rock art, quaint settlements, dramatic weather, friendships and scary insects!

If the dramatic weather doesn't hook you, the landscapes certainly will
If the dramatic weather doesn’t hook you, the landscapes certainly will

If you don’t manage to get there at least once a year, the withdrawal systems are punishing and I really miss my “lets pop up there this weekend” escapes. My brother travelled there recently in a bid to sate his Cederberg cravings and it gives me huge pleasure to share his lovely photographs and writing on the heritage mills of the Cederberg.

There were a number of operating mills in the area including Matjiesvlei, Grootrivier (Mount Cedar), Nuwerust and Dwarsrivier at the Cederberg Wine Cellar, all in close proximity. Boasting South Africa’s highest vineyards that produce world class wines, Dwarsrivier remains in the ownership of the Niewoudt family, now in its sixth generation of plying the land.


On entering the farm the mill is the stone and thatched building on your right as you approach the farmhouse. Built circa 1850 from local sandstone and roofed with Dekriet, or thatching reed, the wooden doors sills and shutters together with the waterwheel and mill parts were constructed with Cedar wood (Widdringtonia Cedarbergensis), harvested from the surrounding mountains. This hardwood, similar in quality to teak was felled almost to extinction as the demand for timber in the Cape was insatiable.

The watermill at Dwarsrivier

These are remnants of another age; when these farms had to be self-sufficient, combining water to generate power to run sawmills, to power a smithy, or grind cereals. Currently the exterior of the mill is relatively intact having undergone two prior restorations. The water is still channeled along the furrow onto the wheel which requires restoration, but then to restore it would require Cedar wood of which none is now available.

For further information on this and other heritage mills in the area;

For further information on the Cederberg Conservancy:

If you like reading about windmills, my blog post ‘Gentle Giants on the Chiltern Ridges’

Chris Duncan, blogger, photographer, international hotelier, raconteur, adventurer, lover of good food and wine is on a three year assignment in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Read his blog here.

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