The earliest evidence of human habitation in the location we know today as Ladybrand exists in about 300 San rock art sites in this area. Unfortunately many are poorly preserved, but they give important clues to the culture, lifestyle and spiritual beliefs of these “first people” of South Africa.
Ladybrand, a South Africa-Lesotho border town, was established by the Boers in the Orange Free State to stabilise the “conquered territory”, a large tract of land taken from the then-Basotholand after a protracted period of wars and skirmishes in the mid-1860s. It was named after Lady Catharina Brand, mother of President Brand, who headed up the Orange Free State Republic.
During the second Anglo-Boer War, the British briefly occupied Ladybrand in March 1900, but their siege was overthrown a few days later by the Boers.
The town is located in a scenically pretty part of the Motheo region of the Eastern Free State, set against a flattish ridge called the Platberg, with views over farmland onto the Maluti Mountains. It has many fine examples of sandstone buildings (the town hall being one), and the surrounding lands are a patchwork of grain and cattle farms.
Just a five-minute drive from the border and 15 kilometres from the Lesotho capital, Maseru, Ladybrand is a stopover point for travellers in both directions. This traffic has created a demand for accommodation, and the small town has several guesthouses.
Look out for
The Catharina Brand Museum in town has interesting displays related to archaeological material found in the area.
San paintings and the ashes of a 50 000-year-old fire have been found at Rose Cottage Cave, three kilometres outside Ladybrand.
Modderpoort is an Anglican Retreat 10 kilometres from town on the site of a former mission station. It is also the location of the grave of a Basotho prophet, Mantsopa. The main attraction here is a cave, used by the early missionaries as both home and church.
The rock art at Tandjiesberg outside Ladybrand is a National Heritage Site. Getting there involves some walking. Much of it is faded, and some prior research on the images will make the trip more valuable.
The Steve Visser Hiking Trail is a two-day walk beginning at Leiehoek Holiday Resort.