Ride Here – Rosemary Hill
Words and pics Andrew “Average Andy” Steer
Rosemary Hill is a bit of a trek from Johannesburg (a solid hour), for 'just' a 27km trail but, having decided it couldn't wait any longer, I took the plunge and am happy to report it was more than worth the drive. It was, after all, Big MTB Year’s trail winner for 2014. This slick, feature-filled offering ticks all the right boxes and, for your average mountain biker, it’s a perfect retreat for a mid-week de-stress, or a family weekend outing.
A nice, neat one-kilometre trail around Rosemary Hill headquarters constitutes an ideal intro ride for little ones. Whether they're on a pushbike or just off training wheels, this sensible track is perfect for garnering their confidence on two wheels in a secure environment.
The shorter routes
The shorter 6km and 12km trails share the same track as the longer route – these generally offer easier riding and, while there is the odd minor obstacle, everything is simple enough to conquer – with a good dose of fun factor thrown into the mix. Singletrack, forest loops, many purpose-built bridges, and scenic views of dams all provide good stimulation for those not up to the longer option.
The signage is great, so if there’s anything to concern yourself with out on the trail, you will always know well in advance. There are a few quiet farm roads to cross, so heed the signs and approach with caution when required. There’s also no reason to fear the race snakes on the longer route, as generally there are options for them to overtake if necessary. If you want to build up your cycling mojo, these are the routes for you.
The long route
This all-encompassing 27km trail takes in every inch that Rosemary Hill has to offer. Made up largely of singletrack, it’s feature rich with numerous highlights, most notably the 110m-long camber-bridge over a scenic lake (although it’s looking a bit dry of late) and a 45-degree corkscrew bridge around a small dam that’s had many people – and the odd phone – taking an involuntary swim. There are also overgrown ruins that have been a highlight for the Nissan races in the area over the past few years (there’s something special about a hint of civilisation in the jungle) – and who doesn’t enjoy riding a few stairs?
Despite the park’s name, there is little in the way of climbing, apart from the odd small surge, so the course is fairly fast and easy to ride – around two hours for your average mountain biker. Singletrack, forest sections, dam views, optional jumps, special custom-built features, rolling grasslands, rocky descents, the odd drop-off and a chicken run for anything that might put you out of your comfort zone – this route is great fun for anyone at home on an MTB and comfortable with the distance.
If I had to give it a technical rating, according to IMBA standards, you’re looking at a green route with a few blue sections.
The Rosemary Hill package is really slick: the riding is hugely enjoyable, interesting, and challenging enough to suit most riders’ needs. The route teaches basic skills while also providing safe growth for all riders into the sport and its finer technicalities. They could do with a longer route for the more marathon-orientated riders, but they can only work with the land they have.
Everything is well marked and maintained, the pricing is reasonable, and there is a strong element of quality about all the builds. The unique bridges; the ride through the ruins; the bluegum forest singletrack; and everything else all add up to a very tasty offering.
Off the bike, the facilities are top notch, and the coffee shop/restaurant is hard to beat for your post-ride grub and a coffee – and kids are really well catered for, even if they want nothing to do with a bicycle. Don’t wait as long as I did – go and enjoy a day out at Rosemary Hill.
Trails are open seven days a week, 6am–6pm
Sat, Sun & public holidays, 7am–2pm
Coffee shop: Mon – Fri, 8am–5pm
Much of the trail network is open and exposed, so take care with skin protection (all year round) as you won’t get much natural shelter from the harsh Pretoria sun. Summer rainfall can muck up the trails a bit, but it’s generally not ride- and drivetrain-destroying stuff.
An unfortunate occurrence in Gauteng of late is that our riding areas have become targets for a few unsavoury characters. There has been the odd issue in the greater area (Pretoria East), but all is well on the trails inside the farm to date. It is a well-maintained working farm on private land, there is a healthy flow of traffic around most of the route, and much of the area is secured – so, in my view, there isn’t much to worry about.
R30/person for a single entry
R15 for children (free for children U6)
R360 for an adult year pass; R180 for children U18
(Prices subject to change at the start of 2016.)
Mountain bikes are available to rent at R180/person (R150+R30 for entry, helmet included). A fully refundable R300 deposit is required.
Bike bookings (advisable): call 012-802-0052 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Directions (see map)
Travelling east on the N4 towards Emalahleni (previously Witbank), pass the Solomon Mahlangu off-ramp (previously Hans Strydom), then take the next off-ramp, which is Boschkop/Donkerhoek (there is a toll gate). R10 for a standard car (you’ll save this on the paltry entry fee, though). Turn right and continue over the highway for 2km (dirt road, but a fairly comfortable drive in a sedan). Rosemary Hill is situated on the right.
257 Mooiplaats, N4 East, Exit 18, Pretoria
Latitude: -25° 47' 27.3"
Longitude: 28° 25' 56.58"
Ablutions (no showers); coffee shop; nursery; basic gift shop; kiddies’ play area; jungle gym; jumping castle; guest house; maze
Night rides/races; trail running; hiking
About the farm
A family-run business, Rosemary Hill has been practising organic farming for almost 35 years, and during this time has planted over 30 000 trees and shrubs. Currently, African potato, sutherlandia, rosemary, lavender, artemisia, lippia, spearmint, eucalyptus and various other plants are grown for their essential oils. Other crops include pecan nuts and vegetables, and the nursery sells a variety of shrubs, herbs, flowers and trees.
Rosemary Hill works in close co-operation with the Max Stibbe Waldorf School, which was started in Pretoria in 1972 and moved to the farm in 1978. The farm also offers an authentic high tea – freshly prepared and presented on elevated tiers with beautiful, newly picked herbs and flowers from their gardens.
The 80m-diameter maze is made up of over 2 000 trees, herbs and shrubs, and apart from being part of a beautiful garden, it doubles as a sublime venue for open-air concerts, weddings, art exhibitions.
MTB or trail running: Thomas Franken, 012 802 0052/083 252 3799; email@example.com
Bookings for high tea, restaurant, functions: Louise Mulder, 012 802 0052/083 235 6857; firstname.lastname@example.org
Guest house: Rachelle Redelinghuys, 012 802 0052/083 235 6857; email@example.com
Source: Ride Magazine