This rather imposing garden gate caught my eye recently.

A paper sign reads along the lines of: Please use the gate next door. This gate does not work. Then I wonder, has the stone work shifted? The wooden gate has swollen? The shrubs next to the path have become overgrown?


The town of Fort Beaufort, in the Eastern Cape, was established as a military post by Lt Col H.M Scott of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1822. It was named in honour of the 5th Duke of Beaufort, father of Lord Charles Somerset, then Governor of the Cape, and is situated at the confluence of the Kat and Brak Rivers. The War Memorial there takes the form of the Cross of Sacrifice, a simple yet effective memorial to those from the area who died during the First and Second World Wars.

Surprisingly, the bronze plaques and cross on this memorial are still in place – so many memorials and graves all over the country have been plundered by unscrupulous scrap metal thieves!

The Cross of Sacrifice was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield for the then Imperial War Graves Commission. It is mounted on octagonal base and takes the form of an elongated Latin cross on which a stylized bronze long-sword, point down, is fastened to the front. This form of memorial has been used in Commonwealth war cemeteries all over the world.

The surrounding area is fenced and, despite the drought, is reasonably well-kept. There is an unlocked entrance gate.

This has an interesting detail in the top corners, showing the ravages of time and benign neglect.


It is significant that the first governor of the Cape, Jan van Riebeeck, noted in his diary on the 4th August 1652 that he had sent men out to make a road “for the wagon to transport wood” for it reminds us that there were no roads at the time, nor would there be any for the next 150 years. Dr. Malcolm Mitchell points out in an article published in the January/February 2014 issue of Civil Engineering that “the ox wagons of the time merely follow[ed] the footpaths and game trails over the mountains.” The two passes I have already highlighted, Uniondale Poort and Meirings Poort, are examples of this.

Wagon transport has been integral to the early development of South Africa. Not only did the early settlers move their families as well as their goods into the untamed country by ox-wagon, but wagons were the most effective means of conducting trade for many years until the system of railways and roads was opened up. It is thus not surprising to find remnants of old wagons dotted about the country.

Several examples are still preserved in museums.

The part of wagons found most commonly are the wheels – they are symbolic of adventure, overcoming apparently insurmountable obstacles, and are visual reminders of our past history. Wagon wheels – and the stylised form of them – formed the theme of our self-catering accommodation in Calitzdorp.

De Wawielhuis (The wagon wheel house) lived up to its name, with the specially designed gates:

Wagon wheels in the garden:

There is something ‘romantic’ in the sense of having an idealised view of the past wrapped up in wagon wheels. Given that De Wawielhuis offered comfortable accommodation after a long journey  – and the hospitality we received there was delightful – the name is an apt one!


This heavy wrought iron gate is typical of garden gates across South Africa for as long as I can remember. Some parts of it are spot-welded while others have been riveted together. This one no longer has its original hook; bent wire serves that purpose. The chain wrapped around it on the left looks new and does not appear to be attached to anything else.

At least this gate is still in use – other similar gates in our neighbourhood sport chains with locks (I wonder if the keys are still handy) or have been covered with razor wire. Yet others have, over the years, been removed and the pedestrian gate entrance bricked up as residents move towards surrounding their properties with high walls to increase their security – sadly, this has become necessary.


I am fascinated by farm gates: what stories lie behind them – and what a variety of fastenings they have. This metal one is of a modern design and it is kept locked with a metal chain. I suspect the wooden fence posts have shifted with the seasons for there is not longer the ‘neat fit’ that would have been intended when the gate was hung.