Babylonstoren has been on my to-do list for a very long time. It is one of the best preserved old Cape Dutch farms and is renowned for its impressive garden that is based on the Company’s Garden maintained by Jan van Riebeeck and Co. The Company’s Garden served boats as a halfway stop between Europe and the Spice islands from the late 1600’s. When December finally arrived, I found myself longing to kick it back, relax and change to a lower gear in preparation for the holiday season. Wanting to take the kids outdoors somewhere where they can explore and for myself some space where I could unwind, Babylonstoren was the perfect fit for a day outing.
I read as much as I could beforehand to get to grips with what child-friendly amenities (if any) the farm has to offer. The most useful piece of advice I found in an article on the Babylonstoren blog: “Take it slow”. The article gives some pointers on how to orientate oneself on the farm and how to plan a route through the garden. It added to my excitement as I was eager for a day of “taking it slow” and time well spent with the kids. I therefore packed our bags and off we went in the direction of Klapmuts.
Babylonstoren is situated on the R45 right next to Backsberg if you’re familiar with it. Upon entering the estate an amount of R10 per person is payable (babies and very small children don’t pay) to meander through the garden. A map was handed to me by a very attentive gate guard and I quickly asked him about the best spots to see some farm animals with the kids. He also gave my some tips on a tentative path we could walk through the garden to get to the Green House tea garden.
After parking the car we got out and went through the entrance of the historic farm leading to the shop, restrooms and the werf where the donkeys are kept and chickens and turkeys roam free.
The children were very excited to be on a “real farm” and after gawking at the turkeys and laughing at the sound they make they were eager to explore the rest of the farm as we entered the famous garden.
The garden is made with gravel and peach pip covered paths between plantations. I managed the stroller on the paths and were surprised to see about five other people also with babies in prams walking around in the garden. It is not always easy-going but quite manageable if you know beforehand what you are letting yourself in for. There are no play areas or jungle gyms for the children but the whole idea behind a visit to Babylonstoren is to take the kids to an old farm and introduce them to farm life in the old days.
We had a pleasant walk through the garden stopping every once in a while to tell the children the names of different flowers, fruits and vegetables and to show them how it is grown. Don’t worry – If you do not have green fingers most plants have labelled markers! The fun part of the garden is to explore and walk the paths, to see the chicken and duck pens and to see how vegetables and fruits are grown. The garden is filled with benches and stools tucked away in nooks where one can quietly sit and enjoy the garden or just sit and reflect on life.
I would say that a visit is slightly more difficult with younger children and the older your children are, the more they will appreciate it. Also, if you have older children I can recommend you to take the garden tour that starts every morning at 10:00. We did not go on the tour because I thought my kids a tad too young to follow a guided tour.
The end destination of our garden walk was the Green House which is literally a green house as well as a tea garden under the shade of massive oak trees. The food looks like it is straight out of the garden and served in wooden crates as if lunch has just been harvested from the farm. Once again, no play area for the kids and no kids’ menu. A salad which contains butternut, strawberries and other yummy fresh ingredients can be ordered for kids although I recommend you share it as it is pretty big for a child. Or you can order scones for the children.
It was a good place for us to stop as the little ones easily get tired and after a lovely ciabatta with leyden cheese and smoked chicken we had regained energy to make our way back again through the garden to the shop.
In the end it was certainly the perfect day I was after. Yes, the kids got difficult and, yes, they wanted to play at a “jungle gym” when we got to the tea garden (which there wasn’t) BUT Babylonstoren took us all back to a much more relaxed time of existence farming. In my eyes the experience of a real working farm in action and learning where the food on our plates come from is what counted. I am all for teaching children to relax and enjoy the peace of nature as valuable way of spending time with them. I would definitely recommend a stay at Babylonstoren for tourists wishing to experience the Cape Dutch history of the Cape Winelands.
Your child-friendly notes:
- be aware that the garden’s paths are gravel and take it into consideration when taking a stroller/ pram. Baby carriers could work well, but on the other hand strollers are good for sitting small kids in when at the Green House tea garden.
- pack food and drinks for the children (juice also available at the shop but apart from the juice not any specific snacks to buy for children).
- take it easy and explore with the kids.
- look at everything carefully and enjoy quirky touches in the garden such as a tree in the middle of a mosaic or pumpkins hanging by ropes.