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Walking tours with a twist

Date Released: Tue, 2 July 2013 08:59 +0200

Diamonds, Bagpipes and the Mother Superior sounds like just the kind of title for a Festival production you'd expect.

But it's one of six equally intriguing titles for a series of walking tours that form part of the Festival programme.

Starting from Brookshaw Home in Donkin Street, opposite Victoria Girls' High School, it takes you through the former haunts of George Wood and Dr William Atherstone.

The Catholic girls' convent, Trinity Church, Huntley house and the Officer’s Mess of the Albany Drill Hall, headquarters of one of the oldest regiments, provide the backdrop for fascinating historical anecdotes.

The public library and St Patrick’s Catholic Church continue the tour of history that ends at the National English Literary Museum.

The tour, starting at Brookshaw Home, lasts 90 minutes and dates are Monday 1 July, Wednesday 3 July and Friday 5 July.

The starting time is 2pm.

Saints, Sinners and Students starts at the Albany Museum and looks at 19th century military, judicial and religious life in Grahamstown.

Of architectural interest are the buildings, which include two gaols, two charming chapels, an orphanage, and a military hospital that became the Colony’s House of Parliament.

Add to this, a secret garden and the second oldest Botanical Gardens in South Africa - where, organisers claim, a ghost lives.

The tour covers the barrack beginnings of Rhodes University and ends with the fulfilment of Mother Cecile’s amazing dream of bringing education to South Africa.

The cast includes such colourful characters such as Piet Retief, Dick King, Makana (Nxele), Sir Harry and Lady Juana Smith. Jack Ketch, the public hangman, and two ghosts, have the last say.

The 90-minute tour starts at 10 am on Wednesday 3 July and Saturday 6 July.

There are plenty of ghosts to be encountered in The Blaauwkrantz Bridge Train Disaster – 1911 tour.

Revisit this tragic episode 100 years into Grahamstown’s past with guide, Ben Bezuidenhout.

Visit the bridge site and experience the ambience of the area, marvel at the engineering and construction of this mighty railway bridge.

Visualise the enormity of this accident.

Gaze down into the breathtaking chasm; experience the loneliness of the gorge.

Hear the stories from Ben Bezuidenhout, of bravery and heartbreak, also of great courage and faith.

Follow the account of little Maud Smith and her three-year-old brother Willie.

The 150-minute tour leaves from Victoria Hotel, New Street, at 10am on Saturday 6 July, Friday 5 July, Saturday 29 June and Friday 28 June.

The Secrets of the Blaauwkrantz Pool  is a 120-minute tour starting at 10am at Victoria Hotel in New Street, on Monday 1 July, Tuesday 2 July and Thursday 4 July.

The Blaauwkrantz Pool is around 22km from Grahamstown, in the Blaauwkrantz Nature Reserve.

This tranquil pool is a place of pilgrimage, of ghosts, a spiritual domain. One side of the pool consists of jagged rocks, steep and precipitous with ledges that protrude at various intervals.

The people of the river reside here. Their spiritual powers are unlimited and have no boundaries.

Discover the intriguing interactions and reliance of many organisms on this pool.

Visit the area and let your guide, Ben Bezuidenhout, reveal and share with you the secrets of this fascinating pool. 

The posh side of town is explored in Stately Homes and Old School Ties , starting at St Andrew's college on the corner of Somerset and Worcester streets.

Gracing the romantic Worcester Street – the home of the first independent schools in South Africa, St Andrew's College and the Diocesan School for Girls – are the elegant residences of the noteworthy of a bygone era.

Gothic arches, Victorian bow windows and rose-stained glass Chapel windows, signal the fineries of 19th century British architecture having firmly rooted itself on the Eastern Cape frontier.

Besides the Herbert Baker-designed Chapel and White-Cooper houses, reminiscence of the Edwardian era is not far off when one passes by the oldest working Victorian post box in South Africa, or visits DSG’s Edwardian library, once named Victoria Hall, and the Chapel at the College of the Transfiguration.

The 90-minute tour starting at St Andrew's College on the corner of Somerset and Worcester streets, starts at 10am on Friday 28 June, Tuesday 2 July and Thursday 4 July.

The colourful side of Grahamstown's past is explored in Settler Skeletons and Colourful Characters .

Starting at The Cock House, once the home of entrepreneur and Port Alfred Harbour visionary, William Cock, it passes Market Square – well used for over 150 years by farmers, marketers or travellers.

Hear about the slaughter of elephants, leopards and crocodiles for the skins and ivory trade on a shocking scale.

Visitors stroll past storybook cottages, cobblestones, wagon stones and think of the rolling stones that inhabited this area. The first alms-house, the Baptist Church and the quaint stone Anglican Church transport us back to an age of industry and piety.

Sympathise with the challenges of erecting a double-storey house or the first hospital.

Or join the retinues of unseen mourners of the past as you pay your respects at the glass-sided horse-drawn hearse, lovingly preserved at the historical undertakers.

A story or two of skeletons in Settler cupboards completes this imaginative journey into the past.

Our colourful cast includes entrepreneurs, Jewish settler Benjamin Norden, undertakers Alex and Donald Will, businessman John Brown, carpenters George Anderson and William Cock, religious leaders Bishop Nathaniel Merriman and the Baptist Millers.

The prophet Makhanda and the medical staff of Dr William Atherstone complete the picture.

Tours lasting 90 minutes start at the Cock House, corner Market and George Streets at 10am on Monday 1 July and Friday 5 July.

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Article Source: Grocotts Mail