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  • Lisa Martus


Updated: May 27, 2023

Everyone agrees that Copperwing Guesthouse, nestled on a hill just a kilometre from the village of Haenertsburg is a relaxing retreat for writing, birdwatching or hiking. Originally a Malaria Hospital, this historical building built in the 1890’s, has been transformed into a comfortable and character-filled accommodation option in the area.

Some of the rooms at Copperwing Guesthouse still have traces of their original purpose - the two bedroom unit was the surgery room of the District Surgeon, Dr Peter Purnell who came to ‘The Mountain’ in 1904 and you can still see the skylight over the space where the surgical bed would have stood. The main farmhouse has an old pit-saw over the bookshelves and original railway sleepers over the fireplace. These details provide tantalising hints into the rich history of the area.

A historical home comes with a fascinating storyline, but also has the disadvantage of endless maintenance and every small alteration takes a lot of planning, because the stone walls are so thick. Copperwing has a well-established garden which brings in great wildlife all year long like the porcupine which ambles around at night taunting the gardeners. It is a really great place for bird-watching, particularly for the Cape Parrots visiting the yellowwoods. The guesthouse is close enough to the village to walk there for breakfast, but far enough away that you really feel like you’re on a farm.

Owners Cosmo and Caitlin both grew up on farms – in Bolobedu, and Nebraska. They lived in Johannesburg for over a decade, but had always wanted to settle somewhere rural. Caitlin says that ‘Haenertsburg was the right balance of being close to family, reasonably accessible for work and travel, and finding a genuine sense of community. Since we have young children, it was really important to us to be in a place that they could explore, have a lot of independence, and find a diverse group of friends. Both Cosmo and I have research backgrounds, so we also wanted to find a place where we could also grow professionally.’

Copperwing opened its doors in September 2019 and Caitlin admits that ‘we’re new to the hospitality industry, and learning as we go, so a stay at Copperwing isn’t like coming to an established hotel. My American approach to hospitality means you’ll be absolutely welcomed into the family, but we’re also all in it together facing all the little calamities of farm-life like impossibly muddy roads or bees in the chimney.’

Cosmo feels that the guests are definitely the best part of Copperwing saying that ‘we’ve had such interesting guests with so many different stories to tell. We had the driver of a google street-view car stay for a weekend. Then there were students who were coming to give a presentation at the University of Limpopo. We’ve had German theologians, a French family on a round-the-world tour and a big group of bikers coming for a braai.’ Copperwing tends to attract Gauteng guests en route to Kruger Park or hikers and athletes coming to Magoebaskloof either for a weekend away in the great outdoors or for a specific sporting event like a marathon or biking competition.

Caitlin and Cosmo recommend activities based on guests’ specific interests. They have a print-out of the maps for local hikes in each room, as well as a bird list. They suggest interactive options like cheese-tasting at Wegraakbosch Organic Dairy; pottery lessons in Haenertsburg or a Thomac Essential Oil tour at Otterholt Farm. Caitlin feels that the opening of the new art gallery is an exciting development and it would be great if there was a museum with collections of both the natural history and that of the local community with the guidance of local historian Louis Changuion.

Caitlin observes that ‘a big part of why we moved to Haenertsburg is because of the fantastic community. This town is located in a special environment, and has really extraordinary residents, with amazing life experiences. We have one of the best bird guides in the country; artists; avocado-patent-holders; botanists; herpetologists; educators; dedicated librarians; talented cheese-makers… there’s such a wealth of expertise. We wanted our kids to be in a learning environment that really reflects this diversity and knowledge so, in 2023, after a year of planning, we started the SEED Collective as a way for our kids to be able to be taught by the world around them.’ This learning community is based at Copperwing which means another new and interesting chapter is being added to the evolving story of this fascinating place.

Contact Copperwing on 078 877 5846 / /


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