Summerhill Gates - Picturesque Calm before the Storm
(Photo : Leigh Willson)
“The second biggest snowfall
in the past eighty years.”
We penned a piece earlier in the week about the destructive capacity of a big snowfall, not knowing that that very night, we suffered the second biggest snowfall in the past eighty years. Of course, if you’re a tourist, the precincts of Mooi River resemble a winter wonderland, and while the moisture and “free” nitrogen is welcome, the cost in the end runs to millions. Roofs collapsed, vehicles are damaged, hundreds of trees are down, fences buckled under them, roads blocked and all hands on resurrection.
The scene is quite surreal: on the one hand, there are bulldozers, TLBs, tractors and trailers buzzing up and down; entire staff outside of those essential to the welfare of the horses and the comfort of the Hartford guests, chain-sawing, pulling and dragging debris about, while the roads and roadsides are littered with tourists, snow fighting, building snowmen and generally believing that this is the best time ever.
The Summerhill brochure carries a reference to the Great War’s Battle of Delville Wood, and while we couldn’t reproduce that for you in all its gory misery, if you’d been in the vicinity of a gum forest on Wednesday night, you’d have had all the sound effects. Our Australian trees, the gums and the wattles, I’m afraid were not built for snow, and it doesn’t take long for their boughs to succumb to dismemberment. Kilometre after kilometre, the evidence is there, and there are months of work ahead before we look like the Summerhill you know.
Meanwhile, life goes on, despite the absence of electricity, which means we face something of a crisis without being able to pump water, and having to host a wedding at Hartford House this weekend. At least the hotel has a large output generator, which is keeping the guests warm, but after three days, Eskom are apparently still far from the point of restoring the electricity supply. Some seventeen steel towers were dragged down together with their powerlines.
It’s at times like this that you remember what it means to work with a team of champions: as they say in the classics “‘n boer maak ‘n plan”, and we’ll work something out. Thank heaven for understanding guests. Sadly, just a handful, those that were in Johannesburg at the time, managed to attend Wednesday evening’s National Racing awards ceremony, where Summerhill picked up its eighth consecutive Breeders Championship.