All right, jokes aside, I’ve found a place that might just be my new favourite weekend family hangout and I know you guys are going to go nuts for it. The Modderfontein Conservation Park was established in 1987 with the aim of education around environmental sustainability within the constraints and realities of the mining industry. That’s a mouthful, I know but simply put, the conservancy played an important role in counteracting the environmental impact of industry in the area and although this was likely a bold move back in 1991, I think we can all thoroughly appreciate it today.
Made up of a sprawling 800 hectares of incredibly beautiful parkland surrounding a dam, the reserve is an absolute breathe of fresh air (literally). You pay R30 for an adult and R15 per child at the gate which is an upkeep fee and you can tell they use every penny of that to keep things neat and tidy. A small but reasonably well maintained road connects you to the various attractions in the reserve and is studded with small but incredibly sharp speed bumps and as annoying as that can be, it keeps cars going safely within the reserve (the alternative would be losing a portion of your car going over each one).
The park is home to a relatively wide selection of flora and fauna given its location and makes for a bird lovers dream come true. One of the dams is interestingly enough named after John Voelcker, the director of the local AECI factory nearby and non-other than the founder of the original ‘Birds of South Africa’ book fund. True story.
There are various ‘parking areas’ as they call it but I prefer to call them interest areas. One of them is an idyllic picnic spot along the bank of the dam with seating, braai areas and enough space to let the kids go wild. Another area features a functions and conference venue, a food and beer hall which is still being built (I am keeping an eye on it) and the cutest little restaurant overlooking the dam.
The restaurant has ample outdoor seating making for a lovely weekend lunch and has the most beautiful lawns stretching out from the deck. Part of lawns have been converted into a Petanque grounds while the rest of it is made up of serene picnic spots. Petanque for those that don’t know is basically the French equivalent of bowls and it’s a hoot, especially if you don’t take yourself too seriously. This little restaurant is stunning, that I’ve already mentioned but we had no idea of the treat we were in for when the menu came. My wife and I spent forever deciding what we wanted and both deduced that the reason for this wasn’t our empty stomachs, but rather that we had just been presented with a menu that refreshingly curates everything we like and each one with a star touch.
Smoked Trout; Eggs Benedict; croc monsieur (with Gruyere); steak frites and mezze boards make for a delightfully French inspired menu you will certainly return for. My wife went with French toast which looked amazing and I felt like a charcuterie board with breads; meats and fig preserve, it was spectacular! My first thought was to pick it up off my table and just go set up out on the grass. That board would go so well with a blanket on their beautiful lawns and I’m sure they are okay with you doing that too. They don’t currently have a liquor license but they are working on it as you read this. A glass of wine would really top things off nicely.
The little ones aren’t forgotten about in any of this, the Petanque area I see also boasts a few cricket bats and the likes for the kiddies to play out on the lawn with, not to mention a little jungle gym area which should keep them busy while you unravel.
by Byron Marais
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All photos by Byron Marais.
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The Modderfontein Reserve is the second-largest private park in Gauteng and is operated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust on behalf of Heartland Properties.