Wepener

This town, on the banks of the Caledon River at Jammerbergspruit, was named after the Boer leader Louw Wepener, who was killed in 1865 while attacking the Basotho stronghold of Thaba Bosiu during the Second Basotho War. The town and surroundings were also the scene of many battles fought during the early nineteenth century and the many unidentified graves in the valley of the Jammerbergspruit bear witness to this sad fact. Van Rooyen’s Gate Border Post, the gateway to Lesotho, lies 7 km from the town. The Wepener of today is a centre for a large wool, grain, maize and livestock farming area, as well as building sand manufacturing centre.

Adventure And Sport

Angling and water sport: The Wepener district, with its many dams (Knelpoort, Welbedacht, Caledonia) and the nearby Caledon River, is a prime angling and water sport area.

4×4 routes: 4×4 Enthusiasts are regular visitors to the region. The 4×4 trail in the Caledon Nature Reserve is one of several trails in the area. An off-road race is held here every September.

Hiking: There are several hiking trails in town, such as those in the Caledon Nature Reserve.

Mountain-biking: Mountain-hikers are welcome to try out Wepener’s mountain bike trail.

Archaeology And Palaeontology

San Rock Art: Some intricate San rock art can be viewed on Ventershoek Farm.

Fauna And Flora

Caledon Nature Reserve: The 3 700 ha Caledon Nature Reserve is located just off the Wepener-Smithfield Road, approximately 120 km from Bloemfontein. Game species include black wildebeest, grey rhebuck and zebra. Nearly 200 species of birds, including the majestic fish eagle, have also been recorded. The reserve has two floating bush camps, each of which can accommodate 16 people. Each of the bush camps has its own barbecue and ablution facilities. The reserve is ideal for angling and some record size carp and barbel have been caught here. Other species of fish include the yellow fish and the Orange River mudfish. Visitors can leave their bush camps to indulge in some canoeing, gliding over the waters of the Caledon River, or can try out the 4×4 trail. A visit to the Snake Park is yet another option to consider. The rolling hills of this reserve are clothed in various hues of green during summer and winter brings with it a golden glow. The Caledon River, with its thick reed beds, from which the reserve gets its name, slowly winds through the reserve.

History And Architecture

Jammerbergdrif Battlefield: The Jammerbergdrif Battlefield site near the Caledon River in the Wepener area witnessed many battles between the Boers and the British. One such battle saw General Christian de Wet and his soldiers attack a British garrison of 2 000 men, in a siege that lasted 17 days. However, when British reinforcements arrived, Boer forces had to retreat. The library in town houses a permanent exhibit of this battle site.

Dutch Reformed Church: The sandstone Dutch Reformed Church, in Kerk Street, was erected in 1882 and has been declared a National monument.

Lord Fraser’s House: The house of Lord Ian Fraser, an early local inhabitant, has been lovingly restored to its original Victorian glory and now serves as a guest house.

Sandstone Bridge: The sandstone street bridge over the Caledon River has been declared a National monument.

Town Hall: The sandstone Town Hall was built in 1927. Note the memorial gates and statue of Commandant Louw Wepener in front of the Hall. The renowned South African sculptor, Coert Steynberg, sculpted the bronze bust.

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