Delta Centre Craighall Park and the REEA community initiative

Family friendly venue 5 blocks from Liz at Lancaster

Recently a family with 2 energetic young boys stayed at Liz at Lancaster. As they did not have a car, they wanted to be able to do things nearby where their 2 little ones could let off some steam. One of their favourite places was the

Colourful Splendour, REEA and Delta Cafe
Colourful Splendour, REEA and Delta Cafe

REEA/Colourful Splendour Nursery/Delta Café ‘complex’ – 5 blocks away  from Liz at Lancaster – down the hill …..  but not forgetting that a return journey entails an uphill trek!  I have written about the little haven which is Delta Café in several posts. With its shaded deck, grassy area, small playground for kids, water bowls for dogs, and bike racks for riders, it’s a firm weekend breakfast favourite with cyclists & dog walkers, fun for family lunches on high days and holidays, and a peaceful mid-week afternoon escape for Mums/Grandmas (like me!) and Grandpas with toddlers. Delta Café is open every day except Mondays.

Although Liz at Lancaster buys annuals and seedlings in bulk, there are always reasons to nip down to Colourful Splendour for fillers.  Any visit is a disaster for the credit card balance – bookshops and garden shops are my Achilles heel. But it’s so convenient too and the staff and management are really helpful.

History or REEA Rand Epileptic  Employment Association

At the southern end of the property behind the nursery is the REEA Foundation originally known as the Rand Epileptic  Employment Association.  Started in 1935 by doctors at the Lady Dudley Nursing Home in Hillbrow, it provides 24 hour care for people affected with epilepsy and mild neurological disorders. Over 40 people are housed in  a home-style hostel at nearby York Ave. The Foundation runs various innovative initiatives which provide sustainable funding solutions.

Their famous vegetable garden

One of these is the vegetable garden which not only provides vegetables to the hostel kitchen in York Ave and sells to the public on Wednesday mornings (along with fresh eggs and lavender bunches), but also supplies the kitchen of famous chef David Higgs, previously of the Saxon and now of the Marble Restaurant in Lower Rosebank.  I was wandering through the garden a few days ago and there was a man in chef’s outfit examining the rows of crops.  Trying not to be too invasive, I asked if he used these veges for his kitchen. It turned out that he was Werner, David Higgs’ Head Chef and he was having a squizz at what was available prior to the media opening of the Marble Restaurant a few days later to be followed by the soft opening with family and friends. (I tried to hint that I could be Werner’s NBF but it didn’t work.) Apparently Werner, David and Danielle (who oversees the running of  the REEA vegetable garden) as well as various chefs around the country, exchange information and trade secrets and even swap and share rare and special vege seeds. So it’s a very impressive initiative.

Scarecrows galore
Scarecrows galore Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse
Vege garden - all it needs is Peter, Mr McGregor and his hoe and sieve
Vege garden – all it needs is a naughty Peter Rabbit & Mr McGregor with his hoe and sieve  Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

I love this vege garden. It evokes all those Anglophile childhood stories I inhaled as a small girl. There are scarecrows, and shade nets, and sheds, and pots and watering cans. The only anachronistic items are the suspended CDs glistening and reflecting as they sway in the wind. I wonder if they work better that scarecrows? Apart from these 21st century mobiles, I expect Mr McGregor to appear any minute chasing a scuttling scurrying Peter Rabbit with his rake. Childhood memories are deeply etched. At the end of the vege garden is the chicken coop with a very big, very beautiful and very self-important rooster who struts and crows and generally lords it over his harem of clucking hens. My grandsons are riveted by both him and his hens. 

Signs to all the activities Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse
Rambling Rose The Charity Shop
Rambling Rose The Charity Shop Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Several other initiatives include:

  •  a second hand bookshop
  • a charity shop –Rambling Rose
  • a pet food delivery service
  • furniture repair
  • a car wash service, the latter two run by York Ave residents, Paul and Cedric respectively.
  • There is also a venue hire option in the garden area of Rambling Rose – a secluded peaceful spot with tables, chairs and access to a kitchen. 

For  more on this centre see Johannesburg In You Pocket’s review 

Courtyard and garden venue for hire with access to kitchen
Courtyard and garden venue for hire with access to kitchen Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse
Rustic feature on the wall
Rustic feature on the wall  Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

The stables for the Egoli Ranger horses

2016 July Horse in water cropped
Walking along the spruit towards Blairgowrie there are horses paddocks Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

And at the south end of the vegetable gardens are the stables.   The Egoli Ranger Base is a community-based Equestrian Centre.  The Rangers work with several community and local government  structures such as City Parks, JMPD, Joburg Water, Rand Water, HIV/Aids NGOs, schools and local Residents’ Associations.

When they started several years ago, they had only 2 horses. Today the Ranger Base owns 20 horses and ponies, most of whom are rescue animals.  They conduct daily patrols along the Braamfontein Spruit monitoring ecological, social, and security conditions. Their equestrian activities include instructions, outrides, pony parties, and riding for children and adults with physical challenges.

When my grandchildren and I were exploring the stables one day (such fun), I asked my 3 year old if he didn’t want to ride a horse.  Although I meant ‘pony ride on a leading rein’, I thought to use the word ‘pony’ was way too pedantic for a 3 year old. He adopted a somewhat accusing, even self-righteous expression (as though I really was an irresponsible grandparent) as he reprimanded me quite firmly as if I should be more fully aware of this state of affairs : ‘But Nana I am too little to ride a horse’. Methinks that like his uncle, he is a little wary of these amazing 4 legged animals.

When we walk along the Braamfontein spruit we see the horses out in the paddocks and sometimes grazing on the bank of the spruit.  I am constantly reminded of why I love this suburb.

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