Cape Town – Lavender and chilli shortbread, an historic church and armfuls of freshly cut lavender form part of the new Fragrance Route recently launched in Great Brak River on the Garden Route.
And it’s also providing much-needed income for the rural Friemersheim community.
A first of its kind, the Fragrance Route is the brainchild of Great Brak resident Heleen Coertze.
She says the tourism initiative, which has partnered with the impoverished community members of Friemersheim (about 15km from Great Brak River) is set to become a blooming success.
“I have a love affair with lavender and when I went to Friemersheim about this time last year, I thought we have to do something which will have an impact for a lot of people in this community. My plan for a lavender project came to me early one morning not long after that. I went to the community leader and presented my ideas,” she says.
With the community behind her, the concept of the Fragrance Route has blossomed.
“This is definitely for visitors who are looking for an off-the-beaten track experience. This area is very scenic and the route is already proving to be very popular for cyclists,” says Coertze.
Visitors can take a 36km round trip starting from Great Brak River along the road which winds up to Friemersheim, alongside which there is a profusion of flowers, including fynbos, agapanthas and arum lilies. Also along the route is the Pink Haus for art lovers, a lion farm, two private game reserves and a 4×4 trail.
The first sight entering Friemersheim is the church built in 1870 by German missionaries. Surrounded by ancient trees, it makes for a tranquil rest stop before smelling the lavender.
“This route gives visitors a chance to mingle with the locals and enjoy the surroundings,”says Coertze.
Apart from the Fragrance Route, the lavender project is divided into three divisions – fresh lavender flowers; dried lavender products; and baked products.
The first fields were planted last December, and the first flowers cut in June.
There are 25 active lavender farmers who grow the flowers on their own plots. Coertze collects about 500 fresh stems a week which are then sold, while the farmers also transplant cuttings into black bags for a nursery which is being implemented. Extra cuttings from pruning are also passed on to neighbours so they, too, can start growing lavender.
“I pay the farmers immediately, so they are getting income on a weekly basis. They don’t have to worry about paying for taxis to get to work or trying to market the products. Everyone’s a winner,” says Coertze.
Friemersheim resident, Pietra Jordaan is currently setting up the nursery and buys cuttings from the farmers. She also makes the lavender-infused soaps and candles.
And it’s clear that she has developed a special kind of love for lavender.
“I currently have about 11 different kinds, including pink, purple white and yellow.
“There are hundreds of different types of lavender. The Dendata lavender is used for fresh and dried flowers, while the Angustifolia has more oil and is used for the bath products and candles,” says Jordaan, who also set up lavender classes for Friemersheim high school pupils during the school holidays.
One of the leading lavender growers is retired flower grower Oupa Flip Speelman.
He says he and his wife Dorothy worked for flower farms and, having their own lavender, is now bringing in some welcome cash.
“Vera Reynolds, who runs a cooking school in the area, also became involved with the development of our lavender bakery products, with our flagship product being our lavender-infused salt, but my favourite is our lavender-infused honey and nuts,” says Coertze.
And as the community start discussing plans for Christmas wreaths and other enticing goods for the December holiday season, there’s not only the scent of lavender in the air, but also a huge amount of enthusiasm in this tiny corner of the Cape.