The daunting job of restoring the historic Swartvlei beach cottages couldn’t have been handled by a better person than Nic Kruger because this project exemplifies his passion, talent and craftmanship.
Owning two synergistic companies, Pure Salvage and Eden Stone in Knysna, Nic has made a living of doing just this! As a master of salvage, for nigh on 20 years, he has been discovering and recovering abandoned ship wrecks from back yards, boat yards, farm yards, landfill and other unlikely places and repurposing as much of the wood as possible into fine objects of usefulness and beauty. In similar fashion, he also builds specifically with natural stone and specialises in natural stone cladding.
It is not surprising then, that for nearly the same period, he, has harbored the dream of restoring the dilapidated historic Swartvlei beach cottages, a languishing eye-sore, every time he passed by them to go spearfishing at Gericke’s Point.
It was inevitable the day would
come when he determinedly tracked down the owners and made a deal with them to revitalize these
abandoned remnants of the Swartvlei Campers history.
It is a history going back over 200 years, long before the town of Sedgefield was even thought of! The most noticeable rundown building, originally known as the Yellowwood cottage, was built by the Robertson family. When it burned down, it was rebuilt some years later with well-treated Oregon pine. This was the wood that Nic worked with.
Nic realized from the outset he needed team mates to join him on his journey to make it a successful venture. He found 3 business partners willing to combine their resources with him in the form of finance, labour, building materials and networking skills.
Nic funded the restoration project together with Erick van der Burgh, Hugo Dippenaar & Zak Smit, much of the physical labour being done by Nic’s business team at Pure Salvage & Eden Stone.
Erick has invested in the project financially and agreed to be Project Manager so he manages all its aspects including the bookings and all on-going work related to the cottages.
Hugo is the business owner of Ivy Garden Solutions in Knysna, a landscaping and gardening service, who Nic shared the dream with. Hugo immediately asked to be part of the venture – his role became assisting with the landscaping and providing financial backing.
Johan (known as Zak) is a friend of Erick's and a former colleague of Nic's who has done a lot of work for him as a project manager over several years. Zak works overseas now in the USA and participates by contributing investment capital needed to further restore the cottages.
Very quickly, the persistent dream became real possibility as the restoration project for the historic Swartvlei Beach Cottages got underway. It began in earnest with a massive clean-up day on 1 July 2023. Years of buried refuse and all kinds of rubbish had to be cleared away.
However, once all the clutter and refuse was out of the way, everyone was surprised to discover the quality of the wood the house had been built with. The treated wood had survived the long period of neglect extremely well and it turned out the workmen were able to use most of it again in the restoration of the house.
Meanwhile, Erick, had gotten in touch with Trevor Guy Robertson who readily shared his family’s history surrounding the cottage. Subsequently, the team felt morally obliged to preserve the essence of the building to maintain the tangible spirit of the place and barely altered environment, as it reminded them daily of its historical significance particularly with regard to the huge Robertson clan and the Swartvlei campers whose families through generations still return to the campsite every Christmas time..
Trevor sent Erick old family photos of the large Robertson clan at the cottage and the campsite and the surrounding area where they had been part of the regular gathering of the Swartvlei campers from its earliest days. This allowed the restoration team to let the photos and the landscape guide them to perceptively recreate what had naturally arisen there previously.
As happens in the majority of old building restoration cases, the budget the team envisaged was not how it played out on the ground. The desire to do it right has a way of overcoming the monetary aspects. Or as Erick said,”. Not what we had in mind!” (I doubt they'll be sorry in the long run!)
The access to the property had to be made more manageable and the outdoor surrounds, more people friendly, which meant retaining walls and terracing to provide level communal outdoor seating areas.
Although much of the wood was salvageable, and the bones of the house were good, the foundations had to be redone, the roof repaired, the water storage tank had to be fixed, electricity supply brought to the property and connected, the windows reframed and appropriate glass fitted.
Last but not least the house, given the name of Milkwood Cottage, had to be appropriately refurbished in an authentic, sympathetic way to support and express the ethos of the place and it’s position.
It was also necessary to install security. Needless to say, this has all been successfully accomplished.
Milkwood Cottage was finished right on time
for the arrival of its first guests on the 16th of December 2023 who
will no doubt relish their prime position of a splendid view of Swartvlei
Lake and the Outeniqua Mountains on one side and on the other side, the magnificent sight of the Indian Ocean in sound of the crashing waves with the potential to see dolphins and whales in the bay, all from their comfy seats on the covered verandah!
What do the intrepid investors of the Swartvlei Beach Cottages Restoration Project want in return?
They have already experienced the first part of their journey i.e. to look at Milkwood Cottage and feel proud of what they’ve achieved. (I would say they have exceeded anyone's and everyone's expectations and done the MOST AMAZING Job!)
They would like to see families enjoy the sea view
serenity and to let the cottage to be lived in: for holidays makers, getaway
weekends, paragliding groups, family get-togethers etc.
And most of all, they want visitors to appreciate the history of the place, to honour and protect it including the magnificent environment that surrounds it.
You can find out more information about the historical Swartvlei Beach Cottages Renovation and/or make a booking on their website https://swartvleicottages.co.za/
or speak to Erick Cell: 27 79 495 6763
or Email: email@example.com
Salvaged timber offers a unique and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional wood sources. Choosing salvaged timber helps reduce deforestation, lowers the carbon footprint, and gives new life to materials that would otherwise be discarded.
As a team of natural stone experts and highly experienced stone masons, Eden Stone is known throughout the Garden Route for their expertise and skill in the use of natural stone and rock: from stone cladding or veneering to solid-stone building, construction and renovation, maintenance, repairs and restoration, landscaping and retaining walls, paving and more.
They are dedicated to sustainable construction practices, minimizing waste, responsibly sourcing materials, and prioritising eco-friendly solutions to reduce their environmental footprint.