Early pioneers

Heywood Tanner-Tremaine

Paul Tanner-Tremain writes the following:

You are right in that my late father Heywood Tanner-Tremaine(HTT) was instrumental in founding the V&V branch at Greystones.  The original Veld and Vlei School was at Sedgefield near Knysna. His three sons, (my two elder brothers and I) had all attended the Outward Bound Mountain School at Loitokitok on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, as school boys in our last year( 1959, 1961, 1963), when we lived in Kenya.  All three of us successfully completed the OBMS courses and reach the summit of the mountain.   My two brothers duly left Kenya for the UK after school to higher education.

At the end of 1963, my parents, sister Lynda and I left Kenya for South Africa and settled in Estcourt, when dad set up a VW franchise.  Lynda went to Estcourt High, and I went to the University of Natal in Durban for a couple of years before returning to Estcourt to help my parents in their VW business. While at varsity, I had joined their Mountain Club, and did a lot of rock climbing on the krantzes at Monteseel near Inchanga at the valley of 1000 hills, and a few weekend excursions into the Drakensberg, climbing various peaks near Cathedral Peak and Giant’s Castle.

In 1966, HTT was a charter member for the founding of the Estcourt Rotary Club. In 1967 he became President of the club, and he was instrumental in getting the Rotary Youth Exchange started for his district, and the establishment of the Veld and Vlei school at Greystones.  The Greystones property was once the ‘up country’ house of Sir Frederick Moor, premier of Natal, hence the area there being known as Moor Park.  I am not sure what the arrangement was with V&V occupying the house and grounds, whether it was donated or they got it rent free. There are still Moors living on the farms around Estcourt.

I remember spending weekends out there, helping to plan, build and test the obstacle courses prior to being open for the first course, which I think was in 1968. I did not enjoy the ‘tunnel’, particularly after we found a puff adder which had taken up residence!   Prior to that first course, I also scouted out the ridge from the school down to the Bushman’s river at Africa Pool for any suitable abseiling and climbing sections that we could use, with varying degrees of difficulty.  If you attended the course, you will probably know where I mean, and I could have been your instructor at the time.  I didn’t do all the courses up to mid 1973, but I did assist with the rock climbing and map reading sections on about eight or nine of the courses.  I know we experimented with one 2 week adult course where the big 120kg-150kg rugby players did not believe that the climbing ropes and I could hold them if they fell.  I belayed myself at the top, and asked two of them to get onto the rope at the same time, and of course, the belay and rope held them quite successfully.  Trust earned!  I gave up instructing in early 1973, soon after our first child was born.  We had a patrol member who actually totally froze on one of the climbs and would not move he was in such a panic.  I got one of the others who had reached the top, belay me and I went down to the young lad to get him moving.  He lashed out and I fell about 20 feet before the belay lad got control of me. The youngster was ‘broken out of his fear’ and he managed to climb back to the top, as did I, battered and bruised.  Time to call it quits as I had a family to consider.

I did a fair amount of the basic map reading sessions, including taking patrols out blindfolded,  in the Kombi, and dumping them with a compass and a couple of maps, and saying ”See you later” back at the camp.  The maps usually did not include the map that showed the dam or Greystone, but the adjoining ones.  One evening one patrol had not arrived, and we found them at the White Mountain Inn at Ntabanhlope!  The other favourite was the walk around the dam with instructors at checkpoints located on the map.  Then of course, the final expeditions up into the ‘berg.  One I do remember was being dropped off at Injasuti, overnight in Fergie’s Cave and Marble Bath’s Caves, then the trek up over ‘Cloudlands’, the Martial Eagle stream to Bannerman Hut, then up the pass to the top.  The December 1968 course had me as a ‘resident’ instructor, and I fell ill with what turned out to be jaundice while going over Cloudlands with a couple of the patrols. The other instructors took over my patrol and continued up the berg, and I broke all mountaineering rules, by continuing from Bannerman’s down to the Giant’s Castle camp on my own, where I knew Bill Barnes and Keith Micklejohn who were the parks board rangers.  Keith got me back home and into hospital in Estcourt. ( lots of stories of berg trips with Keith and the fun we had).

Sailing.  V&V managed to get 6 LJ Sprints which were based on the Enterprise training yachts, at very little or no cost.  They were delivered to the Boating club at the dam, and Henry Hyde’s brother, Mike, and I sailed them from there up to the Moor Park landing spot in three trips, cadging lifts back to the Boating club in between.  Great fun!  They were very stable little yachts and simple to sail.

People : HTT was chairman of the local V&V and others that I can remember on the board were Jack Swan as the resident camp manager at Greystone, Alan Webster who I believe emigrated to Australia, Henry Hyde I think since deceased, George Cross who was the mayor of Estcourt, Godfrey Symons farmer and Rotarian in Estcourt,  and possibly a few others.  I do remember John Hall and Dick Garstang as instructors, and there must have been more, but I cannot remember the names.  Somewhere I have some photos of Greystone and odd ones taken on the courses, so I will have to dig them out.  My father died in December 2003 in Estcourt, a couple of years after me and my family had emigrated back to the UK in 2001.  My late eldest brother helped clear the house, so I don’t know what happened to all my dad’s paperwork, probably consigned to the bin!

I am not sure when V&V in Estcourt closed down, but the Greystone buildings and grounds were later used by a Church group for some years, and I think it is now used as an adventure camp.

What a trip back into the past!

Best Regards and keep well,


Paul Tanner-Tremaine

Hampshire, England

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s