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MMany first-time visitors to the town of Bedford come for the annual Garden Festival in the spring and return time and again for the area's other features. Bedford has a historic location and wealth of 1820 settler-style architecture, and there are many natural attractions in the area.
The first impression one gets of Bedford in the Eastern Cape is of a big green striped mountain looming over what could – from a distance – easily be an English country village
Indeed, the San (Bushmen) of old used to call these mountains kaga (‘stripes’, the same name they gave the zebra), and the title stuck. The Kaga Mountain also ensures that Bedford has a more temperate climate and better groundwater than its neighbours because the way it surrounds the village creates a special micro-climate in the area.
It also lies in the middle of a number of eco-systems, including Karoo veld, mountain bushveld, acacia thorn and rolling grasslands.
Bedford’s decidedly British feel is largely due to the influence of the 1820 settlers’ Pringle party, who settled and farmed in the nearby Baviaans River Valley. The village was marked off and named Bedford in 1854.
Since then it has flourished as the cultural centre of the local farming community. When you drive down its quiet, mostly untarred streets, you’ll see that much of the village architecture has been preserved and often renovated.
Just more than 150km from the coast, Bedford has become popular with urban downsizers and retirees looking for somewhere quiet in the country. There’s a craft centre, furniture factory, golf course and even an old-fashioned watchmaker who repairs grandfather clocks and fob watches as well as the more current timepieces.
But there’s a more active side to your visit to Bedford as well, in the form of horse riding, hiking trails, mountain biking, fishing, rock climbing, bird watching and, in season, hunting.
The highlight of Bedford’s social calendar is the annual Garden Festival in the spring, which brings in rose enthusiasts from all over the world. One of the main gardens on display is on Maasstrom Farm, Bedford’s original founding site.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
Bedford lies between Grahamstown and Cradock in the Eastern Cape, about 2hours' drive from Port Elizabeth.
Best time to visit
Bedford has a more temperate climate than its Karoo neighbours, so for most of the year it offers good weather.
Things to do
Take a drive into the Baviaans River Valley near Bedford and visit Ernest Pringle, who owns one of the largest butterfly collections in South Africa. See the listed website for details.
Tours to do
You can drive to Grahamstown, Adelaide and Cradock, which are all quite close. Opt for a farmstay in the area.
A hired car will get you there – the roads are in fair condition and mostly tarred except for the village itself.
What will it cost?
Prices of meals and accommodation in Bedford are very reasonable compared to urban or coastal rates.
Length of stay
Two or 3 days in Bedford would suit most visitors, unless they want to extend their stay and venture into the Baviaans River Valley nearby.
What to pack
You're in the country, so pack informal clothing and pack for hiking.
Where to stay
Bedford has a number of B&Bs and self-catering establishments – check the local website. There are some good farmstays in the area, and the B&Bs in the village are mostly in the stately old Victorian-style homesteads.
What to eat
The Village Padstal (Farm Stall) offers very good light meals. It lies at the entrance to Bedford if you're coming from either Grahamstown or Cradock.
Check dates for the Bedford Garden Festival in the spring.
Mohair products from the Daggaboer Farm Stall on the nearby N10.