Situated high above the verdant fringes of the Knysna Indigenous Forest is the Diepwalle Forestry Station, which boasts a charming old stone Victorian house dating back to 1894 and which was once the home of a forester by the name Frederick Charles Rabbets. It is just one of a series of houses built in stone at numerous forestry stations across the region during the late 1800's.
Restoration of this heritage building took place in 1998 and soon after, it was lovingly transformed into the Diepwalle Tea Garden, which is passionately run by a group of women from the local community. This community upliftment venture started back in 2004, when twenty five women from the local community each invested R20 to get the project off the ground. At that time, many of these ladies needed employment and those who had procured jobs in Knysna often had to hike the 25km just to get to work.
Diepwalle at that stage fell under the Department of Forestry, who agreed on a nominal rent and assisted the ladies in acquiring the basics to start up their business. Sanparks has generously continued with the original agreement. Members of the co-operative get a share of profits and discounted prices.
The tea garden is much more than just a wonderful employment opportunity, but it also provides a perfect platform for skills development. Amerencia, one of ladies involved in the tea garden, was the winning contestant in the popular Green Chef competition held in Knysna, and she was featured on Pasella last year. Aunty Klara, who has been part of this venture from day one, is famous for her heaven-sent milk tart.
The Diepwalle Tea Garden caters for day visitors and also offers a hiker’s menu for the those navigating the Outeniqua Hiking Trail (the Diepwalle hut is situated just across the road from the tea garden) Meals can be ordered the day before from the Rondebossie hut. Visitors to Knysna come back year after year to enjoy the ladies delicious traditional food fare and warm-hearted hospitality.
They have been experimenting a lot in the kitchen and last year they made some very exciting changes to their menu. They also started a herb and vegetable garden, in order to have continuous access to fresh and seasonal produce for their dishes. This year they are planning to open a curio shop, selling items made by the community and which will provide additional means of income for members of this community.
We are open every day for a few hours and happy to open on request. They also bake on order and are able to do catering functions, such as weddings and birthday parties. They hope to soon start Sunday Lunches.
The tea garden lies adjacent to the Forest Legend Museum, a rich historical resource for our region, housing a fascinating collection of photographs, artefacts and stories about the lives of the foresters, woodcutters and the gold diggers that once lived here.
For more info contact: 083 759 0424 or contact the Diepwalle office 044 382 9762/3 and ask them to put you through to the tea garden.