The little town of Ladismith in the little Karoo is handsomely set against the foot of the Klein Swartberg mountain range and is overlooked to the north by some of the finest peaks of the Swartberg mountains. Directly above the town soars the 2,126 meter high Toringberg (towering mountain), named for its steep cliffs and its sharp peak. West of the Toringberg stands one of the most famous mountains in Souhern Africa, the Towerkop 2,197 meters high and an extraordinary landmark from whichever angle it is viewed.
This area was first settled by Europeans in the middle of the 18th Century. As in other areas of the Little Karoo, strong men wandered across the southern mountains, hunting, grazing cattle and hoping to escape the grasping hand of the tax-gatherer. Ladismith started as a permanent place for worship for surrounding farmers. In 1851 a portion of the farm Elands Vallei was bought from Balthazar Kloppers. The town was established in 1852, named after Lady Juana Smith, wife of the Governor of the Cape, Sir Harry Smith. The original Ladysmith was changed in 1879 to Ladismith to prevent confusion with a similarly named town in Natal. At first the town was administrated by the Dutch Reformed Church until it received local government status in 1862 and became a municipality in 1903.
The ostrich feather craze converted Ladismith into a boom town, like many other Karoo towns, ,with 50 000 birds feeding on lucerne fields around the town. The feather crash of 1914 brought the district to bankruptcy and economic relief and rehabilitation only came in 1924, when the branch railway was opened connecting Ladismith to the main line at Touws River. The link provided an outlet to markets for farmers to sell their products. In 1981 a tremendous flood severely damaged the railway line, and is now replaced by road transport.
Beautiful mountain scenery and fertile farmlands are some of the proudest assets of the town. The town serves as an extensive farming area with ideal climate for the production of quality fruit. Ladismith produces a third of the country’s apricots, peaches, plums, and nectarines that are mainly exported. The fertile valley is also ideal for cultivating wine and this resulted in a winery that is part of the Little Karoo wine route. When travelling through the beautiful Hoeko Valley you have breathtaking views of these orchards that can also be seen around the old farmhouses of Dwarsrivier, Voorbaat and Van Zylsdamme.
The area is rich in a variety of flora, but also has an interesting population of fauna. Vegetation varies and ranges from fynbos in the mountains to Karoo broken veld, spekboom and succulents on the koppies.
Attractions in Ladismith:
The Parmalat Shop offers real dairy delights – traditional Gouda and Cheddar (some awarded Dairy Product of the Year), or Simonsberg Brie and Creamy Blue for the more adventurous palates. They also offer Parmalat yoghurts, and a variety of other dairy products. Special prices often call for a good cooler box. They also have a small coffee shop where you can enjoy a healthy yoghurt shake or tea with scones. For pets there’s a doggy stop with fresh water.
Art Gallery @ Ladismith:
The Otto Hager Church building in South Street has a permanent exhibition of local artists’ work on display. Viewing times are from Monday to Friday 09:00 to 17:00, and Saturdays from 09:00 to 16:00.
Touwsberg Nature Reserve:
The reserve is untouched by human intervention and offers a rapidly disappearing quality of living to resident owners, as well as excellent security combined with unrestricted adventure. Within the confines of resident-controlled entrance, the reserve entertains a large variety of game and flora in self-contained biological and geological eco-systems.
Touwsberg Private Game and Nature Reserve possess what can only be regarded as a divine abundance of the vital components of a successful game farm. The 2,500 hectares of wide open spaces, a seemingly unlimited supply of the purist drinking water and a unique combination of mountain fynbos and typical Karoo veld provide visitors with an ideal getaway.
Ladismith Cheese Company:
Ladismith Cheese has been manufactured in Ladismith since 1940 under the leadership of Roy Taylor. Ladismith Cheese Company (Pty) Ltd was founded in June 1999 and cheese production started in a brand new factory on 1 November 1999. The quality products from Ladismith Cheese are now available in supermarkets throughout the major centres of South Africa. The factory shop stocks a variety of their products.