The Cavern was originally a grazing farm but in the 1930’s it was bought by Walter Coventry after he resigned his post as Superintendent of the Natal National Park. He continued cattle ranching here and started a small guest house, accommodating mostly friends he had made over the years while running the Hostel at National Park.

In 1941, Judge Thrash bought the Cavern and employed Ruth and Bill Carte to run it. His emphasis was more in the ranching side. Since the grazing was sour veld, the ranching was unsuccessful and Ruth and Bill decided to buy the farm from the judge, recognising its potential as a guest house.

The guest house could accommodate 15 people in thatched rondavels with separate ablution blocks. Bill started a quarry where, using his own explosives, he blasted sandstone for building. The blasted stone was transported to the main building site on a sleigh with oxen and later by a Ford truck.

The farm supplied fresh produce for the guest house. Farm animals often confronted guests amongst the buildings. Life was not without its problems: There was no refrigeration for 11 years – meat was stored in a water cooler and jelly set in bowls carefully placed at the edge of the stream. A Pelton wheel, which was located in the Glen where you will now find the trampoline, provided minimal electric power to light the farm house. Bill installed a small diesel power generator, but it was only in 1976 that Eskom power became available.

For many years the water runway down the mountain was the only water supply for the house. “Rhodesian Boilers”, (44 gallon oil drums suspended over an open fire) provided hot water to the rudimentary ablution blocks. Evening entertainment included games of wit and action, favourites being dumb charades and carpet bowls. The Saturday night dance was a highlight! A radiogram powered with an extension cable through the lounge window to a car battery was used for music.

High in the foothills of the Northern Drakensberg, surrounded by towering mountains, forests and streams is a unique family resort – The Cavern.

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14 thoughts on “History”

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Hi Rob
      Lovely to hear that you have a few pieces. We were very fortunate to be gifted some of Charlmers’ work by Gerri O. It is displayed in and around the Cavern.
      With best wishes,

  1. A place I have never forgotten. Such fond memories of our family holidays in the late 1970s. I think our last family holiday may have been in 1981/2. If I remember correctly we would visit at Easter time. Still remember the games evenings, barn dancing (the best) and pony treks (hanging on for dear life as the horses bolted back home). I now live in the UK and have told my husband that it is my bucket list if we ever get a chance to return to SA. Thank you for the lovely memories. (née Greaves)

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Dear Sue
      So lovely to ready your message. Wonderful memories from the 70s and 80s. Horse riding has become much more controlled! And, we still do a couple of barn dances during the busy periods! Many happy and cherished memories.
      We do hope to see you in SA. The buildings have changed a little but the mountains are as magnificent as always.
      With best wishes,

  2. Visiting your website does bring back happy memories. My parents and I visited The Cavern several times during the late 1940s, since we lived in nearby Ladysmith. Enjoyed playing Quoits on the lawn, walking to the waterfall and on up to the Cavern itself. Remember skinny dipping at the pool with a group of adults from Johannesburg. I have lived in the USA for 50 years now, and regret that I no longer visiting The Cavern.

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Hello Hughen.
      Thanks so much for sharing your Cavern memories with us – just lovely! Our dad was born in the late 40’s and often chats about the early days! We still sneak off for skinny dips in the rivers and dams and the waterfall remains a favourite spot for visitors. We are sorry that you are so far away but do follow our social media posts for regular updates if you wish!
      Our best wishes,
      Megan & the Carte family

  3. I’ve just found a note in our family history collection that my father, John Doran, stayed at The Cavern sometime during his WW2 service when he was stationed in Durban in 1943-46 with the Royal Army Pay Corps. He did a lot of touring while on leave.

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Hi Chris
      Thanks for sharing that information. I have just paged throught the 42-46 Visitors Book to see if I could pick anything up. Sadly not, but perhaps he checked in with a friend!
      Our best wishes to you,
      Megan & the Cavern family

  4. Angus Auchterlonie

    Spent many amazing winter family holidays at the Cavern in the late 70’s & early 80’s. Actually worked at the Cavern as a student guide during the Christmas holidays at the end of ’83, when Jeanie & Anthony together with Peter & Rhona were running things – one of our tasks was to plan the original camp that became Hlalanathi. Came again for our honeymoon in April ’88 where we had an amazing week at the Cavern. Sadly time & circumstances have prevented us from returning for many years, but as retirement approaches & kids are otherwise occupied, perhaps a return visit will be on the cards.

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Hi Angus
      All the folks remember you! Much has happened in the valley with Ant & Jean & Family at Montusi Lodge now and our family at The Cavern. We drink tea often and were altogether yesterday afternoon when your message came through.
      Lovely that you have been in touch and hope that we might see you in our neck of the woods soon!
      With best wishes,

  5. Fond memories of Cavern in mid 1950s where I would spend summer holidays with friends from Rhodes University. Riding in the foothills and to another resort nearby – my favourite mount Mercury. Walking in the mountains and dodging rock-hurling baboons. Playing with the Ridgebacks. Square dancing in the evening. Our own rondavel with scent of straw thatch. Mouth-watering meals. Mountain air like champagne. Best holidays ever!

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      Dear Phyll
      It is just lovely reading your comments! What happy times have been shared in these wonderful mountains. The Ridgebacks, the baboons and the square dancing! I can hear my dad and his brothers on these very topics!
      Our best wishes to you,
      Megan & the Cavenites

  6. Spent many a childhhod holiday at this wonderful place with my family and friends form Durban city health department in the 70’s and 80’s. These are the best memories of my life. Will definately come back one day when back in SA.

    1. Megan Carte Bedingham

      We certainly look forward welcoming you back when you are in SA! The Cavern holds many wonderful childhood memories!

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