Garden Route Trail Park is located at “ Barrington” in the Knysna District.
A 4th generation family farm. The land was bought in 1910 by P.J. Dormehl and taming of this piece of veld, which bordered the Karatara River and what is now the Garden Route National Park, was started by his son Jim Dormehl. He grew certified seed potatoes and berries which the farm produced for the canning factory at George.
There was a small dairy herd and also a guest house which was the halfway stop over for the mail coach and travellers between George and Knysna, on what is now the 7 Passes road. Strawberries and cream teas were a speciality. Jim married Molly Todd from England in 1937 and she not only organised the guest house but ran the General Dealer’s shop. Jim was famous for his smoked hams and sausages which were made from home produced meat.
In 1946 the homestead burnt down, the fire having been started by stray ashes from the wood stove. Jim, Molly and the children escaped in their night clothes and all that could be saved was the brass hand bell, the bread board and knife and the piano! The family managed for 2 years in the cottage which is now the ablution block. Food was cooked on an open fire in the yard. There was a small insurance pay out and this was used to buy a tractor!
In 1968 Jim’s son John returned to the farm. He built up a stud herd of Ayrshire cows and grew vegetables for TableTop (later McCain’s) in George. In 1974 John married Ginny from The Mumbles in Wales, whose book-keeping skills saved a salary and enabled Molly to retire from the shop. Jim helped John with the butchery and outside work which he enjoyed.
2004 saw John’s son Rob return to the farm and continued with the dairy farming operation. In 2011 the decision was taken to start developing a trail network on the farm.
The initial sections of trail were intended for mountain bike races. However some severe scope creep has led to the development of a trail park, aimed at mountain bikers, trail runners and lovers of the outdoors.
The farm has large areas not suitable for pasture – steep slopes, riverine bush and forest all perfect for trails. The steep terrain means that 90% of the trail needs to be cut by hand. The 20km of single track on the farm has taken around 15000 man hours to build. Currently there are 3 permanent trail builders cutting new track 5 days a week. Building is set to continue for at least another 1 to 2 years.