“The River Cottage has been struck!”
Gauteng is known for its exceptionally high number of lighting strikes but for most of us it happens “elsewhere”. For Lise Essberger, owner of the award-winning Lethabo Estates in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy, it wasn't elsewhere. On 7 March lightning struck Lethabo's exquisite River Cottage and reduced it to smoking cinders within minutes. “It was utterly devastating to watch,” says Lise. “It was a such a peaceful, mild autumn afternoon, with scattered clouds in the sky - a real bolt from the blue.”
Champagne and a view of the river
The aptly named River Cottage was set on a wild stretch of the Crocodile River which flows through the estate. This beautifully furnished cottage was a favourite of people who loved the quiet and the sounds of birds and the river rippling by a few metres away.
As the flames shot skywards, staff hauled out as much furniture as they could within the minutes it took for the cottage to be demolished. “The visitors got out safely, thank heavens,”says Lise. “Strangely enough, River Cottage had an IBR roof but the nearby thatched conference centre was spared. That would have been utter disaster for us.”
The 70 acre estate is well-known for its gourmet river picnics, romantic weddings and conferencing.
Lethabo (which means Joy) has won several awards, such as the Gold Award for accommodation at the 2010 Roodepoort Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business of the Year, as well as a Bronze Award for top conferencing facility.
Lethabo is in the process of going “green” - totally off the Eskom grid and self-sustainable. www.lethaboestate.com.
Adds Lise: “As for going off-grid ... the electrician left as guests checked into River Cottage, having just installed state-of-the-art solar panels, the last of the LED globes and 60-watt LED floodlights at R9 000 each, plus batteries, controllers etc. All up in smoke!"