- Free State
Memel is situated in the Drakenberg area of the north-eastern Free State, a richly grassed landscape of undulating slopes and occasional high koppies. It lies close to the neighbouring towns of Newcastle and Vrede.
Surrounding the town is a beautiful, unspoilt area almost dominated by mountain scenery and water. Memel, meaning 'surrounded by water' is an appropriate name for this olde-worlde town as it is close to the Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve, one of the largest remaining wetlands in South Africa making it a site of international ecological significance which has become a bird lover’s haven. It is listed as a RAMSAR site and is a beautifully meandering floodplain - home to hippos and thousands of water birds.
The surrounding area holds much appeal for nature lovers with many hiking or mountain bike trails and Jo'burgers are reputed to use Memel as their 'hideaway' to commune with nature and mountain air, and it's easy to see why!
Several passes lead down to KwaZulu-Natal from this part of the highveld. Botha's Pass and Muller's Pass, both named after farmers, Rudolf Botha and Joel Muller, were regularly used after the Anglo-Boer War.
Memel and the surrounding towns offer a variety of accommodation which includes the Memel Hotel, B&B’s, Guesthouses and self-catering cottages.
Things to do and see
- Sediba Trail
- Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve
- Gert & Erika’s War Museum
- Memel Kranskop 4X4 Trail
- MTB Trails
- Horse Riding Trails
- Collings Pass
- Botha’s Pass Kontreiwinkel
- Harrismith Golf Course
Memel receives approximately 759 mm of rain annually with most of its annual rainfall during summer.
Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 15˚C and 29˚C.
Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 0˚C and 22˚C.
Memel derives its name from the town and river of the same name in Lithuania, in Prussian the name means “surrounded by water”.
Founded in 1913, Memel has known some excitement in the past, in 1914 General De Wet, living on his farm Allanvale in the area, planned the abortive rebellion against the British and South African governments.
A farm 37 Kilometres outside the town has the rather dubious distinction of having been the site of South Africa’s first commercial airline crash that occurred on the 15th May 1948. The incident was witnessed by a Mrs Botha of the farm Rosedale who had been in her kitchen when she heard an unusual droning noise approaching. As she reached the kitchen’s doorway to investigate, she caught a fleeting glimpse of a plane as it emerged momentarily from the early morning mist. The plane’s altitude was apparently so low that it’s wings were clipping the nearby pine trees.
At 07H20, as the plane overflew Rosedale, light rain and thick mist obscured visibility causing the aircraft to slam into the dark craggy outcrop of Spitzkop just below the summit after which it exploded.
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