Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hermon - a lost village

A heritage practitioner not too long ago described Hermon as a 'village lost in the 19th century'. When compiling the proposal to VANSA for the 2010 small town project this was uppermost in our minds, this small, lost village.

There had, however, been some additions to the townscape just prior to our involvement, that of the addition of low cost housing replete with solar panels. Also, tarred roads: the sand versions of my first impressions rapidly vanished. This was a marked alteration to the 19th century view, but housing must be considered a prerequisite of our expanding population. It did not alter our intention to try and work with Hermon.

We christened our scheme the 'domino effect' and I think we all know what this entails: ultimately a knock-on scenario.

Most of the old mission structures (reckoned to be of about 1870 vintage) were in a parlous state, and worst of all had no internal running water, nor toilets or washing facilities. Elderly people were often seen being assisted to collect this essential commodity from a standpipe in the street. This was about to change, and before our eyes the local municipality (who own most of the buildings) arrived to start renovation work.

Only recently a sports field was constructed alongside the village, and I discovered a rugby sevens competition was to be held, amongst teams from local towns and villages. The first ever! Scheduled to start at 19.30 I waiting patiently until 20.45, when the games began, ultimately finishing at 01.15 the next morning. Another domino had fallen.

Hermon is still separated on classic apartheid lines, here emphasized by a major trunk road. Over on the 'other' side it still remains ominously quiet. Walk through the two aspects of the village in an evening and one half is vibrant, active, social, the other quiet, graveyard like.

Ironically the 'other' half was once the centre of economic activity. Being the rail head for the collection of crops, local farmers poured in en masse - one retired farmer described wagons led by oxen lined up back over the bridge that crosses the Berg River. Another described the main street with a bakery, tailor, post office, police station (plus cells) and a car showroom. With the extension of the rail further north it negated the journeys and visits . . . the town died on its feet.

But with the domino tournament coming it is starting to feel that we are not the instigators of a domino effect, but the ultimate stone falling. It is no bad thing for this amazing community. Our little forgotten village even had Christmas lights last year!

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