Categories: Ladybrand


Stephen Quirke



The road from the border post at Maseru climbs a hill to the main road in to Bloemfontein. People bustle.  About a kilometer from the border though, there is a turn-off  ‘S708 – Ladybrand’.  The route follows the Caledon river.  The road is lined in places with Apricot trees and passes through lush farmland, through some flat topped hills before turning away towards Ladybrand. When I work in Lesotho I like to take a short detour on this road on the way back to Bloemfontein to catch my flight to Cape Town.  There is a termite mound next to the road just before it crosses a little stream.  I like to sit on this termite mound to paint the valley and a hill called “Platbergpunt”. 

Here is the latest version of this scene.  In January 2023 after a workshop with a corporate client in Lesotho I found my termite mound.  It had been a taxing session.  So it was good to sit listening to field larks and the sighing breeze.  And here is what I did:

Watercolour of a hill

While I was painting this watercolour there was a downpour.  Large fat drops.  When it cleared I took my place on my anthill.  When I finished the painting I sat in the grass and weedy flowers with my back against the mound.  There was this lump in my back so I slid lower down and rested my head on the bump – and had a pleasant snooze.  Later I woke up and sat with my feet in the stream flowing over the low-level bridge in the trees in the middle ground. 

I had been in Lesotho at the end of 2022 and here is what I created then:

Watercolour of a flat topped hill

Actually there are two termite mounds, each with a slightly different perspective on the hill.

They each have a completely different climate – hah hah – a little joke to cover the transition from mild mannered consultant to watercolourist – of steel.

When I was painting the scene in November 2022 I met the owner of the farm in the view.  He stopped his bakkie to chat.  He had come across my posting about the S708 when he looked online to see if there had been progress on a request for maintenance.  He told me the mountain is called ‘Platberg’ which means “Flat Mountain”which sounds more picturesque in the vernacular.  And the little peak in the painting is “Platbergpunt” where a ‘punt’ is a point or a corner.  At least that is what I remembered.  

I have painted this view in different seasons over the years.  Here is another Summer painting:

Ladybrand painting

Here are some photos I took of the process:

Here are some of the watercolours I painted in autumn and winter


Here are  some watercolours from Spring.  Organisations like to review their strategy in Spring, when the new year beckons.  So here I was.

The hills and valleys around Maseru and Ladybrand are captivating.  At first I would stop to absorb the view on the hustle back to Bloemfontein.  Then one day I plucked up courage and drove down to a farm called Tenniskop and got the OK to sit in a field and paint a watercolour.   I sat on a termite mound listening to the skylarks and did this watercolour of the small escarpment with three rivers descending into the Caledon River plane:

watercolour of a field

When I paint on the S708 I try to be aware of what is going on around me.   Once a chap walked up from across the fields. He looked like he was heading for the river.  I felt an intuitive nudge to be careful.  When he asked for money I asked if he wanted to be in a photograph.  He was keen so I asked him to go and stand in the middle ground – “back, back baaaack!”  When he was far enough I collected my  painting kit, waved goodbye and walked over to my vehicle to exit left stage.


The view from Maseru

My clients usually put me up in the Avani Hotel on top of a hill overlooking Maseru, the Caledon River and the land on the other side of the river. I sometimes paint the view from my hotel window. This is the view looking North – over the Caledon River. There is the little pinnacle at the end of the sandstone. The road to Ladybrand is just below this hill. It is just a road, but it beckons.


watercolour of Platberg

Here is another view from my hotel room – one evening with a wild sky.

watercolour of a cloud

Sometimes in the Avani Hotel I look to the West past the hills to the vlaktes of the Freestate.

The S708 passes below the little block at the top of the hill and through more farms.   Here is the view back to Platberg, in Summer and Winter.  The farmers grow great copses of poplar trees.


I try to leave Maseru early to avoid the traffic.  The traffic over the border can take two hours.  The  watercolour below took eight minutes.


The farmers in the area use the blocky local sandstones to create fence posts (could be the Caves Sandstone – what is now called the Clarens Formation). Some of the historic buildings in Ladybrand are built of this sandstone. I painted this on a Sunday morning as I listened to the sounds of Maseru Sunday drifting over the river, hints of marching bands, singing and drag-races.


Another watercolour of one of those sandstone fence posts.


Eventually I pack away my twak-sakkie and I head up the hill and take the road to Bloemfontein.  I just like cruising the new road.  And at about half way there is a farm in a shallow valley.  Just once I turned down this road, sat on a block of calcrete and did a watercolour.  

watercolour of the ver verlate vlaktes

And this is it – my Ladybrand sketchbook.  The watercolours are for sale in my gallery on this site.  All together these will make a great picture-wall so I am going to put an option to purchase a set of High Resolution Ink Jet prints.