The relaxed picnic park became a crush, a fun crush, with great food, and plenty of cocktails but it was hell to find parking and then run the gauntlet across the busy 'freeway' that separates it from its antithesis, the Toscana-Afrikana-styled Montecasino casino complex across the road.
Greg Straw was on the hunt for a suitable piece of land – and he found it – an 18-hectare expanse within the Modderfontein Reserve (the old Val Bonne Estate), a 265-hectare privately-owned space said to be the second-largest public park in the Gauteng province (the largest is the 680hectare Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve in south Joburg).
The Modderfontein Reserve is a conservation area and within its open sprawl of grassland are a number of dams and hills, and portions of the Modderfontein Spruit. It's a magnet for bikers, walkers and trail runners and is also a fine destination for birdwatching (contact expert twitcher Raymond Rampolokeng from Bay of Grace Tours for guided birdwatching tours).
The new Fourways Farmers Market is now a 27-minute drive from its original site, which is soon to be shortened for those coming from Sandton as a new road will be opened from Linbro Park. It will encompass an open-air food market with more than 100 vendors (with protection from inclement weather), an outdoor farmers' market, picnic lawns, South Africa's longest bar, a wedding venue and an amphitheatre ideal for large concerts. There are also plans for a brewery, an organic restaurant and a bakery. There will be trail runs and mountain biking trails, and plenty of space to roam. All this with a view of the water, and across the dam to the open veldt of the Reserve.
Greg Straw's dream of a picnic park now has more than enough space to breathe. And it couldn't fit more perfectly with the time. In the age of social distancing, you would be hard-pressed to find a more suitable space for a market.
All of this has been done with lots of research, visiting the best markets countrywide. He mentions Wild Oats in Sedgefield, Pretoria's Boeremark and one of our favourites the Oranjezicht City Farm Market at Granger Bay, V&A Waterfront in Cape Town (if there is such a thing as a market bucket list, these would be on it).
The three heritage buildings on the Modderfontein Reserve site, original barns and a farmhouse, are all being incorporated into the plans. Wide avenues have been landscaped and trees added, while the food vendors are a careful selection from more than 600 applicants as Straw is fixed on the idea that you should know who made your food and is dead set against generic offerings (don't get him started).
Open on weekends and presided over by a very good-looking rooster there are dozens of food and drink vendors and a huge beer garden overlooking the dam. Favourite food stalls include Sum Ting Fresh and Che Argentine Grill.
Note that Modderfontein is a private reserve and you will need to pay R30 per adult, and R15 per kid, at the entrance to access the property. For the market follow signs for the Val Bonne venue. The reserve is open for activities but currently no dogs are allowed.
Open Sat and Sun 08:00-17:00.