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 680-hectare Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve in south Joburg). In winter 2020 the new look Fourways Farmers Market opened here, around a 20-minute drive from its original site.
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 attractive site encompasses an open-air food market with more than 100 vendors (with protection from inclement weather), a beer graden, mixology bar, picnic lawns, a kid's playground and entertainment, South Africa's longest bar, a wine garden, a wedding venue and an amphitheatre ideal for large concerts, complemented by a range of walking and cycling trails that loop around the reserve. All this with a view of the water, and across the dam to the open veldt of the Reserve.
The three heritage buildings on the Modderfontein Reserve site, original barns and a farmhouse, have also been 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 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.
Best time to goThat depends what you are after:
Friday@Farmers launched in February 2023, adding an extra day to the market. Now open from Fri 15:00–22:00. Great for family outings in the afternoon, or for after-works drinks into the evening.
If you have the smaller kids in tow we suggest – Sat 08:00–13:00 or Sun 08:00–12:00.
For family fun, picnics, cycling, running the trails or hiking – Sat 08:00–13:00, Sun 08:00–12:00.
Get the party started – Sat 13:00–17:00, and the Sunday Groove starts from 13:00–17:00.
Entrance into the ReserveNote 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. There are now two entrances to the reserve, on Arden Rd (off Ardeer Rd) in Modderfontein and at Taroko Farm Norfolk Lane, Klipfontein. The reserve is open for activities but no dogs are allowed.
Read our detailed review – and why you need to visit.