A Haven of Tranquility

Freedom. Utter, absolute, unbridled freedom five minutes from the beach. That is what being on Birdhaven Estate fills you with: you would be forgiven for flinging your arms akimbo and bellowing the lyrics to The Sound of Music à la Julie Andrews. The family behind the Estate opened their home to let us in on their vision.

Mike and Mary Graham have always loved the farm life. “Space, birds and freedom were the way of life,” Mike smiles warmly, looking over at his wife. The couple is on the patio of their sprawling farmhouse with their son, Stuart, and daughter Catherine de Lange, both of whom are intimately involved in the development. Mike and Mary moved to Durban from Johannesburg in the early nineties but battled to find their ideal home. “We rented for nine years,” Mary remembers. “We continued to dream of the values we held dear…peace, quiet…space!”

The Grahams began to jog on vacant cane land on Colwyn Drive: an endless expanse of sugarcane with “not a tree in sight”. They ventured onto the five hectare plot and found a bubbling stream flowed through the cane. “We were delighted to find out the land was up for sale, and even more thrilled when we bought it,” Mike says. They built a pond on the property and undertook a two-year landscaping project, which piqued the interest of the neighbours. “One mentioned that he had never seen such activity around what they thought was a public park,” Mike laughs.

Ten years ago, the Grahams planted the first of a staggering 4000 trees on the plot. “We both dreamt of driving up to the house under a canopy of trees,” Mary’s eyes twinkle. The building project was swiftly underway, with an enthusiastic Mary taking charge while her husband travelled. Today, the family farm is picturesque, overlooking a veritable forest and surrounded by at least 160 bird species, 38 of which are water birds. A fish eagle swoops down to say hello every so often. For Catherine and Stuart, the family home was a dream to live in. “It was the perfect combination of the farm and beach lifestyle,” Catherine says. “So dreamy, and it’s almost as though when we came home, we were in a world of our own.”

Now that their children have grown up and moved on, Mike and Mary have decided to develop half of their land into a boutique estate named after the suburb they lived in, in Johannesburg: Birdhaven. “It is sensible to put it to use,” Mike says. “And we want to share the magic we have found here, with others.”

The dog-friendly estate will comprise 17 plots of 900m2 each, with a distinct farm-life theme and twenty four hour security. “We are replicating our family’s personal vision in the homes and the style of architecture,” Stuart says as we take a tour on the rippling hill where the homes will be built. “The homes at the top of the hill will have sea views, while those at the bottom will overlook the beautiful pond.” His father agrees, mentioning that the estate seeks to take families back to the charming old farm life. “Where neighbours knew and greeted each other and children stayed up to play outside in wide, open spaces.”

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