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TOURS - St. Elizabeth | Milk River | Hills of Mandeville
Tour 8 - The Hills North of Mandeville
Excerpted from the book, Tour Jamaica, by Margaret Morris
BALACLAVA is a pleasant village, a backwater
since the closure of the railway. It has a pretty Anglican church and proximity
to the huge Oxford Caves.
APPLETON ESTATE on the edge of the Cockpit
Country is a privately owned sugar estate and factory, producer of famous
Appleton rum. Closure of the railway has put an end to a tourism tradition
- The Appleton Express from Montego Bay, but the Appleton Rum Tour, currently
via bus, is still very popular.
MAGGOTTY, another rural community isolated
by the closure of the railway, was once the site of magnificent waterfalls
long since sacrificed for hydro-electricity. A sad and rather shabby village,
Maggotty is the site of Apple Valley, a pleasant water park offering boating
and fishing on a mini-lake and river swimming. Picnic areas, barbeques and
campsites are also available. The owners, the Lee family, run the store
and bakery opposite the entrance and operate a guest house nearby.
Or turn R at the junction north of KENDAL
for SHOOTERS HILL, site of the Pickapeppa factory.
Based on a secret formula, both the hot and the sweet Pickapeppa sauces
are prized by gourmets all over the world. It is a stiff hike to the top
of Shooters Hill but the view on clear days is magnificent. A former owner,
Alexander Heron, left instructions that he was to be buried here. The current
owners maintain his tomb and the original great house. Across from the Jamalcan
refinery, turn left up to the hills. MIZPAH
Moravian church, L overlooks the highway. It was begun in 1869 by a German
minister Theodore Sonderman and completed in 1870 by Heinrich Walder, a
Swiss missionary who founded the nearby village of Walderston. Here, an
observatory known locally as 'The Castle' was built by an English peeress
and is now the site of a workshop/home that produces decorative jigsaw craft
The villages of WALDERSTON, SPALDINGS,
and countless small homesteads meander across the mountains and appear to
merge. You can see for miles in all directions and after dark the myriad
lights twinkle through the mist like fallen stars.
At Walderston, bear left for Christiana. Hotel VILLA
BELLA on the brow of a hill and set in a three acre garden, has
22 rooms and a gourmet menu that includes English High Tea. Information
about places of interest including HIBERNIA,
a farm offering hiking and pony trekking, is available at the front desk.
They can also give you directions to BETHANY
another interesting Moravian Church founded in 1835. It was in Christiana,
in 1898 that an American minister called George Lopp first introduced the
Irish potato to the island. His first plot is still maintained at Bethany
by the Minister of the Church.
The town of CHRISTIANA is surrounded by small
farmers who produce ginger, bananas, yams and the bulk of the island's Irish
Potatoes. The light-skinned farmers of Christiana Bottom are of German descent.
Some of their forbears fought as mercenaries for King George III during
the American War of Independence and afterwards received land grants. Two
turn-of-the-century cut stone buildings - the Police Station and another
Moravian church - overlook Christiana's main street. If the mountain air
makes you hungry, Juicibeef patties, arguably the best in Jamaica, are available
at a snack shop nearby.
The road winds west through Coleyville, another farming district noted
for strawberries. Past the Bryce United Church and School the road L leads
to the Christiana Potato Growers store house and the GOURIE
cave. At a crossroads marking the district of DUMP
you can turn R for an adventurous trip skirting the Cockpit Country through
ALBERT TOWN, ULTSTER SPRING and ALPS
back to the northcoast at DUNCANS.
Or bear L up a hill and explore an equally unfrequented road towards
CRAIG HEAD and TROY. Approaching PIKE you
will spy L a gigantic golf ball looming above the peak that is 3226 feet
high. This is a radar station that was established with the help of the
Canadian government some years ago, reportedly for tracking illegal flights.
It has now been superseded by a more functional facility at Lovers Leap,
set up and manned by U.S. military personnel. Nowadays,the lone inhabitants
of the Pike station are security guards and the fine for trespassing is
J$20,000, but the road up to the peak entrance is good and offers interesting
views including a close-up of a dry limestone forest: lush vegetation springing
from bare rock. On this road you will meet pick-ups laden with yams bound
for market and view an extensive patchwork of Jamaican hill farms. Troy
is the destination for the long hike from Windsor in Trelawny through the
Cockpit Country - just about as far into the ìinteriorî as
you can get on wheels.
Heading southeast from Christiana, it is about 3.5 miles on a good road
to SPALDINGS the largest town in these hills with a busy main street, a
choice of banks, a large hospital and KNOX COLLEGE; a unique educational
centre, the brain child of the late Rev Lewis Davidson and sponsored initially
by the Presbyterian church (now the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman).
Davidson, a Scotsman, came to Jamaica as headmaster of Wolmer's Boys School
in Kingston but his concept of education proved too revolutionary for the
Wolmer's board of the day and his contract was not renewed. Knox was founded
in 1940 and deliberately sited in a remote area to test Davidson's axiom
that an educational institution must contribute to the development and well
being of the surrounding community. Knox puts great emphasis on character
building and the teaching of practical skills. Today the complex includes
a Junior School, High School, Community College, farm, printery and dental
The route from Spaldings to the northcoast via BOROBRIDGE,
winds through hill country and yam, cane, coffee and banana cultivations.
Thence through AENON TOWN and CAVE
VALLEY where the Cave River sinks to emerge miles downstream
at STEWART TOWN as the Rio Bueno. Cave Valley
has a busy Saturday market, specializing in the sale of livestock: goats,
cows and donkeys. En route to BROWNS TOWN, about
16 winding miles away, you pass through ABOUKIR,
a rural educational centre and CLARKSONVILLE,
one of several 'free villages' created by the emancipated slaves with the
help of Baptist missionaries.
From Spaldings, the route to the south winds through the Clarendon hills,
and above and along the RIO MINHO valley (the
longest river in Jamaica) between citrus orchards, through FRANKFIELD
and CHAPELTON to MAY PEN.
These once fertile hills, were the childhood home of Jamaican author and
poet laureate Claude McKay and a continuing source of inspiration to him.
Books like My Green Hills of Jamaica and Banana Bottom provide a compelling
picture of rural life sixty years ago. About a mile west of Frankfield there
is a famous fossil bed. Fossils here, including an extinct species of gigantic
shellfish, are estimated to be between 65 and 70 million years old.
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