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TOURS - St. Elizabeth | Milk River | Hills of Mandeville
Excerpted from the book, Tour Jamaica, by Margaret Morris
|Perched on the Manchester plateau 2000 feet above sea-level, Mandeville is unlike other rural Jamaican towns: it is cool, it is clean, and there are no slums. Thanks to energetic promotion by the Central and South Coast Tourism Organization, the town is a magnet for discerning visitors and an excellent base for exploring the central hills and the south coast.|
The parish of Manchester was created in 1814 by the then governor, the Duke of Manchester. The parish capital, founded in 1816, was named after his eldest son, Viscount Mandeville, and was one of four hill stations for the Army. Once a haven for English gentlefolk who deemed it the closest thing to home, it was a prim and rather static place until the advent of the bauxite industry in the 1950s. Overnight Mandeville became a roistering boom town, began to grow and flourish and has continued to do so ever since. As a market centre for farmers, a dormitory town for two large alumina companies and the first choice of returning retired Jamaicans, the town enjoys a relatively stable economic base and offers the pleasures of rural life with the convenience of a mini-city.
The largest of 12 shopping plazas is the Manchester Shopping Centre on Caledonia Road; there are cinemas and discos, several first-class restaurants, a large public library, two hotels, several guests houses and a golf club. number of schools and colleges include: Manchester High School, Bishop Gibson High School, DeCarteret College, Belair, St Joseph's Academy, The Church Teachers Training College and the West Indies College.
In Mandevilleís benign climate both temperate and tropical plants flourish: agapanthus lilies and sweet peas beside hibiscus and bougainvillea, robust vanda orchids beneath peach and lychee trees, begonias and nasturtiums growing wild on the banksides. Mandeville has one of the oldest Horticultural Societies in the world and is famous for its annual flower show and splendid private gardens some of which can be toured by appointment.
PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST
Alumina Jamaica, a subsidiary of the Alumina Company of Canada Ltd, (ALCAN), was the first aluminium company to begin operations in Jamaica. It acquired its bauxite reserves in the 1940s, began construction of its Kirkvine plant near Mandeville and its shipping facility at Port Esquivel near Old Harbour in late 1950, started mining in 1952 and shipped its first cargo of alumina in January 1953. Subsequently, Kirkvine was expanded and another plant built at Ewarton to process the large deposits of bauxite acquired in St Ann. Ore is mined in open pits using dragline excavators and front-end loaders, then transported by dump trucks and cable belt conveyor (at Ewarton) or aerial ropeway (at Kirkvine) to the plants. A limestone quarry at Kirkvine supplies the raw material for the burnt lime used in transforming bauxite into year alumina. Alcanís own rolling stock transports alumina via the Jamaica Railway tracks to their shipping facilities at Port Esquivel in Clarendon.
Only a small portion of the land bought by the company is used for mining at any one time. To utilize the rest of their holdings Alcanís agricultural department developed a model livestock (beef and dairy cattle) and citrus operation on 8,000 acres. They also supervise 4,600 tenant farmers on another 23,000 acres. In 1978 a joint venture agreement with the government of Jamaica transformed Alcan Jamaica into Jamalcan with the government company, Jamaica Bauxite Mining Ltd, acquiring 7% of Alcanís mining and refining assets and all bauxite lands. Alcan Jamaica retains the management of Jamalcan. Alcan has proved to be the most dependable of the bauxite/alumina companies operating in Jamaica. It has never closed, and was first to appoint a Jamaican as Chief Executive. The current General Manager is Dr Keith Panton. At the bottom of Shooters Hill, as you approach Mandeville from the north, the first thing you see is the Kirkvine factory. A large mined out area and the red mud lake are visible to the R as you begin the climb via Kendal to Mandeville. Alcanís corporate office flanks the golf course on Brumalia Road. Their staff Sports club in the residential area of Ingleside offers badminton, swimming pool and gymnasium. Use of these facilities can be arranged by a member. Tours of the factory by appointment.
As you leave Mandeville at Spur Tree, you will pass Alpartís corporate offices and see their Nain factory on the plain below. Alpart was originally a partnership between Kaiser Bauxite, Anaconda and Reynolds who during the 1960s pooled technology and land assets and invested US$200 million in a state of the art plant which began operations in 1969, but became a cost nightmare when oil prices skyrocketed during the 1970s. Anaconda sold out to the other two partners and by 1985 Alpart had closed. Subsequently Reynolds sold out to Kaiser and Norsk Hydro and in 1990 the plant re-opened under Kaiserís management.
A 9 mile cable belt conveyor built in the early 1980s allows Alpart to mine high quality ore on the Manchester plateau. The alumina is transported by private railway from the factory at Nain to Port Kaiser near Alligator Pond; a port that was built by Kaiser and originally used to export bauxite.
Like other bauxite/alumina companies Alpart has an extensive land rehabilitation and agricultural program, run by Alpart Farms, and is also involved in community work. Perhaps their greatest gift to the area is water. St Elizabeth is a notoriously dry parish and Alpart provided water free from their wells at Nain to surrounding districts. However, red mud disposal has created problems. Before Alpart closed in 1985, U.W.I. scientists had documented the fact that the water table at Pepper was being polluted by seepage from the Alpart mudlake. The condition of the aquifer since the plant re-opened is unclear. Tours can be arranged by appointment.
The oldest country club in the island has seen major changes since its Golf and Tennis weeks were the most eagerly awaited social events of the year. The old clubhouse has been sold to Scotia Bank Jamaica to be the site of its computer centre. A new clubhouse complete with tennis courts is on the other side of the challenging golf course, the oldest in the Western hemisphere. Admission can be arranged through your hotel.
WEST INDIES COLLEGE
This Seventh Day Adventist complex offering education from primary to tertiary level enforces a strict code of conduct, a vegetarian diet, and emphasizes the dignity of manual labour by requiring all students to complete a number of hours in the College bakery, printery, workshops or farm before graduation.
Mr Cecil C. Charlton is a retired politician, self-made millionaire (Charles-Off betting shops), farmer and philanthropist whose palatial octagonal home, Huntingdon Summit, is open to the public by appointment. Charlton served as Mayor of Mandeville for over 20 years and to some people will always be Mayor Charlton. The house crowns a hill on the eastern edge of town, the first of a growing number of palatial Mandeville residences.
An eighteenth century great house set in a delightful garden on a 300 acre cattle property. Once a farm house and coffee factory owned by the Earl of Balcarres, Governor of Jamaica 1795 to 1801, it has been continuously occupied ever since and is filled with antiques, paintings and curios, each item with its own fascinating story which the owners Mr Arthur Sutton and Mr and Mrs Robert Sutton will relate to you. Tours can be arranged through Countrystyle Ltd. Birdwatching and hiking are also available here. Robert Sutton, an ornithologist and his wife Anne, an environmental scientist, are both extremely knowledgeable about the island's wildlife and ecology. Accommodation is also available by arrangement.
The birthplace of Jamaican National Hero, the Rt. Excellent Norman Manley, founder of the People's National Party and Premier 1955-1962. The site is maintained by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. The house was destroyed by fire, leaving only the barbeques used for drying pimento grains and a terraced garden. There is a stunning view over the plains of Clarendon. Manley's older cousin and future political rival Alexander Bustamante worked on the farm here for a short time before leaving for a life of adventure in Cuba, Spain and the U.S. In later years Manley remembered him as a skilled horseman.
Manley, a British trained barrister, was a brilliant advocate. A somewhat austere person, lacking the charisma of his cousin Busta, Norman Manley possessed an ironic sense of humour and in his younger days was an outstanding athlete. His sophistication and singleminded pursuit of political independence made him the hero of the emerging middle class. He married his English born cousin Edna, an artist in her own right. The couple lived at Drumblair (then a suburb of the city) and attracted a circle of Jamaican artists, writers and scholars. The Drumblair Set has had a profound impact on politics and art for almost three decades. Manley's younger son Michael graduated from Trade Union leader to succeed his father as President of the PNP and twice Prime Minister of Jamaica. An official function marking the national hero's birthday is held here every.
THINGS TO DO
HIKING AND HORSEBACK RIDING: at Perth Great House, a Georgian mansion built in 1760 and owned by John Nightingale's family for over 100 years. Phone (809) 962-2822.
CUSTOM BUILT ECO TOURS: When he is not too busy planning and lobbying for alternative energy projects for rural districts, Tony Goffe will plan and conduct eco-tours to cater to special interests, be it fossiling for agates, hunting for orchids or exploring the source of rivers. Phone (809) 962-2149.
MRS STEPHENSON'S GARDEN: Reputed to be one of the finest in the island. Tours, conducted by the horticulturist herself, can be arranged.
FACTORY TOURS: The High Mountain Coffee and Chocolate Factory at Williamsfield, the Pickapepper Sauce Factory at Shooters Hill and the Bammy Factory in Mandeville can all be toured by appointment.
COUNTRYSTYLE TOURS: This local company, based at Astra Hotel and owned by Mandeville's tourism dynamo Diana MacIntyre-Pike, can introduce you to all the above. They also have listings of accommodation options from luxurious villas with maids and butler to modest bed and breakfast rooms.
Their latest project Village Tourism provides an authentic introduction to the life of a rural Jamaican village using trained community guides the local school teacher, postmistress, pastor or shopkeeper, etc. and allows you to attend or participate in community events like church harvests, school fairs, independence celebrations, etc.
PLACES TO STAY
MANDEVILLE HOTEL just off the town square in a pleasant garden: a small hotel, with pool, restaurant and bar. It is owner-managed by the McIntyre family and noted for good food and service. Prior to 1875, the site was the Officers Quarters and Mess of the incumbent British regiment. This was converted into the Waverly Hotel, then the Brooks Hotel and became the Mandeville Hotel in 1912. Very popular with locals for over 100 years.
ASTRA is a Country Inn, Tourism information centre and home away from home marketed by Diana McIntyre-Pike, (daughter of the owners of The Mandeville). Comfortable rooms, good food and Jamaican hospitality.
GOLF VIEW INN: New, comfortable rooms overlooking the Golf Course, owned by Mr and Mrs James, operators of Olde Wharf Hotel in Treasure Beach.
CALEDONIA GUEST HOUSE: Refurbished great house on a hill off Caledonia Avenue. Good View of Mandeville. Operated in association with Caribic Tours.
RESTAURANTS: Popular restaurants include The Feeding Tree (Chinese cuisine) on Manchester Road, Bamboo Village (Chinese) on Ward Avenue, The Den (Jamaican Cooking) on Caledonia, Snappers (for sea food) on Manchester Road and International Chinese Restaurant on Manchester Road.
DI'S WHIRL AROUND MANDEVILLE
Diana MacIntyre-Pike, manager of Astra is unique among Jamaican hoteliers in that she urges her guests to travel around and experience the real Jamaica. Her Mandeville Town Tour - on the house for Astra guests - takes the following route: from Astra on Ward Avenue to Greenvale Road and then to Manchester High School; turn R up Perth Road and R again up Bloomfield hill to the former Bloomfield Guest house, once the site of Bill Laurie's popular Steak House, it recently changed hands. But whatever it becomes, the crest of the hill is still the best place to get a bird's eye view of the town centre.
From here through Grove Road to Newleigh Road and past Bishopís High School for girls, an Anglican institution now government funded, on the site of the old Newleigh hotel. On to DeCarteret School, a crumbling Victorian mansion, once the King Edward Hotel and now resembling more than ever the horror house in Hitchcock's Psycho. DC, founded over a century ago as an exclusive Anglican boy's school is now government aided and co-educational.
Turn R along DeCarteret Road and L into Godfrey Lands, a pastoral residential subdividsion. A short excursion along the Newport road reveals in the distance L Mayor Charlton's mansion, (see above) and on the hill ahead and R the West Indies College (see above); visitors welcome at both. A sign points the way to Roxborough, birthplace of Norman Washington Manley (see above). Back into town along Manchester Road you pass R a JDF camp and then L St. Joseph's Academy, a Catholic school now government aided, and L St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church. Further on L is the Church Teacher's Training College once the site of the Manchester Hotel, then on your R the Methodist Church. Willogate Plaza on your L has a variety of shops.
Next stop the square where there is one way traffic clockwise around The Green now renamed Cecil Charlton Park after the ebullient former Mayor. Here you may meet Shut, one of several official greeters coached by Countrystyle Ltd. Another of the friendly people you may meet as you stroll on the Green is Denis Roberts, a photographer who has operated an open-air studio here for nearly 15 years. The Georgian Courthouse, north of the Green is usually swarming with litigants. It faces, across the Green, the market (busiest on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) and St Mark's Parish Church. Just east of the Green on Hotel St is the Mandeville Hotel, probably the oldest in the island and dating from the late 1800s when everybody who was anybody tried to spend the summer there.
Manchester road leads north and downhill past the Mayor's parlour and offices of the Parish Council, the Library, and two hospitals.Tucked behind them is the SWA Craft Centre sponsored by the Women's Club of Mandeville where girls learn and practice home economics skills producing crochet, embroidery, cloth dolls and pastries for sale. At the junction with Caledonia road turn L for Manchester Shopping Centre (just about everything you need available here, including fast food), then R along New Green Road and R again into Ingleside with the Alcan Sports Club and executive residences complete with fireplaces. (Yes, it does sometimes get cold enough to use them.)
Or bear left and then right along Brumalia road passing right KLAS Radio Station, then the entrance to the Manchester Golf Club and then the Alcan Corporate offices, then past the Bible School, the undulating fairways of the golf course and the playing fields of Brooks park venue for football matches. You have come full circle to Astra, where you can always get more detailed information on other interesting places like the following:
TOURS OUT OF MANDEVILLE
Off the beaten track and approximately 24 miles or 30 minutes from Mandeville via Santa Cruz and Lacovia, are a refreshing contrast to crowded Dunns River. The owners do not advertise, do not accept large groups and there is not even a sign on the highway. YS estate is located just beyond Bamboo Avenue a short distance along an unpredictable country road. One of the leading racehorse stud farms in the island, YS also produces beef cattle and export papayas. The base for visiting the Falls is an extension of what used to be a tiny crossroads rum shop. There are picnic tables, bar, snack shop, grill, restrooms and a gift shop. You ride a tractor-drawn jitney to the falls over a stream and through the pastures with grazing cows and brood mares. The owners, the Browne family, are descended from the Marquis of Sligo, the colourful (and colourblind) Governor of Jamaica when slavery was abolished in 1834. The origin of the name YS is obscure. It has been suggested that it derives from the Gaelic "wyess" meaning winding which describes the course of the river.
Up at the falls you can relax on an emerald green lawn and just look, or you can climb to the top beside them. The dramatic three-tiered waterfall is most dramatic when the river is in spate and the brown water thunders and foams, misting you with spray as you climb. In dry weather the postcard pretty river sings a gentler song as it plunges and froths into green-blue pools. Swimming is permitted and there are lifeguards on duty. A sign posted at the base reports the condition of the river each day. Some of the flora at the falls, like the Cartwheel plant are extremely rare.
APPLETON RUM TOUR
The Appleton Estate has been producing sugar and rum since 1749. It is the largest of three sugar estates/factories owned by J. Wray and Nephew, the others being New Yarmouth in Clarendon and Holland, adjacent to Bamboo Avenue in St. Elizabeth. This billion dollar company began in 1825 as a popular Kingston rum shop. John Wray, owner of The Shakespeare Tavern at Parade in Kingston, made his fortune blending and selling rum. Just before his retirement in 1864 he took his fashionable nephew Colonel Charles Ward into the business. Ward expanded the scope of the company, acquiring sugar estates and import agencies. Today, J. Wray and Nephew is one of the island's leading exporters and its core business remains the production, blending and bottling of rum.
Appleton, located at the edge of the Cockpit Country where the Black River meets the St. Elizabeth plain, produces 16000 tons of sugar and 10,000,000 litres of rum annually. This white rum is then blended and bottled in their Kingston production plant.
The Rum Tour covers all aspects of production with an introductory video presentation followed by a visit to the distillery. En route you will see the 100 year old donkey driven cane mill and sample fresh cane juice, molasses, wet sugar, high wine and finally Appleton Rum, considered by some connoisseurs to be the finest in the world. Should you wish you can purchase all you want, plus other Appleton products like Mad Annie and Rum Cream in the gift shop which also features items made by St. Elizabeth craftsmen