You drop down into beautiful Wellington in a comfortable basin amidst mountains, just beyond Paarl, about 72 km from Cape Town. People have lived their since the Stone Age, one hopes as happily as they do now.
The mountains are the same, the winter rain is the same, the spring flowers are the same and the summer heat is the same. But there is much that Stone Age man would find strange.
For one thing there are the relaxed vineyards roundabout and the town itself.
As you come in there is the grand Dutch Reformed Church with the great Andrew Murray gazing thoughtfully down the gentle main street. There is nothing loud or brash about Wellington, just a thoughtful kindness.
The mountains are the Groenberg and the Hawequa, the river the Kromme, though the Berg River between Paarl and Wellington is the big river with its famous canoe marathon each year. The vines came with the Huguenots who found a haven there. Andrew Murray was the learned dominee. And so Wellington is a place of religion and education – and rugby, for it is home to Boland Rugby Union's headquarters at Boland Stadium, not a swanky ground but a comfortable ground.
Stone Age man lived there and so did the San and the Khoi till people came from Europe, mostly Dutch, French and then English.
The Dutch called it Limietvallei – the boundary (limit) of their African world. The French came and called it Val Du Charron which became in Dutch/Afrikaans Wagenmakersvallei. The English came and their hero was the Duke of Wellington, the Iron Duke who smashed Napoleon's ambitions at Waterloo and then became Prime Minister – the saviour of his people. The place then became Wellington in 1840.
It became more accessible in 1853 when Bain's Kloof Pass was built and even more accessible in 1863 when the railway reached Wellington. Because the farmer who gave the land for the station did so on condition that every train stopped at Wellington, every train stops there.
From Andrew Murray's time churches and schools have flourished in Wellington.
Hoërskool Bergrivier was founded in 1849 after 20 years of effort to get the school going. Like most schools it started small. Like all good schools it grew bog. It started with 41 pupils in the Friendly Society Hall. It grew and acquired more property – the IOTT Hall, the Unity Society Building, Auntie Caroline's Cafe and the AME Church. In 1951 it became a high school and in 1953 it got a school building – a wooden one. In 1975 it gained a koshuis and then a brick building and a hall.
By 1983 it had roughly 2000 pupils and @Weltevrede, now great rivals, was born out of Bergrivier and then in 2003 Wellington Sekondêr.
From its beginnings the school has excelled academically, culturally and on the sportsfield, from philosopher-poet Adam Small to Mayor Herman bailey and recent sporting hero Randall April.
In 1998 and 1999 Bergrivier was voted Boland's Sports School of the Year. It does well in drama, dancing and choir.
Name: Hoërskool Bergrivier
Address: 325 Voor Street, Wellington
Motto: Werk Lewer Sukses (World produces success)
Number of Pupils: 1 530
The school has its share of famous old boys – Jackie Abrahams, the president of Boland, François Davids who captained SARU and became, in unified SARFU, the convener of national selector, Brendon April who plays for the Falcons and Randall April who played for SA Schools in 2004 and the for SA Under-19 team which won the World Championship in 2005.
Rival schools include Paulus Joubert, New Orleans and Charleston Hills of Paarl but above all its own child, Weltevrede. Since 1986 Weltevrede and Bergrivier have competed academically, culturally and sportingly. The competition between the two has always been close but it has been a healthy competition that has not spoilt community unity.