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Nutmeg Plantations in Grenada

Nuts on a nutmeg tree
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Nutmeg Plantations in Grenada

[ Page of interest: Grenada ]

The role of the nutmeg plantation is not yet finished in Grenada. There are several estates that can be visited, stayed in or are open for lunch. Here are the best ones to tour:

Tower House

Tower House in St. Paul’s has large, stone gateposts bearing its name. From St. George’s, it is on the left after St. Paul’s police station. Gothic in style and built from grey stone and red brick, it is reminiscent of a Scottish castle. The owners have worked very hard to create the sort of formal garden that would not be out of place in an English stately home. This is a must for any garden enthusiast. In addition, it is a working plantation and you can find drying trays of cloves and cocoa beans in the back areas. Admission by appointment only, 473-440-3243.

Dougaldston Estate

Dougaldston Estate is immediately south of Gouyave. Turn right between the bus stop painted in Air Jamaica livery and the cemetery. Follow the dusty road as it forks left across a small bridge and between two yellow gateposts. The parking area is behind the buildings.

If only walls could talk, you’d learn a lot about the past 300 years since Dougaldston was established in 1700. It was a rebel stronghold during Fedon’s Rebellion. The cane fields were swamped in seawater by the wave action produced by the bubbling Lagoon in St. George’s in 1867. At one time the estate encompassed 1,000 acres and had 200 laborers. Today, only 24 employees work the estate. It is hard to believe the place is still functioning, as the buildings appear run down, yet it remains the major producer of nutmeg and cloves on the island.

Several people that work in the boucan or main building, also give tours. The lady in charge gives a lovely presentation of the spices and can tell you how they are used in foods and as bush medicine. You can sample pimento, cinnamon, bay, clove and nutmeg. In the office, old ledgers dating from the early 1900s line the walls. Outside, large drying racks can be rolled underneath the boucan in bad weather. If there aren’t too many other tourists around, ask if you can see the building where cocoa is processed. Spices are sold on the premises. Open 8 am-3:30 pm, Monday to Saturday.

Rosemount Estate

Rosemount Estate is inland from Gouyave. Take the road by the Texaco gas station and turn right at the sign to Waterloo. From Grenville, take the Clozier road north of Birch Grove. It makes an excellent lunchtime venue as you progress up the leeward coast or hike the Grand Etang area. Originally called the Montrose Estate, the name was changed when the British took control of Grenada in the 1760s.

During Fedon’s Rebellion, slaves fled from Rosemount to Gouyave, enticed by French ideals of freedom and the fear of the French finding them in service to the British. After peace was restored, it was incorporated into the large sugar estates of Dougaldston and St. Martin. Today it is much smaller in size and the present owners, the Duncans, grow bananas, nutmeg, cocoa and vegetables. The cool breeze on the hillside and stunning flower garden will certainly make you glad you found the place. Behind the restaurant is an old boucan where mace is dried on railracks. Lunch is by reservation only, 473-444-8069.

Hellvellyn House

Hellvellyn House is to the east of Sauteurs. The house dates from 1941 and was built by Alister Gleam, a self-taught engineer, sailor and electrician. All of the stone came from a local quarry and had been intended for a fort. This is our favorite place for a West Indian lunch and breathtaking views of the Grenadines. From the garden you can see Caribs’ Leap in nearby Sauteurs, where the Caribs in 1652 chose death rather than capture by the French. The gardens are beautifully laid out with flowering trees such as frangipani and flamboyant. Fruit trees of golden apple, passion fruit, soursop and papaya border the garden. Taking center stage is a large mahogany, providing shade during the heat of the day. A calabash tree hangs heavy with gourds and air plants that look like part of the tree itself, and not just using it as a host. A stone terrace looks north toward the underwater volcano called "Kick ‘Em Jenny", the cays called "The Sisters", and islands farther up the chain. The present owner is Karen Maaroufi, grand-daughter of Alister Gleam. Together with her husband and willing staff, she will see to it that you feel right at home.

Lunch is served 11 am-3 pm, Monday to Friday, and on Sundays for brunch, by reservation only, as this is a popular spot with tour parties; 473-442-9252.

Morne Fendue Plantation House

Morne Fendue Plantation House is farther east of Sauteurs and on the road to Mount Rich. Sitting on the foundations of a 1700s house, the present building was built in 1908 from a mixture of stone, lime and molasses plaster. There are no steel or concrete walls on the old house. An addition of eight lodging rooms built in 2002 blends in nicely. The gardens are stunning. Trees and shrubs of varied colors and flowering seasons surround the house. Don’t be too alarmed by bats flying about; locals hardly seem to notice them and they do keep the mosquito population down.

The house belongs to Dr. Jean Thompson, the medical director of the northern region of Grenada. The previous owner, Betty Mascoll, had made it a favorite stop for visitors, and the house contains many momentos of her life. The guestroom above the entrance was where Princess Margaret slept in the 1950s when she arrived aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. Lunch is by reservation, 473-442-9330. Dinner and breakfast are available for overnight guests. Belmont Estate spans the communities of Tivoli, Hermitage and Coobarrie in the parishes of St. Patrick and St. Andrew. It was John Aitcheson from Airdrie in Scotland who owned the estate when it was leased to Alexander Campbell in 1770.

Campbell would later lose his life at Fedon’s Camp. When Aitcheson died in 1780, the estate was valued at close to US$2.5 million in today’s money. Purchased by the Houstoun family of London, England, it remained in their trust until 1944. Then it was sold to the Nyack family, who still own it today. This was something of a landmark as the Nyacks were the first Grenadians of Indian descent to own an estate. Belmont was one of their six plantations on the island. It is quite unusual for an estate to have had only three owners since 1765.

Ruins of the sugarworks stand as a centerpiece for the garden in a working plantation that has turned from sugar to cocoa and nutmeg, with an additional 10 acres of fruit trees. Striving to be organic and working to help build their local communities, Belmont is very active in a number of ways. Summer school programs and the building of a local library are just two of their commitments so far.

Here you can observe the process of what happens to a cocoa bean from harvest to export. Although cocoa is grown on the estate, Belmont also purchases from local farmers and sells directly to the Grenada Cocoa Association. Visitors can inspect not only the cocoa process, but also the making of coconut oil and charcoal, and walk along the nature trails within the estate. As part of their cocoa bean tour, you get a taste of “cocoa tea.” A small museum gives a glimpse into the life of the owners, Mr. & Mrs. Nyack, with clothing, furniture, horseracing memorabilia and plantation records. A tasty West Indian lunch is served on the premises. It’s essential to call for reservations as Belmont is sure to be busy during the high season. 473-442-9524.

La Sagesse Nature Centre

The main house of La Sagesse Nature Centre looks very much like one of the grand estate houses elsewhere on the island. It is younger than the old plantation houses, but its history is no less checkered.

It was built in the 1960s by Lord Brownlow, one of the British aristocracy and cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, as his piedà-terre in Grenada. He already owned other properties in the Caribbean, notably in Jamaica and St. Lucia. His visits were few and far between, echoing the behavior of absentee landlords of West Indian estates in the previous two centuries. Though he expected his privacy to be respected, he nonetheless installed gates at his property line and refused local people access across his land to the beautiful La Sagesse Bay.

Small wonder that, when the Peoples’ Revolution came about in 1979, it began at these gates. A mob stormed through and ransacked the house. It later became a temporary barracks for the Peoples’ Army. Lord Brownlow made no efforts to recover his property and the house started to go to ruin.

In the late 1980s American art history specialist, Mike Meranski, was touring Grenada by motorbike and found La Sagesse and a new vocation at the same time. After negotiations, he became the new owner, restaurateur, hotelier and keeper of the La Sagesse Nature Centre.

The most striking feature of the house is the external staircase leading to Mike’s personal apartment. It flows from the upper floor, a cascade in pink stone, like a lolling tongue. Many artists have tried to capture the look and feel of La Sagesse on canvas. These paintings are dotted around the main buildings of this delightful place. 473-444-6458.

Last updated May 24, 2011
Posted in   Grenada  |  Nutmeg in Grenada
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