Up to now, the island has been good at presenting to the visitor the beauty of its nature (see above), and the reality of its present-day rum, nutmeg and spice production. The domestic and industrial past have been under-represented. Belmont offers not just a site, but an area with a number of attractions.
To start with the unique part: not far from the ruins of a sugar mill (the estate change from its original sugar to nutmeg and cocoa production), there is a long wooden building housing furniture, kitchen equipment, estate ledgers, phone books, personal effects (diaries, clothing, trophies, photographs, toys, ornaments, old passports…) that belonged to the Nyack family, who bought the estate in 1944. It is sorted logically by area: roped off into 'rooms'.
At last we get a glimpse of life 'the way it was' around the middle of the last century. A first for Grenada.
Outside, there is more tradition. There is an old hand-cranked whetstone, for sharpening 'cutlasses'. You may be able to see the 'cocoa dance', where the fermented beans are 'polished' by tipping them into a big old 'copper' basin, then trodden barefoot to remove the fermentation residue. There are a fair few farm animals about, too: a horse, donkeys, sheep, goats, cows, chickens, ducks. And you might meet one very non-farm animal: a pet monkey is in residence. And then there’s the tortoises…
And there is the working cocoa fermentary. Cocoa beans are brought here by the growers, put into wooden bins, covered with banana leaves and sacking, and the beans ferment as the white 'slime' surrounding them dribbles away. Then the beans are dried on big wooden trays on wheels that can be pushed under cover if it rains. All this can be found elsewhere on the Island, but Belmont additionally has old steam equipment that was once used to 'polish' and dry the fermented beans. It has been rescued from decay, cleaned, painted, and presented for inspection. It is not (yet?) under steam, but it nonetheless a fascinating piece of industrial archaeology. The more modern version, electrically ignited and diesel fuelled, is also on site. (If this interests you, visit also Rivers Rum, not far away, and Clarke’s Court, 'down south'.)
The roadside area is being landscaped: visitors will be able to see a substantial number of flowers, trees, and shrubs of the island, planted under the guidance of Dawne Fletcher, past president of the Horticultural Society.
This already provides 'three attractions for the price of one', yet it is not all. There is plenty of scope for walking: up the hill to see a sumptuous view to the east (Atlantic) coast and some Grenadines islands. Part way uphill will take you to the grave of John Aitcheson of Scotland, one-time owner of the estate, who died in 1780. A walk down across the road, then across the river, will take you to a riverside garden with flowers, palms, fruit trees and foliage trees. A trail is planned.
Of course, there are refreshments available. Local fruit juices make a pleasant change from the ubiquitous bottled drinks, and are not over-sweetened as is so often the case. Lunch is first-rate. Local ingredients (such as fish, chicken, callaloo, cou-cou, alongside more familiar but imaginatively cooked ingredients) are kept hot over traditional coal pots. Although not primarily a restaurant, Belmont really sets a standard by which to judge local restaurants.
Today's Nyacks have a social conscience. They are establishing a library for the use of local children, organize a summer school for them, hold an annual kite-flying competition, and have held a health fair for estate workers and members off the local community. It is their aim that all agricultural production on the estate should be organic, and they are not far off that goal.
At last, a slice of colonial and post-colonial history has been sensitively and unsentimentally presented. Belmont Estate gives you a good feel of Grenada of today and yesteryear, of the interrelatedness of landscape and human activity. One impression is certain: everyone you meet is approachable, informative, and friendly; be they the proprietors or the estate workers and gardeners. You feel welcome.
For more information contact Belmont Estate direct on: +1 (473) 442 9524 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Writing & Photography by Ian Blaikie - Sunsation Tours