Home' Travel News : October-November 2015 Contents 24 travel news october november 2015
october november 2015 travel news 25
My book about searching for Happy Valley’s old colonial homes has caused a few
ripples, but I never expected to be contacted by the Nyandarua County Government.
Their reason was music to my ears and great news for Kenya - the government wanted
to do up the old colonial houses as part of a tourism circuit and would I advise them?
And thus I found myself in a government car, complete with darkened windows, flag
on the bonnet, and a man built like a bodyguard sitting beside the equally large and
muscular driver. I sat in the back chatting to the County Assembly Speaker of Nyandarua.
On the seat beside him was a copy of The Ghosts of Happy Valley. ‘I’m reading it for
the second time,’ he said. The Hon. Wahome Ndegwa is also a lawyer, and as we sped
towards the once infamous area, which continues to capture imaginations globally, he
told me about his historic court case. Hearing and seeing that many colonial buildings
and houses were being demolished he decided stop the destruction of part of Kenya’s
heritage. ‘I had to take private owners, hospitals, schools and the government to court,’
he explained. ‘I won the case and now it’s gazetted. Nobody can destroy a building of
THE RESURRECTION OF
Re-Visiting The Houses
by Juliet Barnes
This new law has come in the nick of time: some of the old houses
have already gone and others are in need of some extensive and
expensive repairs. But this preliminary trip was a thrilling beginning
- never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that a chance reading of
my book could snowball into big plans for the restoration of these old
and neglected colonial relics.
Happy Valley’s name was thoroughly tarnished by the debauched
antics of a small clique of white settlers in the 1920s and 30s. High on
drugs and alcohol they indulged in liberal sexual escapades (shocking
even by today’s standards) until the murder of Lord Erroll in early
1941. This and the War calmed them down a bit. A high-profile court
case failed to convict Erroll’s current mistress’s husband as murderer
- and the serially unfaithful Earl’s killer remains a mystery today with
new theories appearing with every book on the subject. Erroll only
lived briefly in Happy Valley as the Hon. Josslyn Hay, 3rd husband of
Happy Valley’s doyenne, Lady Idina. Their mud-walled home, Slains,
has returned to dust, but Idina continued to live in Happy Valley with
subsequent husbands in a stone house called Clouds, which still
My book isn’t only about this salacious set; it’s also about my self-
appointed guide into the area - a man called Solomon Gitau. Solomon
was born in Happy Valley a year before independence and the old
houses always interested him, albeit coming second to his passion
to save colobus monkeys and their forest environment. Solomon’s
quest is nothing less than heroic. He’s not paid, he doesn’t have
any money, nor much education, but he makes up for it with dogged
determination. His own life story is a sobering exposé of some of
Kenya’s hidden horrors, but happily for Solomon one positive result
of The Ghosts of Happy Valley has been successfully moving some
small bands of threatened colobus from receding pockets of forest to
safer areas - notably the Karura Forest.
Today as we headed up to Happy Valley with a retinue of government
officials, I certainly wasn’t leaving Solomon out: we both felt that
environmental conservation should go hand in hand with historical
restoration in this proposed project.
We’d met earlier at the County Tourism Minister’s office just outside
Ol Kalou. The Hon. Peter Gathimba, also Minister for Wildlife and
Sports, was delightful, his enthusiasm infectious. After mugs of tea
and various introductions to meet today’s team which included a
tourism consultant, several County Tourism Officers, John Njoroge
the County Permanent Secretary, and various interns, we headed off
to meet HE, the County Governor Daniel Waithaka Mwangi.
The Kruger House
The writer Juliet Barnes
at a book signing; on her
publishers UK tour.
Links Archive August-September 2015 December 2015 January 2016 Navigation Previous Page Next Page