ONCE UPON A TIME...

The Mukima Sanctuary, or Ol Kinyei as it was originally known, was purchased in the 1930’s by Col Thomas G Chippendale Lewin OBE MC, his portrait can be found above the fireplace in one of the front bedrooms. Here he ranched beef cattle and built a splendid home for his wife Yvonne David and their only son, Paddy. The interior of the house was entirely paneled in red cedar and boasted a magnificent staircase. Thomas Lewin, or “Chippy” as he was commonly known, was of the UK Bushmill Distillery family and came out to Kenya to ranch cattle. He also started up the Smithfield Butchery in Nanyuki. Paddy grew up in the house, wild and free, fishing, hunting and riding until he left for Eton and Oxford, where he excelled as a scholar. Some of his childhood friends still live around Nanyuki and have happy memories of Paddy, the house and social events held at the Manor House.

AND THEN ALONG CAME…

Joseph Kimotho Mugambi bought the land and farmhouse in 1954 from Yvonne and Paddy, after Thomas’s death. The house at that time was in the shape of an H, without the back section, which was added later by Mugambi. Mugambi constructed a steel development to the north of the house and A frame bandas to the south, you can still see the foundations. He planned to run a hotel, using the original building as a reception and restaurant. Unfortunately, the restoration work was not well done: the cedar timbers were gouged out with crude carvings and daubed with primary coloured paint, badly planned and constructed extensions were attempted. The staircase and cedar paneling disappeared; partitions were erected using offcuts and at one point the roof fell in.

Mugambi, who had not been able to obtain an operators licence, appeared to abandon the project. The house sat empty and rotting for decades, the remaining paneling, windows and doors stripped out for firewood and the fine timbers slowly rotted away. A fire in the late eighties destroyed the steel structures and further damaged the house. In December 2003, a company purchased the farm for horticulture agriculture however, after clearing much of the property’s forest and flora, this project failed and it looked as though the property and house were to be abandoned again.

But, not all hope was lost…

TO THE RESCUE

When Leslie Duckworth, a brave, creative pioneer, learned about Mukima’s tragic story, she visited the estate and was met with the scars of neglect and abuse, however she felt a desire to revive it, she had a vision. Although a huge undertaking for one woman, Leslie rolled up her sleeves and set about restoring the house to its former glory, honouring its original structure wherever she could find hints of its history, such as the old photographs now hanging in the cinema room. She also began an ambitious re-wilding and tree planting project to help re-establish the 360 acres of fauna and flora, returning the land to the wilderness that thrived here before. After a few years of hard graft restoration, Leslie opened the doors to the public in January 2006. She then went on to protect the border by designing and building 10 beautiful ranch-style houses that now make up Mukima Ridge. Leslie was the motivation and inspiration behind so much of what Mukima is today, she was taken from us far too early, a much loved and admired lady. Leslie died in late August 2020, her youngest daughter Anna worked close beside Leslie during her last 5 years, they were two of a kind with a shared love for Mukima and their project in Lamu.

1. IS MUKIMA 100% OFF-GRID?

yes we are, above all we are kind to our planet

5. WHATS AN UNUSUAL CREATURE AT MUKIMA?

the clawless otter

2. YOU MAY BE SUPRISED TO LEARN:

all profits go back into protecting the sanctuary

6. THE QUALITY THAT MAKES MUKIMA SUCCESSFUL:

we (the staff) are all so in love with Mukima, it’s contagious!

3. HOW FAR FROM NAIROBI IS MUKIMA

3-4 hour drive

20min flight

7. CAN WE RIDE HORSES

Absolutely, just need to book ahead
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