by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
In March last year there was a terrible fire and Silvermine was closed to hikers. Much mining, whoaning and whinging until it was opened again. National Parks explained - boardwalk must be replaced, seedlings are sprouting, animals need shelter, not safe for walking. Also taking the opportunity to reroute paths and sort out erosion control. In September the park was reopened, but it was April before we got to Silvermine West. In May we explored Silvermine East.
Due to the fire baboons have moved up from the Tokai pine plantation (which is still closed while they are felling burnt pines). We passed two scientists researching after the fire - what is That Plant? - Sorry, we are from Libya, still have to learn the plants.
The Elephant's Eye on the sign is a cave - which is still on our list. I was impressed by the Stone Path meticulously paved along the ridge. Then by the gabions zigzagging along what would be a stream in a winter downpour. Each gabion has its resident lizard enjoying the sun till we disturbed it.
Mid-month we walked on the new boardwalk along the Silvermine River to the dam. We walked slowly around the dam, pausing at a little beach, just big enough for one or two people. A week later we started at the dam and hiked up to a view I have wanted to see for years!
We saw no baboons - for which we are grateful. Not inclined to defend our lunch from a troop of baboons - and it puts the animals at risk of later being culled as 'problem' animals. Birds and lizards we saw.
All the brown in this picture is burnt protea bushes. The woody seedheads are tightly closed during the fire. Later when conditions are right (a little rain) the seedheads open and scatter drifts of fluffy seed. And later still ... we could see hundreds of brave seedlings.
Blooming on the mountain I saw Pelargonium, Bulbine, Oxalis and the king protea which grow in our garden. Also Erica, Struthiola, Gladiolus, daisies and more.
When I was a child we would come to Constantia Neck on Sunday for tea and scones. Sometimes down to the town / suburb of Hout Bay with a working fishing harbour, an artist's enclave, and a beach with dunes unlike Camps Bay's promenade. And rarely my father would continue to Chapman's Peak Drive (history). Such a beautiful road and view before the avalanche protection (engineering) 'disneyfied' it. Ending at Noordhoek with its long beach from which we looked back to Hout Bay.
I expected it to be a mission to get up to this from on high view. But we cheat by driving up to Silvermine and starting at a height of 440 metres. It was a pleasant three hour walk with lots of photo stops and a lunch break.
I have no head for heights and felt as if I was perched on the edge of a precipice (622 metres down to the sea) so I found myself a little curvy stone armchair on the saddle where I could look securely across rocks and plants. I was accompanied by a sunbathing lizard.
The Ungardener preferred to enjoy the view we came to see. Even this photo makes me feel uneasy!
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