With Summer reluctant to let go of her grip, the prospect of hiking up Devil’s Peak with no shade or wind for relief was too much, and so we changed to a gentle flat stroll through Tokai forest. As luck (or unluck) would have it, today was the day set aside for a prescribed controlled burn(see below) of the fynbos on the perimeter of the forest and so we were not allowed past the official who manned the red and white plastic ribbon barring our way. Back to the cars, and off to Peddlars to start on the Spaanschemat/Grootboschkloof greenbelt as our third choice of the day. Leafy shade accompanied us all the way to the fynbos garden, making walking conditions delightful with only a hint of warmth in the air, but once we turned to cross the greenbelt, we could feel that the sun had not lost its heat and sought a shady spot to have a refreshment break.
The view from the hill allowed us to see the smoke from the burn, framed by tall pines and oak trees that show no signs of their leaves turning. Nature knows best, and we must assume that Autumn is not quite ready to produce the burnished gold and dusty oranges that spread through the valley at the turn of the seasons. The smoke towered skyward, a man-made thundercloud in shades of sepia and grey – impressive and awe-inspiring as the still air allowed it to climb unhindered. That did not last, and an upper air drift soon spread the smoke far and wide, covering the southern suburbs with a haze and even the mountains of Silvermine, where hiking must have been quite unpleasant. A pair of horseriders appeared along various parts of the trail, and it seemed our paths were destined to cross as we waved multiple times – mink and manure in the heart of the suburbs.
A shorter route meant we did not go as far as the busy road, but rather meandered beneath shady trees in the hills of lower Constantia (the largest suburb in Cape Town), admiring gardens, wrought iron gates, and immaculate verges as we wended our way back to the start of the trail and a final burst of sunshine to end off an otherwise pleasantly shaded walk. Highly recommended as an alternative to some of the busier greenbelts.
NOTE: “Prescribed burning is conducted under suitable weather conditions and at appropriate time intervals to encourage reproduction and growth in fynbos species and to prevent the build-up of fuel loads. While a number of fuel reduction burns have been conducted in the area, this was the first prescribed burn to take place in the selected block in Lower Tokai. Fynbos relies on fires every 10 – 15 years. If fynbos doesn’t burn often enough, proteas and other bushes get too old and their reproductive ability declines substantially, but if fynbos burns too often, reseeding shrubs can be lost and resprouting species and alien species can take over. According to Dr. Marna Herbst, SANParks Regional Fire Ecologist, “fire plays a critical role in maintaining the diversity for which the park secured its status as an integral component of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site. Fire is not only a management tool for sustaining the rich diversity of the Fynbos biome by returning nutrients to the soil, stimulating regeneration and opening up space for seedlings and bulbs to thrive, timely prescribed burns also reduce the risks that wildfires pose to property and human lives especially on the wildland-urban interface.” (from Volunteer Wildfire Services Facebook page.)
Photo credits: Brian Moore, Hugh Maunder