Our hiking group’s last walk for 2022 was the easy trail from the Silvermine non-pay parking area along the jeep track and winding down the Silvermine River valley to the Sunbird Environmental Centre (not sure if anything happens there, as never seen it open). There is actually a fairly lengthy uphill in one or two places that give the heart a bit of exercise, but in the main it is a very pleasant and undemanding walk, with views towards the sea from the upper part. Thick alien vegetation took over the valley many years ago after it was propagated by fire and little has been done to restore it to its former glory. Over the last year, some hacking back has taken place, but the piles of now dry sticks present a real fire hazard and more should be done to remove the hazardous stumps. One can easily despair of the Peninsula’s future for hiking trails, but the ordinary citizen always seems to step up to the plate and make things happen before everything crumbles. It is these fine individuals who need our support in maintaining these trails.
Summer is not the best time for our indigenous flora, but the leucadendrons and restios provide colour with their fresh new leaf growth in shades of pale pink to silver, and varying hues of gold. A light breeze wafted up the valley, rippling through the soft leaves and creating a shining surface on the otherwise dull olive landscape. A dove called from deep in the last patch of natural forest, but otherwise the hills were silent. As we neared the valley floor and the still strongly flowing Silvermine River, the call of the Paradise Flycatcher alerted us to life in the treetops and soon we heard other birds chirping as we lounged under the huge old oak tree – no doubt planted by the prospectors of old when it was thought that silver was hidden in these hills. All that remains is a ruined building and some dangerous underground tunnels with sinkholes. Fortunately a warning sign is in place and they are on the other side of the river, so off the beaten track.
The last part of the trail traverses the old terraces of the farm where vegetables were once grown, now long disused and overgrown, yet discernible as a place where man has left his mark on the landscape. It was never an ideal place to farm despite the availability of water, as the steep mountainside would have made it difficult for large-scale cultivation, and the farms that thrived were just over the ridge in the fertile ground at the foot of Chapman’s Peak. There was also once a small private nature reserve in the valley where we would go to swim in the summer holidays, but all traces of that have been obliterated by alien vegetation.
As a farewell to 2022, it was a most suitable walk, leaving us exercised but not exhausted!