Gentle hills of the Green Belt

If you want to get away from it all without having to travel far from home, the trails that criss-cross the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town provide the perfect place to fulfil your needs. Although a map should always be handy (despite having done the trails many times, it is often a surprise to find ourselves crossing a different road!), getting lost is not something to stress over. You may take a little longer to find where you parked the car, but it will always be a pleasant walk with much to see.

Starting at the top of Southern Cross Drive, the descent through the forest is cool in the dappled sun, the autumn leaves starting to carpet the path with soft colour and the tangled undergrowth sending out plumes of pretty plectranthus. The tall pines that spindle up to the light are home to raptors such as Black Sparrowhawks and Jackal Buzzards, and they can be seen soaring back and forth across the green belts as they search the open fields for prey. A Burchell’s Coucal is sometimes around, its distinctive call heralding rain within a day or two, but there was no sign of it. No rain is forecast in the near future and the dry season is stretching out beyond our hoped-for early winter. The stream that tumbles through the valley is still flowing strongly, as the mountains of the Cape are giant sponges that hold enormous reserves of water to feed the thirsty land below, much to the delight of the dogs who bound joyously through the pools, emerging with undercarriages sticky with black mud and not a care in the world.

The residences that line the green belt boast sprawling gardens kept in shape by constant loving attention, with access to ample water and the highest rainfall in the Peninsula. The public open space is a little wilderness among manicured magnificence and the two keep good company. The roads that connect the different green belts are as quiet and leafy as the latter and a source of inspiration for our own gardens, perhaps! We took a different route for the first time and discovered more of the hidden gems of the area simply by taking the road less travelled. The cover photo is a perfect depiction of how to hike and enjoy a wonderful morning in the fresh air and convivial company, while maintaining a social distance!

A coffee break on the felled pine trees in the upper Bel Ombre meadow offers the chance to spot the owls that breed nearby and listen to the twitter in the treetops. Squirrels chase up and down the branches, leaping effortlessly across spaces many times their length, perhaps keeping themselves safe from the beady gaze of a large raptor, or from the dogs always willing to give chase below. The heat of an Indian summer began to be felt, and it was time to stroll back up the hills to finish a very satisfying way to spend a few hours in the outdoors.

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