Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Eye on Life

Broad interest online magazine


Sillery swamp

Despite having trailed along the various greenbelts of Constantia many, many times over the last 6 years, no walk is ever the same, and sometimes I even wonder which trail I am on and what comes next. The road layout in the leafy suburbs is not the neat blocks of the older Southern Suburbs, and it is very easy to become lost – Google maps doesn’t indicate the alleyways and bits of open space that link the convolutions of the hills – but it is nevertheless always a pleasure to wander along, admiring the superbly clipped topiaries and manicured lawns, the huge variety of trees and shrubbery on the verges and occasionally peeking through an intricate wrought-iron gate to glimpse the different architecture on offer.

The Sillery trail, leading up to the Silverhurst trail from Peddlars, has been dry since I have known it, apart from the little stream that meanders seaward, and it came as a shock to encounter an almost impassable swamp yesterday. Standing water covered the usual pathways and even the grass, and sticky mud sucked at our shoes as we approached the bog with trepidation. My stout hiking boots prevented soaking feet, but others were less fortunate as we clung to the fence to prevent ourselves from slipping into the quagmire. At times we had to balance on bits of tree trunk that had been placed by others, and the churning of the mud by the fat mountain bike tyres that were obviously still using the trail only exacerbated the situation. We reached dry land with relief and had already planned an alternative route back to the cars.

The Silverhurst trail, beginning on the other side of the road, was slightly better, but swampy in areas and split by a fair torrent as the exceptional winter rains have boosted the water levels and constantly replenished the little dam that served as Cape Town’s first water scheme in days gone by. Bright sunshine shone down through the bare branches of winter, but the icy wind blowing up from the South Atlantic ensured that warmth was not part of the deal, and jackets were the order of the day. A number of trees had fallen along the trail, and further up in the Bel Ombre meadow (we crossed into the Alphen trail), a tree with a trunk diameter of probably a metre was being sawn up for removal by council workers. Always sad to see a giant fall, and the heavy rains have loosened rocks and roots on the upper slopes of the mountain, making many of the favourite trails unsafe until rehabilitated.

We walked 7km in 2 hours, somewhat faster than usual, and after detouring to avoid the top end of Sillery (to be avoided for months, I would think), we reached the cars well exercised, ready for a hot drink and lunch. A very pleasant trail suitable for all.

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