The beauty of walking the same trail over different seasons is that there is always something new to see. The buildings and houses we pass remain the same, but the gardens, the verges and even the rivers show us a different face on each return visit. The Spaanschemat River trail from Pedlars on the Bend takes us through various greenbelts, including a stretch along the river close to the busy M3 highway, with a scattering of trees to shield us from the traffic noise in places, overlooked by the suburban edge with high security fences and dogs who enjoy a good bark at the multitude of cyclists, runners and walkers who frequent this trail. Today we were treated to the pleasing sight of a group of horseriders on an out-ride – still possible in the midst of suburbia thanks to these marvellous strips of land available for public recreation.
Being so familiar with every root that crosses the path, and every twist and turn through the reed beds and tall grasses, it was easy to glance around and wonder at the simpler aspects of nature today – fields of tangled purple vetch, the occasional patch of yellow lupins (a throwback from decades ago when they covered the empty farmland here), bright yellow daisies and scatterings of what we would call weeds but are in fact ordinary plants that thrive in most conditions rather than needing any special care. Most magnificent of all were the masses of brilliantly hued nasturtiums covering the embankments on either side, the green (edible) leaves offering the perfect foil for the palest apricot flowers covering the spectrum through yellow, orange and red with streaky variations. Who remembers nasturtium leaf sandwiches, good for sore throats but don’t pick the ones near the path, or picking the seeds once the flowers have faded to make homemade capers? Or just picking a huge bunch to shove into a glass of water to bring the sunshine into a room? Lots of childhood memories are evoked by nasturtiums.
Even the grasses undulating in the breeze on the verges drew the eye, reflecting copper and silver and bronze in the pleasant early summer sunshine. Huge old oaks, freshly greened by Spring’s new growth, cast welcome shade as we toiled along the roads leading to the Kramat, where the first roses are blooming in the pretty gardens of this sanctuary. The fountains are bubbling once more in the central water feature and the pools are freshly painted in keeping with the new season. As always, we were welcomed to take our coffee break in the gardens, with the understanding that all due respect is shown for the purpose of the Kramat.
Development of the area continues unabated, with large old properties being subdivided and gardens being replaced by concrete and glass lock up and gos and occasionally a tasteful single home awaiting the landscaper’s skills. The vineyards of Groot Constantia stand constant (!) as they have for centuries, and will hopefully remain intact for centuries to come, retaining the rural ambience so well-beloved by Capetonians and foreigners alike. A nursery and vegetable garden where flowers are picked daily for the public to buy and a leafy lane lined with lush creepers and climbing plants signalled the end of a most pleasant and undemanding morning in the safety of suburbia.