June can be the most special time here in Cape Town. Sunshiny days, with just a puff or two of cloud over the mountains, a gentle breeze from any direction and temperatures around 17 degrees make for marvellous hikes in the hills of the Peninsula. There is something comforting about wearing a light jacket on a hike (perhaps similar to the enveloping embrace of a snug blanket on a cold night) and it is always a pleasure to be spared the cloying heat of summer when carrying a backpack filled with goodies for tea! A jacket also provides an impromptu picnic blanket as the ground is damp in the forests and rocks can be very hard to sit on for those without much padding in the rear.
The Bel Ombre trail leading up through De Hel on the way up Constantia Nek is a breeding ground for black sparrowhawks, owls and perhaps the peregrine falcon seen swooping down the valley before disappearing into the canopy. It takes a practised eye and great patience to locate the nests and as the purpose of the hike is exercise, another visit is required for the birding part. An easier observation is the many and varied mushrooms and toadstools that proliferate in the cool, damp conditions, and it is always sad to see that those closest to the path fall victim to a careless foot or intentional swipe by a passer by – that delicate beauty so short-lived simply to see underneath its pretty cap, or whatever reason people have. So it’s always special to find a perfect specimen, or even one munched on by a worm or insect (not sure what it would be!) and grovel on the ground to capture the gills. Here is a selection of my favourites!