Going for an afternoon stroll around Sonstraal Dam whilst feeding the ducks is somewhat of an institution for any family with small kids in Durbanville, and seeing as this is something that we did back when we were kids, there is no reason not to continue the tradition with my own brood – even if I don’t exactly live in the area any more.
Although an inviting and scenic space, there is in fact no swimming or boating allowed in this small body of water, and in response to an outbreak of avian botulism in 2005, no fishing allowed either. (Although the bird flu has since been dealt with, the local council opted to maintain the fishing ban in order to protect the local birdlife, many of which use the dam for breeding purposes).
Another thing worth pointing out is that for a long time the dam area went into a real state of disrepair and neglect, thanks in large part to the inconsiderate nature of visitors who littered with abandon and in general just disrespected the facilities. Thankfully though this problem seems to have mostly been dealt with and the dam area certainly appears to be undergoing a productive period of rehabilitation.
Anyway, I’m kind of getting distracted now. Last year August I found myself in the area, and so invited my folks (who live reasonably nearby) to join us for a walk around the dam. It was, as always, a pretty pleasant affair.
Even if we didn’t actually feed any ducks for a change.
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Oh, and after our stroll we grabbed a coffee and some cake from the Deeghuys Taste Kitchen, a neat little eatery/test kitchen for Deeghuys that is tucked away off main road Durbanville. It was rather nice as well.
Related Link: Durbanville
On a day that would go on to include falcon and owl watching at Eagle Encounters, admiring art installations at Spier, browsing through antiques at the Stellenbosch Toy Museum, building pizzas at Weltevreden’s The Carnival and lastly a visit with my folks in Bellville, the morning started off in a much more sedate fashion with a session of doughnuts and chocolate croissants while waiting for some rather special ducks to arrive.
The estate actually has quite a nice little Saturday routine set up now, starting off with their early Family Breakfast Run (or Walk) event which then leads into the small but pleasant Saturday Market that seems to always features some great, chilled music and a very relaxed vibe.
(Oh, and being a wine farm there is naturally opportunity for some impromptu wine tasting as well.)
There are a couple of activities for the smaller kids to partake in (my girls in particular were very, very keen for a ride around the vlei on the blue quadbike “train”), and as far as I can tell, it looks like the market is pretty pet friendly.
The highlight for a lot of people is of course the running of the ducks, when Vergenoegd’s 1000+ strong “duck squad” makes its appearance for their morning duties, with the trained Indian Runner ducks marching along past the manor house before heading out into the vineyards to hunt down all those pesky/delicious snails!
For interest sake, the manor house pictured above houses Vergenoegd’s onsite restaurant – but funnily enough we have yet to actually give it a go. All in good time I guess…
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Hard not to recommend the Duck Parade as a morning outing if you have little kids. (Or just love quirky looking ducks I suppose).
Related Link: Vergenoegd Wine Estate
Following some delightful deli delicacies from the upmarket Asara boutique hotel outside Stellenbosch one early Saturday morning in October last year (the original plan had been to pick strawberries at Polkadraai Farm down the road in case you are wondering), we next popped our heads in at nearby Vredenheim – where we promptly decided to much rather head further down the road to visit the newly revamped Vergenoegd Wine Estate for the first time – and man are we glad that we did!
Despite being the third oldest wine farm in the Cape (having been established way, way back in 1773), Vergenoegd has never really been a part of Stellenbosch’s famed (and super lucrative) wine route tourism market – a fact that has only now recently been rectified, following a change of ownership in 2015.
The new owners have done an amazing job of renovating and breathing new life into this grand old dame of a wine farm, allowing for Vergenoegd to very much become the new Stellenbosch destination darling that everyone seems to currently be talking about!
(Seriously, whomever is handling their marketing needs a massive raise. That team is doing a brilliant job of putting Vergenoegd very firmly on Stellenbosch’s tourism map!)
Front and center in terms of popular attractions is of course their amazingly well trained herd of Indian Runner ducks, tasked with keeping the vineyards snail and bug free.
The famous duck parade (the girls LOVED it!) is of course a massive hit with the kids, and in fact, has done so well for Vergenoegd that they now even host full on, informative duck tours!
In terms of dining offerings, they have a lovely restaurant area in front of the manor house, as well as a range of artisan picnic options to choose from.
Then of course there is the wine tasting covering their various well made wines, and even more interestingly, a range of interactive wine, olive oil, tea and coffee blending experiences that teaches you about the source and technique behind some of the Cape’s best food and drink products.
Naturally, as just about every other place in the winelands is doing these days, Vergenoegd is also home to its very own Saturday farmer’s market, with both adults and kids well catered for.
Given the market’s runaway success, the team has now further expanded on the this experience by hosting live music events, bringing in some surprisingly popular local musicians in the process!
(Oh, and they also have a weekly, family friendly fun run/walk through the vineyards.)
In other words, it is really, really hard not to like this place.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, we kind of just wandered onto the estate without knowing anything about it other than there was a pretty cool duck parade to be seen. The market was certainly a pleasant (and welcome!) surprise, and we ended up having a great afternoon out there on the day, soaking up the vibe and enjoying the live music.
As always, I snapped a few pictures which does nothing to do the place any sort of real justice, but serves well enough to give a decent idea of what you can expect to find any given Saturday afternoon at Vergenoegd:
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In summary: The little ones are of course guaranteed to get a kick out of the ducks, but that said, the restaurant location is fantastic, not to mention the new market. Well worth a weekend outing then.
Related Link: Vergenoegd Wine Estate
I love the fact that we have a proper duck pond as a municipal park here in Strand. The appropriately named Dam Park is situated right across from the Strand High School and offers a nice green space in the middle of Strand suburbia.
There is a playground to the side of the dam with an array of colourfully painted swings, a climbing frame, a roundabout, and a slide – you know, all the basics – as well as an old tractor and plinth mounted steam train. (Which stinks at the moment thanks to some homeless person deciding that it would be great to use as a bathroom. Disgusting!)
We used to in the past visit the dam fairly often in order to feed the ducks (like literally everyone else in the area) and watch the locals occasionally try their hand at catching a dam fish or two, but seeing feeding ducks is now seen as not quite the correct thing to be doing (population and invasive species control reasons mainly), we drop by there far less than what we used to in the beginning.
The water levels of the dam itself on the day that we visited was surprisingly high – much higher than what I had anticipated (considering the drought conditions we are currently experiencing), but quite probably because of the one or two surprise days of rain we had experienced earlier in January.
With Chantelle stuck at work, the girls and I spent some time playing around (they even got me to climb to the top of the climbing frame with them), before we eventually got bored and convinced Chantelle to join us for some lunch at play time at the Gordon’s Bay Spur during her break.
It was a good plan.
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Also, a map in case your kids bug you to go and look at some ducks.
Related Link: Facebook Page
We used to head out and feed the ducks at Dam Park in Strand (just opposite Strand High School) quite often when Jess was still a baby, but in recent years we’ve kind of slowed down on doing that for some or other reason. (Maybe the fact that it has become socially unacceptable to feed ducks bread has had something to do with it?)
Anyway, Sunday saw Chantelle working, and so not wanting to waste the wonderful sunny Winter weather of the day (and also not really being in the mood for the last day of this year’s Winter Wonderland Festival – which we sadly completely missed out on by the way), I rounded up the girls and headed out towards Strand to the duck pond for a bit of a play and walkabout session.
Obviously, the girls were overjoyed at the prospect, and pretty soon the two of them were darting between all the play equipment, making sure not to miss any in the process!
The old, colourful tractor and train remains the biggest hits of course, a problem because Emily is way too small to clamber all over those by herself yet – which of course she simply HAS to do, seeing as big sister Jess is doing it!
We spent a good amount of time playing on all the equipment, and even Teddy got roped into the fun!
We ended off the session with a leisurely stroll around the dam, watching the ducks and Egyptian geese, and of course taking selfies – because just like any other little girl, Jessica really seems to enjoy having her picture taken!
Visiting the Dam Park here in Strand never really disappoints, and is always great if you are looking for something local to do that doesn’t require you to open your wallet. (Plus, it was really nice to see the dam back to its fuller level – the last time I was here it was halfway empty!)
We had some time to kill in the general area because we were meeting up with Chantelle, Retha and Miguel a little later at the mall in order to say goodbye and wish them well for their upcoming Camino de Santiago (St. James Path) pilgrimage adventure in Spain.
Teddy wanted a milkshake, burger and chips, so we popped into McDonalds Waterstone for that, and after spending some time there, we headed up into the hills of Somerset West in search for more public park spaces.
As luck would have it, we stumbled across this one brilliant wooden jungle gym at the bottom of a sloped grass patch with perhaps the most magnificent view any play park is capable of having.
Talk about a swing with a view! :)
Here are the rest of the photos that I happily snapped on what turned out to be a very pleasant, sunny Winter’s day out with my girls:
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I have lived in Gordon’s Bay for quite a few years now, and to date, I had still never visited Pollock Park, a little strip of interesting green literally a stone’s throw away from Vergeet-My-Nie, Jessica’s current play school.
Well, I am happy to report that the status has now changed, because in the space of five days I have now taken the girls there twice – and both times Jessica and Emily have had an absolute ball!
It’s actually quite a pretty little park, if a little run down, with its area divided in two distinct spaces, one for natural fynbos flora, the other a more open, grassy area for kids to play on. It has a little walkway stretching around and through it, a small pond at the top with geese and ducks (which mightily entertained Emily), some standard playground equipment in pretty decent nick, and the remains of what must once have been a really nice waterway feature.
Although a little windy, the girls and I made the most of the area, with Jessica taking quite a strong liking to the see-saw. Emily had a go at it as well, but as per usual, the gigantic slide remains her personal favourite!
As always, when the moment allowed I grabbed a couple of snaps with my mobile phone:
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As it turns out, a friend of mine from my Gordon’s Bay karate days (Ian Pollock) has quite a strong link to the park – after all, it was built by his dad! I grabbed this off the Gordon’s Bay History Facebook group (written by Ian):
“Some more info regarding the Pollock Park.
My father, Theo Pollock came to GB +/- 50 years ago as appointed electrical engineer to Gordon’s Bay Municipality.
Those years he embarked on an ambitious project to change the mostly overhead electrical network to an underground electrical distribution system. The primary reason was the super strong South-East winds in GB causing long periods without electricity, also due to geographical layout of GB having an overhead system would spoil views especially on the slopes of the mountain and increase maintenance on the network. Understand Municipalities worked very different those days than today.
All work was done in-house by labourers and electricians. A sizable labourer complement was needed to maintain the then fragile electrical network and the change to underground network, of 2 electricians and 8 – 10 labourers. During times when planned budget was spent, or maintenance and planned work was completed the staff was kept productive on the public open space.
Theo Pollock, electricians and labours claimed ownership of the space due to a lack of maintenance from the Parks section at the time. The design, layout and construction took many years. Apart from cement, very little capital funds were spent, mostly time and effort. The space was divided into 2, one section was left natural with fynbos and proteas, the other section was developed, with dam and water fetcher. The developed area had pumps and an irrigation system to maintain the flow of water during the dry summer months. Gordon’s Bay Municipality named the Park after Theo Pollock as acknowledgement for the initiative and effort of him and his staff.
Unfortunately after Theo Pollock retired in 1991 the Park was neglected, several residents in the area tried to maintain it. Until a few years back when the Parks Dept of the City of Cape Town started maintaining it again. Unfortunately all irrigation, pumps and cabling has been vandalised and stolen by that time.
Theo Pollock lost a battle with cancer in 1994. He however left Gordon’s Bay with two accolades (among others): Pollock Park and the fact that Gordon’s Bay is the only Western Cape town with an entire underground electrical network.”
So well worth popping in to see if you’ve as a local never actually been there before! :)
Update: It was such a good little outing that the girls and I ended up going there quite a few more times before Winter started setting in!
We kicked off an incredibly busy weekend (more on this at a later stage) by heading to the family favourite Strand duck pond (just across Strand High School) in order to feed all the hungry quackers. Armed with a loaf of fresh white bread purchased on the way at Cinnamon Square Spar, we arrived at the duck pond only to discover Emily fast asleep in her Bambino car seat.
Not wanting to wake her seeing as she needed the sleep having woken up particularly early on this Saturday morning, we left the windows wound down and stepped out onto the grass embankments – and were immediately flocked by dozens of geese and rather cute white ducks.
(For a change, Egyptian Geese didn’t dominate the scene. Also, the duck pond was at a mysteriously low level, certainly much lower than what I’ve seen it before. Not sure whether maintenance, leak, or just old fashioned Summer evaporation.)
Jessica quickly clambered up onto a park bench and started dishing out white bread slices left, right and center, and it wasn’t long before Chantelle and I found ourselves also joining in on the fun!
Lots of quacking, flapping and bread devouring was to be had, and no time at all the bread was done and we could make a run for it, back to the safety of the car and ready to head on to the next stop of our jam-packed family activities weekend!
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First day of my holiday and I’m already out and about with my girls (Chantelle is pretty much working 90% of the time whilst I’m on leave this year, so for the most part December 2014 will be the “Adventures of Daddy, Jessie and Embels” period), kicking things off with a trip to the always a hit, Strand picnic park duck pond.
Two half loaves were on hand, which Jessica proceeded to get rid of in no time at all (from the safety of a park bench of course!) whilst Emily just chewed on her chunks of bread as a hopeful crowd of geese could just look on in dismay.
With the bread gone, and the hordes of ducks and geese eventually turned away, we then continued with a stroll around the pond, before heading for the adjacent playground, where Jessica had a ball, made a new friend, and even pretend drove a tractor.
Emily and I on the other hand stuck to the roundabout, followed by clambering all over the park benches whilst waiting for Jess to tire herself out! :)
It would seem that the duck population in the Strand duck pond across the road from the high school enjoyed a rather good breeding season.
Needless to say, this very hungry pack of ducks and geese terrified Jessica more than just a little – Luckily for us, a nearby park bench was on hand, and this combined with the newly learned ‘karate kick’ trick from Daddy, meant that Jess could (kind of) enjoy the duck feeding outing to the fullest!
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