Durban’s Old Fort (just next to Kingsmead Stadium) has had a long history tied to military action – the site having been first established as a military camp by the British back in May 1842, when 237 men of the 27th Regiment and Royal Artillery under Captain Thomas Charlton Smith were sent in to respond to an imminent Boer threat.
Following the ensuing retaliatory siege by the Boers after the failed British attack on Congella (lifted only be the arrival of the schooner Conch and the frigate HMS Southampton), a permanent fort was built on the site and a permanent British garrison was based there with a larger force being stationed outside Pietermaritzburg at Fort Napier.
Over the years a number of British Regiments did garrison duty in Durban and eventually the fort was later leased by the War Office to the Durban Light Infantry where it was at last converted into cottages for veterans. (Incidentally, the magazine was converted into a chapel and given the tranquil, lush nature of the grounds, the chapel has proven to be one of the city’s most popular wedding venues over the years!)
These days the grounds are open to the public, providing a quiet green space within the bustling city. There are old military relics scattered about to discover, and if you are somewhat of a military nerd, then the hugely informative Warrors Gate M.O.T.H. (Memorable Order of Tin Hats) Museum and Shrine (situated on the grounds) is an absolute must.
[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”53819,53820,53821,53822,53823,53824,53825,53826,53827,53828,53829,53830,53831,53832,53833,53834,53835,53836,53837,53838,53839,53840,53841,53842,53843,53844,53845,53846,53847,53848,53849,53850,53851,53852,53853,53854,53855,53856,53857,53858,53859,53860,53861,53862,53863,53864,53865,53866,53867,53868,53869,53870,53871,53872,53873,53874,53875,53876,53877,53878,53879,53880,53881,53882,53883,53884,53885″]
Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in South African military history then.
A proper hidden gem of Cape Town, Claremont’s Arderne Gardens is home to more than 300, mostly exotic, species of trees – and if you are on the hunt for South African champion trees, then this is surprisingly quite a good place to start. (It has six of them in its collection!)
Having previously written about the garden it became imperative that the girls and I head out on a trip to see it for ourselves – and so one trek into the deep Southern Suburbs later, we found ourselves peacefully ambling about in this most tranquil of green spaces!
It was magnificent.
[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”53909,53910,53911,53912,53913,53914,53915,53916,53917,53918,53919,53920,53921,53922,53923,53924,53925,53926,53927,53928,53929,53930,53931,53932,53933,53934,53935,53936,53937,53938,53939,53940,53941,53942,53943,53944,53945,53946,53947,53948,53949,53950,53951,53952,53953,53954,53955,53956,53957,53958,53959,53960,53961,53962,53963,53964,53965,53966,53967,53968,53969,53970,53971,53972,53973,53974,53975,53976,53977,53978,53979,53980,53981,53982,53983,53984,53985,53986,53987,53988,53989,53990,53991,53992,53993″]
And yes, the six Champion Trees, the Morton Bay Fig, the Cork Oak, the Aleppo Pine, the Norfolk Island Pine, the Turkish Oak, and the Queensland Kauri, were all VERY impressive to see.
First opened in 1979, the award-winning Durbanville Rose Garden stands as one of only three trial rose gardens in the Southern Hemisphere. Jointly cared for by the Friends of the Rose Garden society and the Durbanville Municipality, this lovely garden stands at 3.5 hectares big, with around 4,500 bushes representing about 500 rose varietals!
Situated along one of the main arteries into Durbanville, the R302, it is impossible to miss this colourful, open patch of green land with its distinctive white entrance building standing proudly out front and center.
The rose garden itself is partly planted on land from the original Old Eversdal Estate, donated to the town by the Schabort family. Notably the Schabort family burial ground and memorial are in fact situated in the rose garden as well, a slightly somber addition to this otherwise brightly coloured affair.
Entry to the garden is free, with the occasional Sunday afternoon tea being served in the clubhouse from October through to May (often hosted by different groups and societies).
Naturally, picking of the roses is strictly prohibited!
Although the surrounding Durbanville vineyards have slowly given way to housing and other commercial developments over the years, this particular patch of green has become quite popular with the locals, and you will often find full-on wedding shoots happening in among the roses come just about every other weekend!
Funnily enough, I lived most of my life in the Northern Suburbs without once ever stopping to stroll about these fragrant pathways, a mistake that I at long last rectified by making the drive through and dropping in with the girls one quiet Sunday morning in the middle of February.
Beautiful flowers, a well cared for garden, fantastic views of the mountains in the distance, and of course a tranquil atmosphere makes this a particularly charming and slightly unexpected little stop in the middle of Durbanville suburbia.
Especially if you are into your roses!
[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”43148,43149,43150,43151,43152,43153,43154,43155,43156,43157,43158,43159,43160,43161,43162,43163,43164,43165,43166,43167,43168,43169,43170,43171,43172,43173,43174,43175,43176,43177,43178,43179,43180,43181,43182,43183,43184,43185,43186,43187,43188,43189,43190,43191,43192,43193,43194″]
Also, a map to the rose garden, just in case you don’t know where Durbanville actually is:
Situated on the banks of the Sonderend River and originally part of a farm that was established in the 1700’s, Stormsvlei (translated as Storm Marsh in English) is a now tiny Overberg hamlet that forms part of the greater Swellendam area.
Originally settled as an outspan for ox-wagons that were travelling the inland route along the coast, it was once an important stopover on the old wagon route, growing around the need for wagon repair facilities and refreshments for passing travellers – especially during the festive season when families from the surrounding areas would make their way to the sea for the holidays.
These days however the hamlet has shrunk to a point of being pretty much non-existent, meaning that you could literally drive past without even knowing that you had missed it!
(Well technically that’s not quite true. The restaurant does its best to make sure that the turn-off to Stormsvlei is relatively well marked along the N2!)
Apart from the Stormsvlei Riverside Cottages, the only other notable spot in Stormsvlei is where the old hotel stands, now rebranded as the Stormsvlei Restaurant and Farm Stall – which is perfect seeing as that was exactly what I was looking for on my journey up to Gouritz with my girls for last year’s December getaway.
Basically, a place that I’ve never stopped at before.
As it turns out, the Stormsvlei Restaurant is a bit of a Swiss Army Knife, in that it acts as a storefront for a lot of local products and produce (including leather couches and dried hydrangeas by Mary Spies, a local legend apparently), a bar, a dining hall, a function venue, as well as a lovely garden retreat – perfect for light meals out in the sun then.
The girls and I took full advantage of the good weather by first knocking back some cool refreshments and then tucking into a small lunch – double for me because as it almost always works out, one of the girls never quite feels like eating on the day!
We took our time wandering about the garden and inspecting all the flowers (including the nearby Hydrangea growing operation), browsing the art and antiques hanging up throughout the venue, and of course enjoying the rather tranquil ambiance – not to mention marvel at the surprisingly large amount of people that kept filtering in for a bite to eat!
I guess that then means that Stormsvlei is a lot more popular with travellers than what I would have thought!
Anyway, a rather rewarding little discovery for us then.
As expected, with it being just myself and the girls, entertainment for me translated into taking a fair bit of photos over the course of our lunch stop (much to the eventual annoyance of both Jessica and Emily I might add).
These are some of the better ones that came limping out of that particular crop:
[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”43508,43509,43510,43511,43512,43513,43514,43515,43516,43517,43518,43519,43520,43521,43522,43523,43524,43525,43526,43527,43528,43529,43530,43531,43532,43533,43534,43535,43536,43537,43538,43539,43540,43541,43542,43543,43544,43545,43546,43547,43548,43549,43550,43551,43552,43553,43554,43555,43556,43557,43558,43559,43560,43561,43562,43563,43564″]
Bonus: Just in case you also want to make a stop here on your next journey down the N2…
Related Link: Stormsvlei Restaurant and Farm Stall
Having remembered seeing it a couple of months back on SABC 2’s Mooiloop‘, I suggested that we hop in the car and take the girls through to see Swellendam’s very own fairy and angel healing sanctuary – The Continent of Sulina.
From what I understand, the Continent of Sulina is run by sculptor Ian and his wife Minky Sulin with the genuine aim of it being a home and a place of safety and healing for Minky’s faerie and angel friends. Minky certainly has a strong belief in the Fae folk and those people for who this magic still exists certainly seem to appreciate this rather ‘enchanting’ space.
For the more practical of us out there, the Continent of Sulina is essentially a house with a rambling garden that has been filled to the brim with little figurines of faeries, gnomes, goblins, frogs, toadstools and other miscellaneous shiny (and sometimes creepy) things.
You essentially pay an entrance fee to walk through the garden around the house, and then enter the gallery house in order to exit, which is of course the point where you get presented with probably a thousand or so figurines of different shapes and sizes (many handmade by local artisans), all awaiting a new home in exchange for some of your money.
Recently, a second property adjacent to the original has also been purchased, meaning that now the fairy sanctuary also sports a dedicated kids play for the little ones.
There is a coffee station in the garden as well, but seeing as a light rain started to descend during our visit, we opted not to sit down and give it a go.
Honestly, unless you have kids (or you yourself perhaps) that are really into things like magic and faeries (none of us are), this isn’t really a place that is going to hold your attention for long.
If you are however looking to buy some fairy trinkets, then these guys definitely have you covered!
Yeah… I can’t say that any of the grown ups enjoyed the outing on the day, and unfortunately the girls didn’t seem to quite love it either. (Plus we all got a little wet thanks to the rather grey weather on the day).
Still it was an outing and that was certainly what we were after in the first place. So, if you have kids and have run out of ideas for things to do in Swellendam, you may as well pop in and see for yourself the ‘magical’ realm of the Continent of Sulina.
[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”42593,42594,42595,42596,42597,42598,42599,42600,42601,42602,42603,42604,42605,42606,42607,42608,42609,42610,42611,42612,42613,42614,42615,42616,42617,42618,42619,42620,42621,42622,42623,42624,42625,42626,42627,42628,42629,42630,42631,42632,42633,42634,42635,42636,42637,42638,42639,42640,42641,42642,42643,42644,42645,42646,42647,42648,42649,42650,42651,42652,42653,42654,42655,42656,42657,42658,42659,42660,42661,42662″]
As always, a map for in case you wish to go seek out some faeries yourself:
Having arrived in Kyoto via bullet train (and escaping the big storm lashing Yokohama in the process), Ryan and I successfully navigated our way to the hotel from the train station on foot, awkwardly managed to check ourselves in and stow our luggage, and then pretty much immediately headed out again, our main mission for the day being a trip up Kyoto Tower.
However, Kyoto is of course an ancient city, in fact it was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, and is host to many cultural wonders that make up old Japan. Thus it wasn’t that much of a surprise to almost immediately stumble across the magnificient Shosei-en Japanese garden along our way.
Shosei-en is a garden that belongs to Higashi-Hongan-ji, the big temple of the Shingon school of Buddhism just north of Kyoto station. Declared a National Historic Site in 1938, the garden is said to have belonged to the residence of the son of tennō Saga and was built in the early Heian period (794-1185). Although fires have razed the garden a couple of times throughout history, most is of it has been restored, and in fact, the pond most likely remains from the original design.
The garden we see today, was laid out in 1641 after the shogun Tokugawa donated the land to the Hongan-ji. The garden design was probably realized by the intellectual Ichikawa Jozan and artist, tea master and aristocrat Kobori Enshu,
This tranquil garden features two tea houses, loads of cherry trees, and two distinctive bridges (one of Chinese design), all laid out to highlight the peaceful water lily covered pond that is the centerpiece of the garden.
An absolute gem of a quiet space in the middle of a rather big and bustling city!
[subvertedgallery link=”file” columns=”7″ ids=”35684,35685,35686,35687,35688,35689,35690,35691,35692,35693,35694,35695,35696,35697,35698,35699,35700,35701,35702,35703,35704,35705,35706,35707,35708,35709,35710,35711,35712,35713,35714,35715,35716,35717,35718,35719,35720,35721,35722,35723,35724,35725,35726,35727,35728,35729,35730,35731,35732,35733,35734,35735,35736,35737,35738,35739,35740,35741,35742,35743,35744,35745,35746,35747,35748,35749,35750,35751,35752″]
(Oh, and in case you were wondering – their white grape Minute Maid has actual chunks of grape in it. Which wasn’t a particularly nice taste discovery for me!)
Kirstenbosch is a famous botanical garden, founded in 1913 to preserve the country’s unique indigenous flora, nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. The garden is one of nine National Botanical Gardens covering five of South Africa’s six different biomes.
The garden, established in 1913 by Henry Harold Pearson on land bequeathed by Cecil John Rhodes, includes a large conservatory (The Botanical Society Conservatory) exhibiting plants from a number of different regions, including savanna, fynbos, karoo and others. Outdoors, the focus is on plants native to the Cape region, highlighted by the spectacular collections of proteas. From the gardens several trails lead off along and up the mountain slopes and these are much used by walkers and mountaineers. One of the trails, up a ravine called Skeleton Gorge, is an easy and popular route to the summit of Table Mountain.
Built in 2013-14 to celebrate the centenary of Kirstenbosch in 2013, the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway is a curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum. Inspired by a snake skeleton, and informally called ‘The Boomslang’ (meaning tree snake), it is a low-maintenance, low-impact sculptural raised walkway.
The Walkway takes the visitor from the forest floor into and through the trees and bursts out above the canopy, giving spectacular panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains, Garden and Cape Flats.
The Boomslang is 130 m long, narrow and slender, with a few wider view-point areas, and lightly snakes its way through the canopy, in a discreet, almost invisible way. The walkway is crescent-shaped and takes advantage of the sloping ground; it touches the forest floor in two places, and raises visitors to 12 m above ground. It is more than just a traditional boardwalk – like a snake, it winds and dips.
The Arboretum (over which it winds) is situated between the Protea Garden, Cycad Amphitheatre, the Dell, Mathews Rockery and the Concert Lawn.
The project cost R5 million ZAR to complete and was constructed via collaboration between Mark Thomas Architects and Engineers Henry Fagan & Partners consulting engineers.
This private garden is home to an incredible 150 Wisteria flowering plants spanning 20 different species. The garden’s main attraction is the Wisteria Flower Tunnel that allows visitors to walk down an enchanting 220m long tunnel exploding with colour.
A member of the pea family native to the Eastern United States and to China, Korea, and Japan, Wisteria is an ornamental vine, wildly popular in both Eastern and Western gardens for its graceful hanging flowers and its ornate, winding branches. Easily trained, the woody vines tend to reach maturity within a few years, at which point they bloom in cascades of long, lavender flowers of varying pastel shades.
Make sure to visit in late April or Early May, during the “Fuji Matsuri,” or “Wisteria Festival,” when the magical tunnel is in full bloom. Arrive at any other time of year, and sadly it is not quite as spectacular – i.e. there isn’t anything to look at!
I’m not much of a gardener. Not because it is difficult mind you, but more because it seems so time consuming and in the end I just really don’t care enough to actually be bothered with it. That said though, I am a particular lover of walking around barefoot, and now that the luxury of doing that on my own lawn around my house is rapidly diminishing, I find myself, daisy picker in hand, in the garden just about every evening nowadays!
Weeds. Lots and lots of nasty weeds which I neglected for far too long, and which are now in the process of drying out and leaving behind sharp, pointy debris everywhere! Luckily we don’t have to deal with really insidious thorns, that would have been horrible, but as it is, the burr hispida genus (that seems to have taken over most of my lawn) is causing enough damage to little feet to warrant its removal!
All of which translates to me going down on my hands and knees, ignoring all the burrs puncturing my girly soft flesh (not really, but it sounds more dramatic if I put it like this), identifying the tendrils, following them back to the central root system, and then yanking as much of it out as what I can.
I have to say, removing a clump of weeds, tendrils and all, from your lawn turns out to be a rather relaxing and rewarding activity, serene and tranquil for a lack of better words.
Of course, I could have saved myself a hole heap of trouble today had I simply listened to Mom and Dad about a year ago when they first noticed an increase in weed activity on my front lawn and warned me about it!
I really should listen to good advice more often.