Botsoc Kogelberg Walk Report: 16 April 2016

Tim Attwell

It was an impromptu affair. Not the date, but the destination. Some feared it may be ill advised to tackle the stiff climb to the plateau above Fairy Glen in the Kleinmond Nature Reserve, considering that we had not issued dark warnings to all comers about the challenge it would represent.

To their credit, none of the thirteen Botsoc members were fazed by the prospect, viewed from the car park, of toiling 200 vertical metres up the zig-zag Klipspringer path to the sun brightened expanse of green above the waterfall. Some may have been reassured by the ‘escape path’ lower down should the going become troublesome. As it happened, none were so timid as to take that option.

The trail briefly plunges into the delightful ‘Feetjiesbos’ (Fairy Wood), a tiny relict of Afrotemperate forest ideal for ‘enchanted forest’ games with children, before abruptly emerging into the sunlight as it steepens sharply. As the altitude increased, so did sightings of the delightful purple-pink member of the Iris family, Tritoniopsis lata. Various Erica species, among them lower mountain slope specialists Erica multumbellifera and E. Mammosa, although reaching the end of their flowering season, still provided purple and red to colour the veld.

A stop for refreshments as the party began to grumble that the leader was maliciously misrepresenting the distance to the top was followed by a few short steps to the level path along the edge of the plateau.

Quite suddenly the vegetation changed. Where the path had been taking us up the mountain slope over the coarse grained soil of sandstone fynbos, the soil of the plateau has finer soil – indicating that we were now on the eastern extremity of the shale band that runs west to east through the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. Here would be fynbos we had not seen lower down.

A profusion of moisture loving Erica sessilifora, or green heath, advertised the water retaining properties of shale derived clayey soils. A rowdy group of Cape sugarbirds, Promerops cafer, drew our attention to a dense stand of protea with an identity problem. It looked as if they couldn’t decide whether they were Protea nitida (waboom), or P. Repens (suikerbossie). They turned out to be Protea mundii flowering profusely on either side of a mountain stream. A frequent companion to moisture loving Brunia albiflora, the local endemic Erica pillansii put on a striking display of red. What was that gloriously pink, tubular Erica? Was it E. glandulosa or a pink version of E. versicolor? We still don’t know.

Kasteelkop commands the southern end of the plateau. A favourite haunt of rock climbers, crazy shaped rocky outcrops and a knee jarring descent took us down to the car park. The trail is immaculately signposted and in excellent condition, a tribute to the combined efforts of the Overstrand municipality and the Kleinmond Nature Conservation Society who look after this gem of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.