I was asked recently to take a group of British tourists on a walking tour of “somewhere nice“. The usual places I thought of were to far away thanks to a time constraint and I was really at a loss of where to take them. And then I remembered that in the heart of Hillcrest is a small nature reserve, one I had been to while on a school tour 20-odd years ago! So a few phone calls later, and armed with Robertson’s guide to birds as well as a “grasses and trees of KwaZulu-Natal” guide, we took a drive to the Hillcrest Conservancy Springside Nature Reserve.
Proclaimed in 1948 the Springside Nature reserve encompasses about 20ha of forest, grassland and wetlands. There’s a number of walking trails (nothing too taxing) that meanders around the park and there’s even a really well maintained picnic site with plenty of shade, and although we missed it, there are twice monthly guided walks that are led by environmental wildlife specialists.
We only made it to the reserve in the late afternoon and I couldn’t believe how peaceful it was considering the burgeoning town of Hillcrest was just a stone’s throw away. We didn’t get too see much in the way of birds, but judging from the amount of calls made, there’s a huge variety in the reserve! There’s also supposed to be a nesting pair of African Crowned Eagle (I’m planning a return trip to see them!)
That’s a fascinating amount of butterflies in the reserve as well, and a quick look at the Reserve‘s guide shows over 80 different types spotted in the reserve! For the grasses and tree fans, the lists just go on and on with the “Natal Red Top” being the most common (I believe that’s “Rooigras” in Afrikaans) that in the late afternoon just gives the hills a magnificent warm tinge.
Of interest to me was a large sundial set in brick. I didn’t get a chance to look to closely, but I would be interested to know who laid it and when. There was also some small brickwork ruins which I read are whats left of the very first pump station that supplied water to the train running from Durban to Pietermaritzberg.
I really enjoyed this tour, and my guests did too. After rushing about on their trip, they said it was the first time in days that they could just relax and “smell the grasses”!