Report by Keith Ashton, photos courtesy of Charlie Guiot, Katy & Rod Hart (comments added by Rod)

I have led Howick Meander hikes previously but this time added on a new first section so the hike was a new one.

The above title may suggest a stroll in Howick but the Fixture List clearly stated a Grade 2+ & a walk of about 15km.

We had a very good turn-out of 23 participants (20 adults & 3 children), meeting opposite Thabo's Antiques at 08h00.

The first (new) section of the walk was along Symmonds Stream (over the years this had become completely overgrown & full of litter) & credit must go to the "Friends of Symmonds Stream", a dedicated group of local people who have made good progress in clearing all the rubbish & alien vegetation & who are continuing to upgrade a lovely walk with new signage etc - Margaret & I are pleased to be part of this group as well as the "Friends of Beacon Hill".

We crossed over Gush Avenue to continue with the next section of the stream walk (all our participants, even those who had lived in Howick for many years where not aware of the Symmonds Stream walk & wondered where we would finish up).At the end of the Symmonds Stream section there is the very nice Country Lane Guest house where scrumptious refreshments can be enjoyed in lovely peaceful surrounding, but not for us this time as we had to continue to our next section of our walk. Pam Haynes (of Friends of Symmonds Stream) leads about a 2 hour interesting walk up the stream once a month - look out for the times in local newspapers etc.

Pic 1: Keith explains the route at the start of the hike
Pic 2: Simple route markers positively identify the route (and advise to always walk with a friend)
Pic 3: Through the back roads
Pic 4: A spot of shade is always welcome
Pic 5: My inevitable flower pic!
Pic 6: The group winds along the single track
Pic 7: Neville shows off a snail he discovers
Pic 8: The trail winds past the back gardens of some properties
Pic 9: Simple wooden bridges lead over trenches and streams
Pic 10: Past some tall gum trees
Pic 11: Directions to the next part of the trail or alternately to some refreshment
Pic 12: Keith takes us up to the Tea Garden - but not in!
Pic 13: Katy's flower pic
Pic 14: Keith leads the way
Pic 15: And after some shoe lace tying Charlie & Gaby will follow on

The second part of our walk included a section up Curry's Post road, then a scramble up a banking to the bottom of Beacon Hill (a landmark in Howick), then there was a bit more uphill walking alongside trees to the top, where we made our way to the actual Beacon - from here there are magnificent views towards Midmar Dam & in fact the whole of Howick & surrounds - so we stopped here to have some snacks & take in the views.Whilst resting we met Eve Hughes of "Friends of Beacon Hill" who was leading some people on the monthly 2 hour walk to inspect all the flowers etc. Again this dedicated group of local people do a marvellous job in protecting this very special area. After our snacks & drinks we made our way down the other side of the hill, reaching the main Howick north road via Lake View Road.A short walk along the main road verge eventually led us close to our next section of our walk.

Pic 16: Up the Curries Post road
Pic 17: Having a little sit down and energy snack
Pic 18: Up towards the trig beacon
Pic 19: Magnificent view of Midmar
Pic 20: lazy lizard
Pic 21: Snack time
Pic 22: Photographic proof that we got to the beacon (Falls 270)
Pic 23: An interesting hopper
Pic 24: Beetle making short work of a leaf
Pic 25: Decorative looking flower pods?
Pic 26: back down toward Howick north
Pic 27: Charlie's flower pic

The third part of our walk began down Plane Avenue, under the trees & then branching off towards the Howick Scout Hut & from here our walk continued very scenically downstream along the banks of the Umgeni River for quite a while & we had a second break for snacks quite a way downstream from Mills Falls. After some more distance along the river we made our way back to some side roads as we approached Kwa Mevana, & then continued on our way through the edge of Howick to the Falls View Point where we finished our hike.

Pic 28-29: Down Plane Avenue
Pic 30: Attractive splash of colour
Pic 31: Red Bishop
Pic 32: Dogs keeping an alert eye on us
Pic 33: Rail and N3 bridges
Pic 34: Katy, Gaby & Rod
Pic 35: Gaby, Jill & Margaret wading through the grass
Pic 36: Katy getting creative
Pic 37: Walk along the bank of the Umgeni
Pic 38: Umgeni River
Pic 39: Weaver buliding his nest
Pic 40: Katy's "alien ant"
Pic 41: Some rested...
Pic 42: ... some ate!
Pic 43: And we are off again
Pic 44: a brief stop to say hello to the donkeys along the way
Pic 45: Katy spots a unicorn
Pic 46: For comparison - donkey on the left, unicorn on the right
Pic 47: Hikers hiking
Pic 48: Back in Howick central
Pic 49: The undergrowth making its way into the public toilet at the Falls
Pic 50: Katy & the Falls

The Howick Falls area was very busy as the "Market" was in full swing & the local restaurants & cafes were doing a roaring trade. It was good to see "Friends of the Falls" volunteers greeting all the visitors, many from overseas countries & we were given a special welcome as locals. Our group then disbanded & made their way back to the cars but several members of our group stayed for refreshments in the local cafes - Margaret & I treated ourselves to a full lunch at the Victorian Cafe, whilst Peter had afternoon tea with us.

The youngsters did very well completing the 15 km walk & enjoyed themselves very much, especially well done to 5 year old Gabriella who walked nearly all the way by herself with encouragement & a bit of help from her dad Charlie & also Katy.It was good to see Gabriella being rewarded with a well earned milkshake at the Victorian Cafe accompanied by her dad Charlie, Katy & Rod.

Thanks to all our participants for your very pleasant company & remember keep hiking as besides keeping you fit it is good for the soul.