Poplar Grove Hike
Saturday, 11 October 2014

Report by Debbie & photos by Sven Jager

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]

Ten Midlands hikers met at Piggly Wiggly, bright and early with sunshine and blue skies. We welcomed new member Thandiwe Nkambule on her first hike. We drove up the R103 to Nottingham Road and then took the Loteni road to the Kamberg. Twenty seven kilometers later we turned in to Poplar Grove farm. The weather had now turned in the hours drive with overcast skies and a very strong berg wind blowing. Our leader Sven Jager gave us a brief overview of the route and what we could expect on the hike.

Everyone had put on their wind/water proof jackets and he headed off a farm road through newly ploughed fields. Up a slight hill and over the first of a number of styles that mark out the Ystervark trail. Across the side of a hill along a well marked single track, with the strong berg wind slowing our progress and everyone with their hoods on for protection. Back down to the farm road, then back over another style, through a pasture and then down to the Mooi River. The weather then changed for the better and the wind died and the sun shone brightly, yay! We then followed the Mooi River along the southern bank for approximately three kiolmetres, with beautiful quiet running waters and tree cover. We then climbed up out of the river valley to a high point on the southern side of the Mooi. From here we could see the top of the Fort Nottingham Mountain to the south west and the top of the Kamberg to the North East and clear skies all around. Over another style and then a drop down to our turning point as we crossed the first long well constructed suspension bridge. There was a large flat rock mid way across the river, which we used as a resting/picnic stop for a quick snack.

We then progressed upwards through an indigenous forest along a well marked path. We passed a wonderful waterfall and then up a thirty foot ladder. The path then followed this contour for another kilometer, eventually dropping back down to the Mooi River. There were lots and lots of snake lilies and other wild flowers along this route. When we got out of the forest our leader Sven had an unexpected citing of a black backed jackal that was as surprised to see him as he was and turned tail and disappeared. The benefits of being a leader!! Another wobbly swing bridge to conquer and two and half kiolmetres back to the finish. The weather turned again with overcast skies and thunder in the distance. We then scurried back along the meandering Mooi, crossing two more suspension bridges and going through the grove of poplar tress after which the farm is aptly named. Four hours of beautiful hiking through a selection of terrains and four seasons thrown into a morning! Only a few drops of rain on the final stretch.

Enjoyed by all (Mary Clover, Penny Purchase, Annie Waterhouse, Dave Coward, Stephanie Buntting, Thandiwe Nkambule and, Heather Anderson and Debbie Jager come sweeper), Requests for a weekend outing to the very comfortable farm house which accommodates 16 and can be hired. There is also a longer ten kilometer and a shorter 5 kilometre hike as alternatives to the 6.5 kilometre one we did. Well done to all those that came, crossed the bridges, climbed the ladder and identified the flowers.

We returned at lunchtime, just before the bad weather came in, tired but satisfied after a leisurely, enjoyable outing in a beautiful part of KZN.