15ks - Keith's Howick Hike described somewhere as a Meander, but certainly NOT one!

Report by Rose Dix and photos by Keith Ashton and Rose Dix
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]

Thirty-one participants gathered for start of hike

Hiking isn't always about slogging up every available hill at an age when one should know better, its also about the wonderful hugs and the laughs and the joyous greetings we exchange with our friends – friends who share the pain of those same ‘sloggem hills’.

And so a jubilant and expectant crowd of 31 hikers from Midlands Hiking Club, Durban Ramblers and Pietermaritzburg Ramblers, met for a beautiful hike through Symmonds Stream Conservancy. The "Friends of Symmonds Stream", all volunteers, have obviously put in a huge amount of work to clear aliens, to make interesting paths and to install very smart signage for our benefit.

After a short hill, we reached the Beacon on top of Beacon Hill where we walked through fields of gloriously budding new flowers and savoured a short break with a 360 view over Midmar Dam and the Ambers. We were indeed blessed with incredibly clear skies of deepest blue and huge fluffy upcountry clouds with a faint breeze to keep us fresh.

After six years of background work by various organisations & people it is very pleasing to note that Beacon Hill has recently been formally proclaimed a Protected Environment in terms of the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.

The proclamation, signed under the Protected Areas Act means that for the next 99 years , Beacon Hill will be relatively safe from other forms of land use not compatible with conserving the unique biodiversity of Midlands Mistbelt Grassland - a critically endangered vegetation type.

Our lunch break was on freshly mowed lawns on the banks of the Umgeni where bird life is interesting and varied.

Part of our hike took us through opulent suburbs of lovely old homes interspersed with some innovative architecture to liven things up.

What a hidden gem there is on the outskirts of Howick. Then it was back through the streets of downtown Howick – with its ubiquitous shops and taxis...finally reaching the famous Howick Falls where we were happily surprised by the amount of water flowing – Keith and Margaret – once again, a heart felt thank you for a wonderful day.

Photos and captions courtesy of hike leader Keith Ashton

2. New sign at beginning of Symmonds Stream hike
3. After Symmonds Stream - starting climb of Beacon Hill from Currys Post Rd.
4. Just reaching the beacon at top of Beacon Hill
5. The view towards Nhlosane mountain from Beacon Hill
6. Enjoying the view towards the dam wall & Midmar Dam

7. Making our way along top of Beacon Hill - Kwa-Wula, Amber Ridge & Amber Valley in the distance
8. Part of our group descending Beacon Hill
9. Still on our way down Beacon Hill
10. Nearing the bottom of Beacon Hill

11. A lovely resting spot on the banks of the Umgeni River
12. The plaque on the bench says it all
13. Finally Howick Falls with not much of a flow - but still beautiful
14. Howick Falls own monster legend - see it middle picture

Additional photos courtesy of Rose Dix