Report courtesy of Peter Wedge; photos and comment by hike leader Keith Ashton
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]
Keith had been expecting up to 25 people but 17 wasn’t a bad number and indicated the popularity of this grade 2+ hike. Projected distance was 15kms and with a hot day ahead of us – not exactly a walk in the park – but not difficult for most present being experienced and well equipped for any eventuality. (in and around Howick what could possibly go wrong!) We met outside the old Thabo’s Antiques area – now refurbished shops and very attractively furnished. We set off at 08h15 having completed all necessary forms and paid our dues (R20 for the conservancies towards upkeep – a steal really). Our first part of the day was to follow the Symmonds Stream which is now a conservancy and well maintained and signposted. However, with recent heavy rains (and whose complaining). There was a lot of undergrowth and wet slippery patches. The stream walk takes you through “unseen” Howick with vleis with masses of arum lilies and small holdings with attractive houses. After about 2 – 3 kms the walk through the conservancy ends in Gush Avenue leading on to the Curry’s Post road.
We walked for about another kilometre or so past several relatively new gated communities (Protea Gardens in particular) and then climbed a short bank onto Beacon Hill. This is now a proclaimed Protected Environment after several years of hard dedicated work by various NGO’s and individual stalwards and this will stand for 99 years – in other words there can be no significant use of the land area not compatible with conserving the unique diversity of the Midlands Mist Belt Grasslands. We had a short break at the geologic reference point – basically the highest point of Beacon Hill and admired the panoramic view of Howick and invirons and Midmar Dam – now slowly refilling from the recent rain. We really are fortunate in having such a superb landscape on our doorstep (at least for the Howick/Hilton members). Rose was seen to be doing some “prospecting” – actually she was taking close up pics of the mist belt wild flowers which are almost alpine like.
Keith recounted the great flood of 1987 mentioning the 3m wall of water cascading over the original dam wall and creating a secondary lake below. The river had burst its banks and created an almost kilometre wide expanse of water.100 year flood apparently but with the world experiencing extreme weather on an increasingly frequent basis who knows when this might happen again.
Down the path from the hill and onto Lake View Road and the main road for about another kilometre and past the High School and down to the Umgeni River. The river walk is another conservancy although as yet unproclaimed (?) However its very well cared for by one Bill Speight and his small team of volunteers who keep the paths mowed and free from litter (well as much as they are able – why do people toss their rubbish anywhere they please? We have a national (if not international) problem here which needs to be addressed through education at primary school level. Enough proletysing - the river walk is very peaceful and again with good pastoral views of the far bank. However, again with recent rains the last kilometre or so is wet and soggy until the path opens to a clearing and then an open walk by the river itself before terminating near the roads leading into town. We passed the house near the exit with a paddock with 2 donkeys – looking a bit healthier than a year ago – what do the owners do with them? Surely not a donkey cart in Howick a la Northern Cape!
We were now about 3kms from the Falls but through the urban areas past the Police Station and at the Falls by 13h00.
Keith gave a short explanation of Howick and the Rubber Factory’s hydroelectric plant. The river water is diverted into a large diameter pipe which feeds water to the turbine about 100m below the top of the Falls. This was originally the source of power for the factory in the 1920’s with a bit of spare capacity for the towns street lighting. Howick was possibly the first Midlands community with electric lighting from hydro power.
We were all a bit hot and tired after a fairly long morning but all appreciative of the Midlands open green panoramas and thanks again to Keith for leading this very popular local hike.
See you all again next year.
PHOTOS AND COMMENT THAT FOLLOW COURTESY OF HIKE LEADER KEITH ASHTON
1. Ready to roll outside the refurbished lovely shops (Previously Thabos Antiques)
2. Start of the Symmonds Stream Conservancy hike
3. An informative sign in the conservancy
4. Just after entering Curry's Post road - Our Christmas Party venue
5. Another of the recent developments up Curry's Post Road
6. Making our way from Curry's Post Road towards Beacon Hill
7. Approaching Beacon Hill Conservancy
8. Time for a break & snacks near the Beacon & to admire the views
9. Vladimir taking a well earned rest
10. Vladimir, now recovered, pointing out the views to Vera & Hannah
11. Midmar Dam Wall, but water level still far below
12. Loga & part of our group close to the Beacon
13. View of Eagle Ridge Club House (Our Christmas Party Venue) & Main St Howick
14. Howick Cub & Scout Hall as we make our way to the Umgeni River
15. Our nice lunch spot after our walk along the river - still little flow at the moment
16. Peter & Chris in serious training for their next long hike
17. Our group finishing lunch in a relaxing setting
18. At last Howick Falls View Site but not much water coming over
19. Howick Falls Pool's own Monster Legend - see middle picture