Constantia Walks – Discovering the Constantia green belt – city walks with a difference
In Constantia’s green belt there are no fewer than nine interwoven trails that provide inner-city walking that is easy to reach but nevertheless manages to give one a sense of getting away from it all, surrounded by the green leafiness of Constantia.
The not very strenuous Constantia walks are roughly 30 to 45 minutes each, depending on how many of them you attempt at a time, and provide you with a space in which to don a hat and boots, whilst taking in the beauty of streams, rivers and mountain scenery in the midst of elegance, some of the oldest winelands in the Cape, soaring oak trees, gabled Cape Dutch homesteads and a stretch of stately homes.
When the sun slants through the trees, and the lush grass rises to meet one, you can be forgiven for thinking that you’ve stepped for a moment onto the set of a Merchant Ivory production, such is the quality of the light and the beauty of the surrounds … despite the suburb’s ‘mink-and-manure’ pretentions.
The Constantia Valley is one of the world’s best wine growing regions that has produced award-winning vintages since the time of Simon van der Stel, who established the entire valley as a wine-growing region. Today five estates combine to form one of very few wine routes so close to a city centre.
Whilst the council helps clear space and weeds in the green belt, it is unable to help maintain these green belts on a regular basis. The Constantia Hills Residents Association ‘adopts out’ these open spaces to residents to help keep grass trimmed and weeds removed to prevent flooding in winter.
The Alphen Trail is possibly one of the most popular of the green belt walks. The walk can start at either end, but most people park their cars on the bend of Alphen Drive that leads off Constantia Main Road to the Alphen Hotel (a national monument in its own right with beautiful gardens and tea to die for, if you’re looking for somewhere to do ‘high tea’ before or after your meander).
The trail winds along the Diep River to the Constantiaberg Mountain and in places allows one to walk on either side of the river, with a number of bridge crossings. It’s a beautiful walk filled with lush grass, trees, beautiful skies and the Le Sueur Meadow on the far end of the walk towards Hohenort. People take their dogs and families on Sunday afternoon rambles here – like all of the Constantia trails, it’s safer on weekends or in larger groups during the week. The walk never fails to restore the soul, demanding little from one and yet giving so much in return by way of views and fresh air.
The Diep River Trail can include the Alphen trail if you want it to, or you can join it at Le Sueur Meadow, on the bend of Brommersvlei Road, on Avenue Beauvais or on Southern Cross Drive (where it can either start or end).
Spaanschemat River Trail has parking space just across the road from Peddlar’s on the Bend en route to Tokai, past Constantia Waldorf school, and winds it’s way parallel to Strawberry Lane along the Spaanschemat River. This is a 25 to 35 minute walk. The other side has a parking area in the bend of Strawberry Lane. You can also link up with the Grootboskloof trail from here, to provide a longer walk should you want to.
One can join the Grootboschkloof Trail either from Firgrove Way at the road bridge, although there is not parking here, from Strawberry Lane or from Willow Road (both of which have parking areas). It’s a 20 to 25 minute walk that, if added to the Spaanschemat River Trail provides a good Sunday meander and brings one to Airlie Bridge on Neva Road. The map does suggest that there is a proposed addition to this trail to Spaanschemat Road.
The Grootboschkloof green belt is part of a rehabilitation pilot project that began late in 2006. Over 2000 plants were donated and planted by Working for Wetlands and a gardener is sponsored two days a month to help clear aliens and weed.
The Silverhurst Trail is the one sighted on Constantia Nek Road, which slices through the trail a little way into its start. You’ll find the beginning of this trail on the other side of Peddlar’s on the Bend, from the Spaanschemat River Trail. Walk up Brounger off Spaanschemat and hit the trail where it runs parallel to Pagasvlei Road. This is also a popular trail and runs along the back of Silverhurst Estate. You can join the trail just after its start at the parking lot on Constantia Nek Road.
The Brommersvlei walk is almost encased by Rathfelder Avenue, where the road makes the famous loop around the Bel Ombre Meadow, a favourite for Sunday strolls amongst Constantia’s set, and dogs just love the green pasture. Views here are pretty spectacular and it’s easy to understand why Constantia is so popular amongst Capetonians and expats alike.
De Hel Nature Area is the setting for another of the Constantia green belt trails – this one bordered by Constantia Nek Road to the west – where there is an entry point and car park, Rhodes Drive to the north, and Southern Cross Drive to the south east where there is another entry point and car park. The walk meanders just above the De Hel meadow and it’s a fairly substantial walk, taking 45 to 55 minutes in total.
Doordrift walk affixes itself to the Alphen Trail and can start at the same parking lot, but heads out south along the Diep River, crossing under the M3 Freeway, across Constantia Main Rd and then meanders down past Norman Henshilwood School ending in Doordrift Road, where there is another parking lot, offering another starting point.
Klaasenbosch Trail has a number of entry points along its route. The northern reaches of the walk are off Rhodes Drive, west of the Kirstenbosch top entrance gate, or from Cecilia Forest, where it lies on the slopes between Constantia Nek and the southern boundary of Kirstenbosch. The walk is crisscrossed by Spilhaus Road, which becomes Hohenort, and bordered to the south west by Brommersvlei Road. In its centre is Cellars-Hohenort Hotel, and to the south you can join up with the Alphen Trail.
Two local volunteer guides are available to assist visitors or school groups with knowledge of the riverine fauna, flora and environment on the Green Belts. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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