Explore South Africa’s amazing biodiversity without leaving home
Newlands Forest Contour Path
Just another day in paradise
In the midst of the trees deep in the forest is a stone cottage that the woodcutter and his family live in (as well as their slave, this is the 1700s after all). Built by the Dutch East India Company this house in the woods is called Paradise. The master woodcutter is entrusted with the job of protecting the valuable timber resources of Table Mountain.
Fast forward to the end of the decade and Lady Anne Barnard is recording her brief stay in the stone cottage. This diary entry was passed down and over the years the cottage has become known as Lady Anne Barnyard’s Cottage despite her short stay there.
Now it’s my turn
It’s one of those mild, verging on chilly, days where Cape Town hasn’t quite decided which way to go with the weather. I’ve come prepared with shorts in my backpack in case the sun decides to make an appearance and my Hi-Tecs: V-lite Total Terrain Lace – they’re lightweight but sturdy enough for the hike. I’m excited to get going, but nowhere near as excited as my dogs.
What to bring
- Something warm. There’s plenty of shade provided by the trees so it can get chilly even on hot days.
- Sunblock and hats. There are exposed areas on the path so make sure you have good sun protection.
- Hiking shoes. The gravel section can be slippery so you’ll need a pair with good grip.
- Water and treats. There’s some beautiful places to sit and enjoy a picnic so pack a flask and snacks
- Camera. From incredibly tall pines to uncurling ferns there’s plenty you’ll want to capture.
- Children from age 10 and up.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash for the first five minutes but once you reach the top of the road from the parking lot they can enjoy free run of the forest.
The contour path follows the curves of Table Mountain all the way from Tafelberg Road past the cable car station to Constantia Nek. The Newlands Forest section is particularly well maintained with its wooden boardwalks and elevated picnic area amongst the trees. There are countless ways to the contour path as well as some great hikes leading up the mountain from it.
Take the Newlands Forest turn off from the M3, there’s a parking area with a security guard. Walk up the tar road (look out for the helicopters that sometimes land in the field to the right), dogs must be kept on their leashes until the top of the road. Turn left and carry on along this road, there’s plenty of paths turning off it but continue along as the road (called Skelmkoppad) curves up through the trees.
If you want to visit the ruins of Lady Anne Barnard’s cottage there are three turns to the left, each marked with a bench, and if you take the third one and keep to the right you will get there after a few minutes. Otherwise continue on the road until it opens out and you can see the gum tree plantation across the valley, then take the path that turns up to the left. This road will lead onto Fernwood Track, a smaller path that will take you up to the contour path. From there follow the contour path to the right.
There’s a great picnic spot elevated off the path with a tree growing through its middle, directly opposite this is the path that goes up Newlands Ravine. Relax and enjoy your lunch amongst the trees. The forest is dense with paths so you can pick one to take you down or retrace the route if you’re worried about getting lost.
Duration: 3 hours with a lunch break.
Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch
Start out at Constantia Nek and follow the tar road on the Wynberg side which will lead onto a gravel road that goes through the pine trees in the direction of Kirstenbosch. This will turn into a path and shortly after this there are log steps, follow these up and you will see a sign for the contour path. Follow the path into Skeleton Gorge and then down Smuts’ Track into Kirstenbosch.
Duration: 3 hours unless you decide to enjoy lunch at the restaurant in Kirstenbosch.
Newlands Forest to Rhodes Memorial
Take the Fernwood track up to the contour path and then continue along the path that weaves along the mountain through the trees. Once you reach the second turnstile take the path that turns down which will lead to Rhodes Memorial.
Duration: 2 hoursof walking not including tea at Rhodes Memorial where they have a restaurant that overlooks the city.
What to look for
Flora: In the late 1800s large sections of the indigenous forest were cut down to make space for the commercial pine plantations. There are plenty of non-indigenous trees such as the pines and gums, but there are sections along this walk that pass through indigenous forest. Keep an eye out for the interestingly named bastard saffron with its orange bark. You’ll spot plenty of fynbos as well as moss and other specimens that flourish in the damp undergrowth.
Tip: In summer keep an eye out for the helicopters used by the fire fighters; you can sometimes spot them collecting water from the dams to put out mountain fires.
While hiking remember to enjoy the view, maybe you will be lucky enough to spot a beautiful treehouse home.
By Lindsay Callaghan
*Sponsored by Hi-tec