This arboretum is along the Mossel River before it goes under the bridge at Lizette’s circle. It was planted by Ion Williams and Eric Jones in the sixties. Ian, the founder of Vogelgat and also instrumental in construction of paths in Fernkloof and Eric Jones were both members of the Botanical Society. Many of the trees planted are not indigenous but in those days trees were planted for their beauty- the consequences of planting exotic species was not fully understood. A number of the trees remain and are majestic and beautiful in their own right. Examples of these were Penny gum (Eucalyptus cinerea– grey) also known as Florists’ gum as the grey leaves work perfectly in flower arrangements. Another, a large cork oak or Quercus suber with its beautiful thick and knobbly dark grey bark. An adult tree can be stripped of its bark and regenerate same. We also saw big flowering gums or Eucalyptus ficifolia with the gumnuts which reminded me of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, created by Mary Gibbs, exotic eugenias and an old cypress. We walked to the background orchestra of the clicking stream frog and busy chirping sunbirds.
We met in the Fernkloof Gardens but in view of the ferocious wind instead of ambling down the Mossel River we went by car to the corner of Arc and Riverside Roads where we accessed the path down to the arboretum. I recalled many runs along that path from Reservoir Road into Riverside Road and then running along Contour till we joined up with Fernkloof drive which was, and still is a dirt road. We would run along looking up at the golden aulax covering the mountain which nestled under an azure blue sky. At that time in the eighties we ran under the flowering gums of the arboretum, heard the buzz of bees and then crossed on a rickety bridge over the fast flowing river. People used to take their children to play on the sand and sail homemade boats down the river. There was an old swing and also slats up the gum trees to enable tree climbing. Little did I know that the route took me passed what would one day be my new home? However, the magic of the place filled me with joy and that has not changed.
by Kathie Buley