Van Riebeeck’s Hedge

Botanical Gardens / Landmarks in or near Newlands, Southern Suburbs in Cape Town, South Africa.

Western Cape Tourist AttractionsVan Riebeeck’s Hedge

Where? Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Newlands, Southern Suburbs, Cape Town

Overnight? Accommodation in Newlands, in Western Cape

Up on the banks above the stream at which children play, on the lower slopes of the Kirstenbosch gardens, lies the magic forest - a haven for children who love to clamber in and on the several huge, ancient trees whose branches sprawl across the ground like the fingers of a gnarled hand.

These are the remains of Van Riebeeck’s Hedge - a series of indigenous wild almond trees (Brabejum stellatifolium) planted in 1660 by the governor of the Cape as a boundary to the settlement of the Cape. Wild almonds have the tendency to grow horizontally as well as vertically and their branches intertwine.

Together with a series of thorny shrubs they formed a defensive barrier from the mouth of the Salt River, along the Liesbeeck River, up Wynberg Hill to Kirstenbosch. The intention was to stop the Khoikhoi from raiding livestock from the Dutch settlement, and it incorporated wooden fence and watchtowers.

The aim was to quickly grow a barrier that would prevent any cattle or sheep from getting through. Ironically the hedge became a hindrance to those who built it as some of the best grazing for livestock developed on the other side of the hedge from the settlement, as it quickly expanded.

For many the hedge is symbolic of the start of apartheid. It cut the indigenous Khoikhoi off from their traditional grazing land. It is not the hedge that is considered the barrier, but what came after the hedge.

There are two sections, each declared national monuments, of remaining hedge today, older even than the castle itself. One section is the trees on the banks of the stream at Kirstenbosch, available for all who choose to sit in their shade (on hot days this is some of the best shade in the garden).

The trees are not immediately visible from the lawns of the garden and there is no sign indicating their presence. Ask locals where you will find the ‘magic forest’.

The other section is in Bishops Court.

Why not overnight? Find Accommodation in Newlands

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