These days it is not always possible to live in a free-standing home surrounded by a garden in a suburb. The trend is towards living – albeit in free-standing houses – that are in enclosed complexes. This is a reflection of such ‘communal’ living taken late one afternoon.
Humans have probably always felt the need to shorten their routes by crossing rivers and ravines. What may have begun as a sturdy log stretching across the obstacle has grown into the science of pontitecture, using materials ranging from wood, vines, stone, iron, and wire to concrete and steel.
Here are a few examples – all of which bring home to me the need to stop more on our travels to take much better pictures of bridges!
A simple wooden bridge over a stream at the Royal Natal National Park in the Drakensberg.
The railways require bridges to cross rivers and this well-known one over the Sabie River at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park dates from 1912 and probably features in the photographic collections of visitors from all over the world.
This lattice girder bridge over the Great Kei River was completed in 1879.
For road users, low-level bridges such as this one crossing the Fish River in the Great Fish Reserve can be found all over South Africa.
The iconic metal Alice Bridge crossing the Bushman’s River at Estcourt is one of several built to this design.
Crossing the Kat River at Fort Beaufort is the beautiful Victoria Bridge, the first multiple-arch stone bridge built in South Africa.
Lastly, is a small section of the Paul Sauer suspension bridge that crosses the Storms River.
A visit to the Egazini Memorial, which commemorates events relating to the Battle of Grahamstown (1891), provided an opportunity to view some of the iconic buildings of the town from a different perspective. The memorial is situated in a large grassy area surrounded by a metal railing fence – much of which has been removed. The spacious lawn is unmowed and covered with litter, and the stone paths disappear in places under weeds and grass. One has to watch out for broken glass everywhere.
Looking towards Gunfire Hill on the opposite side of the valley one is struck by the dominant structure of the 1820 Settler’s Monument – a complex containing theatres, an auditorium, and offices – built to commemorate the contributions made by English-speaking Settlers to South Africa. It dwarfs Fort Selwyn (on the right) that was erected in 1835-36 to protect the approaches to Grahamstown as well as the town’s water supply.
The iconic Clock Tower of Rhodes University stands out clearly, flanked in the background by part of the Waainek wind farm.
Next is the red brick steeple of the Dutch Reformed Church – the windmills clearly in evidence!
Moving further to the right is the spire of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St George on the left of the photograph and the tower of the City Hall on the right.
The Internet is a potential maze that can lead one down alleyways that divert one from the initial track one set out upon. I was wondering who Fort Frederick in Port Elizabeth was named after and discovered it was Frederick, Duke of York, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. The fort, overlooking the harbour, was built in 1799.
Duke of York – that rings a bell:
The Grand old Duke of York he had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
When they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down.
The maw of the maze opened wide and I got sucked into some sites claiming that the rhyme refers to Richard, Duke of York, claimant to the English throne and Protector of England and the Battle of Wakefield on 30th December 1460. Others are convinced that Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, is the one mocked in the nursery rhyme. When war broke out between Britain and France in 1793, he took control of the port of Dunkirk but was later pushed back in a battle at Hondschoote. Although his troops performed well, they were outnumbered three to one and lost their siege guns during the retreat. Given the date Fort Frederick was built, this one is the likely candidate.
Back to Fort Frederick.
This stone fort is reputed to be the oldest surviving British fortification in the Eastern Cape. It was built by the British Forces to defend the mouth of the Baakens River and contains a powder magazine
As well as a blockhouse, the upper storey of which no longer exists as it was built from timber.
The fort was originally defended by two 8-pounder guns and one 5.5 inch Howitzer, but now contains a selection of muzzle-loaders dating from the later part of the eighteenth century.
It is has been partially restored over the years and is a declared National Monument.
If you wish to read about the background to the nursery rhyme, here are two sites to start you off
Consider this: nearly two centuries ago, after having travelled for several weeks by ox wagon, you arrive in an inhospitable, uninhabited place. There are no roads to speak of; no neighbours to welcome you and ease you into your new environment; the nearest town – if there is one – requires a journey of several days to reach; there are no shops or fresh produce markets – only the dry veld, the intense heat, and a river some distance away. This is where you are going to create a home for your wife and where you plan to bring up your family.
Everything has to be done by hand: hewing the local rocks into usable shapes; hoisting them into position to build walls; and making a weather-proof roof – not to mention having to provide food and water sans any of the conveniences we are used to.
South Africa is dotted about with the remnants of the labour of early inhabitants. This ruined homestead in the Hell’s Poort valley in the Eastern Cape is an example of where a variety of local rocks were shaped and fitted together to make the walls. On the left-hand side is what is left of a layer of plaster.
In this case patterns were made in the plaster to represent a more even appearance of stone work.
The rocks were, however, of different sizes.
The thick walls were held together with mud.
Sun-baked clay bricks lined what would have been an afdak or veranda.
We can still see remnants of how the people here lived and worked once they had settled in:
They had horses.
They built a cooler for keeping their meat and other food as fresh as possible.
They used an ox wagon.
They even made a garden.