GEELBEK RIVER BLOCKHOUSE

An interesting place to stop along the N1 is the Geelbek River Blockhouse situated next to the Geelbek railway bridge near Laingsburg.

While a number of blockhouses used stone in their construction, this one is built from shuttered concrete. The design of this, and other blockhouses, was developed by General Sir Elliot Wood – the British army’s chief engineer in South Africa at the time, basing it on a pattern he had used in the Sudan during the 1880s. It was declared a National Monument in 1965.

Although the plaque put up by the Historical Monuments Commission is high up and can no longer be read easily, it states that To prevent the destruction of the railroad by Republican forces, the British military, at the beginning of 1901, built this type of blockhouse near railway bridges at a cost of approximately R2 000 each. It was garrisoned […] for thirty soldiers.

Steel-protected embrasures were located on each floor, while two steel boxes projected at diagonally opposite corners of the top floor provided covering cross-fire to the walls below. The lookout platforms also provided a clear view over the surrounding area.

You can read more about blockhouses along the Cape Town-De Aar railway line at http://samilitaryhistory.org/jnl2/vol181rt.html

ANOTHER ARRAY OF PATTERNS

It strikes me that if you look at anything close enough and for long enough, a pattern will emerge. Take this cauliflower for example:

I seldom get an opportunity to walk along the beach and when I do, apart from the waves, shells and seabirds, I am mesmerised by the patterns made by ripples in the shallow water:

I admire images of centuries old stone bridges as well as more modern concrete and steel bridges from abroad. Sometimes in this part of the world we have to make do with something more humble, like this flat wooden bridge:

For several years we had an angulate tortoise living in our garden – until he decided the time was right to seek a mate and he wandered off:

I also enjoy patterns seen in weathered rocks:

Lastly, this one may take you by surprise:

It was sent to me by a family member several years ago.

SUSPENSION FOOT BRIDGE: THEN AND NOW

It was in 1979 that friends visited the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park – as it was called then [it is now part of the Garden Route National Park] – and sent us a post card depicting this view of the Suspension Foot Bridge over the Storms River. The card has faded over time, yet shows the spectacular view of the bridge from the path that winds through the forest.

We had not yet visited the area and were taken by their description of it: We are enjoying this very beautiful place and are sure you would too. Even in rainy weather it is a lovely place to be. We were living in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal at the time and it wasn’t until we were living in Mmabatho several years later that we made our way down there – and fell in love with the place! So much so that we have returned many times – most recently in October last year.

Although this photograph is not taken from the original perspective, you can see how the area has been developed over the past 41 years – especially the footbridge. The original one is still there, but has been augmented by others.

Our friends continued: Unfortunately the Otter Trail is fully booked but we are enjoying the shorter walks. Great bird life!

How right they were too. There are a number of interesting walks along the coastline and through the natural forest that hugs the steep slopes of the mountains. Every time we visit there I am astounded by the number and variety of birds we see – even around the open camp sites. I have written elsewhere about walking the Otter Trail, which I did a couple of years after moving to Grahamstown.

As an aside: the postage stamp on this postcard is 3c. During the intervening years postage has increased to R5,34. Given how dysfunctional our postal service is, I wonder if people bother to send post cards anymore!

THE TEST OF TIME

This beautiful stone arch bridge supporting the railway line between Grahamstown and Alicedale was designed and built 125 years ago by the South African railway engineer, Guybon Damant Atherstone.

Of local interest is that he was born in Grahamstown on 20th June 1843 and schooled at St. Andrew’s College, which is down the hill from where I live. A real local lad, he was employed by the Cape Government Railways, during which time he completed this railway line in 1896. Having garnered a fine reputation for designing and building railways across the Eastern Cape, he died in Grahamstown on 15th February 1912.

This single arch bridge supports the railway where it crosses the road that wends its way through the Highlands area before reaching Alicedale. As with the photograph above, this view is from the Grahamstown side:

The branch line, which covered 56 km of difficult terrain, closed in 2009. There are now sections where farm gates or fences cross the line which has become overgrown by grass and shrubs here and there. The arch remains firm:

It is a joy to see the workmanship evident in the dressed stone:

The underneath of the arch appears to be clad with bricks – unless these are stones cut to that size and shape:

Here is the view of the bridge from the Alicedale side:

While the railway is no longer in use, the bridge has stood the test of time and still stands proud.

Note: Mr. Tootlepedal, this post was compiled with you in mind.