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.



Modern materials especially manufactured for terracing mean that one does not see much in the way of stone terracing anymore. This one was photographed at Scotts Barracks in Grahamstown shortly before the building and garden were refurbished for a more modern purpose. I like the nooks and crannies that provide hideyholes for lizards, beetles and other insects as well as purchase for small plants that take root. Even the bare patches of stone are more pleasing to the eye than concrete blocks!


The road up Mountain Drive is narrow and rocky.

In places it is very rocky.

Yet, it so worth the trip for the magnificent views across town from the top!

There were butterflies aplenty skimming the top of the grass, chasing each other, or landing briefly on flowers, trees or even on the stones – where I photographed this orange beauty.

Other insects were burrowed into some of the flowers waving in the wind.

Several termite mounds show signs of repair – note the different coloured mud.

The Cussonia spicata (Cabbage) trees are in bloom, their greenish-yellow terminal double umbels of 8-12 spikes per unit dominant on the skyline.

Other interesting flowers are the bright red Burchellia bubaline (Wild pomegranate)

As well as the beautiful orange of Leonatis leonurus (Wild dagga / Lion’s tail)



The Strelitzia reginae is commonly known as the Crane Flower and I have heard it called the Bird of Paradise Flower (what a cumbersome name that is!). I prefer Crane Flower as, from a distance in the veld, they bear a strong resemblance to the Crowned Cranes – which we do not see often enough in the wild.

These flowers occur naturally in our part of the Eastern Cape. The picture above was taken in the Ecca Pass Nature Reserve near Grahamstown. A lovely clump of them grow on a bank opposite our driveway and I derive a lot of pleasure from seeing them in bloom.

How interesting it must have been to name plants as they were found, examined and identified. The Strelitzia part of the name of this plant honours Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), wife of George III, from the house of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She was apparently a keen amateur botanist who became involved with the development of the Royal Botanic Kew Gardens.



Day Six of us having no water in our town. That, combined with the first cheerfully sunny day for a while, encouraged us to take a drive out to some sites of historical interest in the area.

The first stop along the road towards Fort Beaufort was the Governor’s Kop signal tower (see 21 March 2014). Given our lack of water at home, it was pleasing to see evidence of ground water in several small farm dams en route, spray irrigation and even a working windmill or two.


The wild pomegranate (Burchellia bubalina) are coming into bloom, as are the coral trees – both Erythrina caffra and Erythrina lysistemon, providing bright splashes of colour in the veld that is slowly shaking off its winter mantle.

We turned off the tar onto a dirt road leading into the Coombs Valley in search of the well-known Clay Pits, where Xhosas traditionally used to collect yellow and red ochre with which to decorate themselves. The directions we had been given proved to be inaccurate. While I was photographing an old sneeze wood fence post, a passing farmer stopped to offer assistance. The Clay Pits happened to be on his farm another 4km away! How serendipitous that was.

fence post

They were not far from the farm house and so we walked through the veld to see them. I am not sure what I had expected, but it was not a heap of yellow and reddish stones next to a deep hollow, now overgrown with trees and shrubs as no-one seeks ochre here anymore.


Next, we drove through the beautiful Coombs Valley along a rough dirt road cutting through game farms before turning into the equally beautiful Trappes Valley leading towards Bathurst. Apart from the ubiquitous Vervet Monkeys, we saw herds of Black Wildebeest, Blesbuck and Impala.

Large swathes of indigenous bush hug the hillsides with flocks of Cape Glossy Starlings, Speckled Mousebirds and Crowned Hornbills flitting in between.

crowned hornbill

The dense cover of vegetation rouses admiration for the 1820 Settlers and others who were dumped in this (what to them must have been) inhospitable terrain with no amenities and expected to make a living for themselves.

It is disturbing, however, to note the infiltration of exotics such as wattle, eucalyptus, conifers and even palm trees – some possibly planted by those early inhabitants – along the road and water courses.

The Kowie museum in Port Alfred is housed in a beautiful dressed stone building that once was the station for the railway between Port Alfred and Grahamstown. This was officially opened on 1st October 1884 and remained in private hands until the government took it over in 1913.

Kowie Museum

All that remains of the original fort in Port Alfred is a low stone wall, now incorporated as the boundary wall of a private home in Hards Street.

stone wall

We stopped at the historical Pig and Whistle Inn in Bathurst for a late lunch. This is said to be the oldest pub in South Africa, having been in operation since 1832.

pig and whistle inn

There is a leisurely aspect to life in the countryside. The warm hospitality we’d received from the farmers in the morning had given us a taste of it. Instead of ‘popping into’ the historic St. John’s Anglican Church in Bathurst, known for sheltering women and children during the Sixth and Seventh Frontier Wars, we met the assistant verger who gave us a detailed tour of the church along with background stories of local interest and who pointed out the grave of the man who originally built the Pig and Whistle.

bell at St Johns Church

Leaving much later than intended, we wound our way further up the road to Battery Hill, where only the Powder Magazine remains of the original fort. This commands a superb view across the valley to the ocean at Port Alfred on the one side and across the Coombs Valley to Governor’s Kop on the other.

powder magazine

On our way back, we stopped briefly at the Bathurst Methodist Church, which also sheltered women and children during the Seventh Frontier War.

Our last stop was the Toposcope, sadly so vandalised now that few of the direction plaques are of any use. By now we were being blown about by the blast of the cold front that had been edging closer for most of the day. The strong wind brought with it curtains of haze and mizzle that blotted out the landscape in its wake and flattened the grass around the Toposcope. The sky clouded over completely and the temperature dropped to 8°C.

Bathurst toposcope

It was clearly time to drive through the rain and to head for home – where not a drop of water came out of the taps!