There was a time not too long ago when Knysna was a relatively quiet seaside town, but this is certainly no longer the case. Today it is a dynamic and thriving centre for business, manufacturing and tourism. But while so much of Knysna has been developed, there remains a pristine natural gem of 10 verdant hectares in the midst of all the hustle and bustle: Pledge Nature Reserve.
It is easy to understand why the reserve is dubbed the 'Green Heart of Knysna'. When you are walking through its cloak of green, one can so easily forget, for a brief moment, that it lies right in the middle of Knysna's very busy urban landscape. And that's the beauty of it - right on our doorstep, a mere 200m from the Main Road which runs through Knysna, one can enjoy a respite in nature. And let's face it, we all need some respite from the the fast pace of life.
The land wasn't always as pristine as it is now. At one point it was in a very sad state of degradation. It once served as a brick-field during the timber boom of the late 1800’s and thereafter it became an informal dumping ground. At the hands of man the landscape and the once crystal clear streams running through it, were tainted. Fortunately for us, with the combined efforts of flora loving locals and conservationists, it escaped development and was proclaimed a Nature Reserve in a 1991 and has since been transformed and revived close to what it perhaps once was in its pristine state. It went from toxic dumping ground where invasive alien species ran rampant, to a place where a wide array of indigenous life forms prosper.
Almost 300 different species are found rooted across this reserve, and there is an interconnected series of trails which lead you through a variety of different habitats. The upper reaches are dominated by a beautiful mosaic of rare Garden Route Shale Fynbos, with species such as Proteas and Restios and Ericas. The Fynbos Trail leads walkers to the top of the reserve which boasts impressive views of the estuary and the Knysna Heads in the far distance..
The lower-lying trails traverse through Riverine Thicket and lovely wetland vegetation and are veiled in a leafy cloak of twisted boughs of many impressive tree specimens. They are edged with a host of shade lovers such as Plectranthus, the delicate purple flowers occasionally catching the thin rods of light which sneak in through the dense foliage. The bright orange petals of the Clivias, in strong contrast against the green palette of the forest, demanded my attention, as did the bright flowers of the Wild Pomegranate.
There are various trails from which to choose, and one can quite easily spend hours ambling about the place. We are extremely fortunate to have this little green gem, which is somewhat unique for an urban centre. In order for it to succeed in the long term, it needs full support from both locals and visitors. So grab a friend and go for a walk during your lunch break, or head up to the top for an after-hours respite and take in the wonders of our unique natural heritage.
Tickets can be bought at the top entrance of the reserve, the Tourism office, Polvo Coffee and Wayside Inn.
Pledge Nature Reserve is hosting a Valentine Moonlight Walk on Tuesday 14th February. Bring a torch and comfortable walking shoes and enjoy and evening in nature. A donation of R150 per person includes wonderful snacks and wine in this amazing natural setting!