The unprecedented rainfall of winter 2023 caused severe damage to trails and paths in and around Stellenbosch, but fortunately, explains ERNST GOUWS, the Stellenbosch Trail Fund’s team swung quickly into action.
WHEN YOU’RE READING this article on a warm and dry summer’s day, you’ll probably find it difficult to recall the harsh weather experienced during the winter of 2023. In fact, autumn passed in the blink of an eye and by March and April the rains had set in at record levels.
And then came 14 June. Following several days of non-stop rain and a cloudburst early that morning, the towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl experienced the biggest flooding seen in generations. Massive amounts of rainwater in the Jonkershoek catchment area caused the Eerste River to break its banks. Instead of winding peacefully through Stellenbosch, the river decided to take a straighter route and several suburban streets became rivers too. The water flooded into houses and buildings, causing enormous damage.
Beyond the suburbs, the cloudburst turned small mountain streams into forceful rivers. Flash floods and landslides occurred in several nature areas, and the mountain bike trail network was hard hit.
Enter the trail builders! In their gumboots and with tools in hand, several teams of trail builders took to the mountains and valleys to repair trails, berms and bridges, to remove fallen trees and to ensure that the trails are safe again for everyone’s enjoyment.
The Stellenbosch Trail Fund (STF) crew is one of those teams. It maintains not only the mountain bike trails on the hills in Paradyskloof and Botmaskop, but also the walking paths adjacent to the Eerste River in town. Large numbers of residents enjoy walking, running and cycling in Koloniesland and along Noordwal Street, opposite Maties Sports Grounds and Paul Roos Gymnasium. Many sections of these trails were washed away.
The STF is responsible for another important community function: its Commemorative Tree Planting project. Since 2017, more than 100 indigenous trees have been planted along the Eerste River, a large proportion funded by residents who wanted to honour a loved one. The flood of 14 June uprooted many of these trees.
It was inspiring to see the STF team tackle all the damage in the days following the flood. With smiles on their faces, they worked long hours to restore the cycling trails and walking paths, removing truck-loads of debris all along the river and replanting many washed-away trees.
And then came 25 September … Just as Cape residents thought the hectic rainy season had passed, the Jonkershoek catchment area recorded more than 300mm of rain in less than 24 hours! Once again there was flash flooding along the Eerste River and in all the valleys around Stellenbosch.
And out went our town’s trail-building teams to tackle the damage. As they say, it never rains but it pours.
If you find yourself walking along the Eerste River this summer, perhaps through Koloniesland or along Noordwal Street, enjoy the well-maintained paths and gardens. Or perhaps you’ll get the opportunity to run and cycle on the wide range of trails on municipal land around town.
It’s a wonderful feature of this beautiful town that these facilities are open to the public, free of charge.
Should you get to enjoy these opportunities, we encourage you to support the local trail-building team, who ensure that the facilities are always well maintained and safe to use.
One of over a hundred trees planted by STF along the Eerste River.
Please support the STF by visiting stellenboschtrailfund.co.za for more information.