Newlands forest is a beautiful green patch on the eastern slopes of the Table Mountain range. Once a dense area of indigenous forest originally inhabited by the Khoi people of the area, the forest has been transformed over the past 200 years since the introduction of pine trees to meet demand of Cape Town’s once booming logging industry.
There are several walks and hikes in and around the forest, my favourite being the Woodcutter’s Trail (read: it’s not strenuous at all). The trail crosses over numerous streams and cuts through indigenous forest with a pleasant combination of boardwalk at the beginning and soft gravel path further up.
The pine forest below the Woodcutter’s Trail explodes with mushrooms around this time of year, with pine rings, fly agarics, russulas, death caps and panther caps adding splashes of colour to the forest floor. The jury is still out on this one, but apparently it is illegal to forage mushrooms in Newlands Forest.
If you’re lucky enough you might stumble upon a rare porcini (or cep) mushroom, easyily identifiable by its thick stem, brownish colour and yellow sponge under the cap. The mushroom is delicious and holds a strong influence in Italian cuisine. Death caps are every bit as scary as they sound. Consuming one will do some highly unpleasant things to your insides and could lead to well, death, in a couple of hours. Nasty. Always positively identify a mushroom before consuming!
The forest is alive with fauna too. If you look close enough you are likely to see insects such as the golden orb spider, birds such as the Cape batis and jackal buzzard and small mammals like the cape gray mongoose.
An afternoon in Newlands forest is an afternoon well spent.