The Helderberg Nature Reserve has been closed since June to recover from a disastrous wildfire, but nature enthusiasts will be glad to know it hopes to open its gates again on 1 August.
A fire that began on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain just outside of the popular Lourensford Farm in June soon engulfed large parts of the mountain as well as the Helderberg Nature Reserve that is situated on the southern slopes of the mountain. Firefighters struggled to get the blaze under control and unfortunately several homes were destroyed.
Once the fire was extinguished, the nature reserve remained closed to assess the extent of the damage. But the despite the severe destruction to the trails’ infrastructure, the ecological damage was determined to be much less and the reserve was reported to be ‘alive with birds and animals’.
The reserve management soon sprang into action and started clean-up and rehabilitation operations. Volunteers joined the efforts to remove burnt boardwalks, and selected rangers helped install new bridges, waterbars and temporary edges on trails to guide walkers when they return. Most, if not all, of the footpaths, walkways and hiking trails up the mountain were damaged. The trails from Disa Gorge to the high points, West Peak and the Dome were unfortunately all burned out and after the heavy rains many were completely washed out, making these trails inaccessible until futher notice.
In the latest update, Helderberg Nature Reserve stated that restoration is still underway, but that the reserve aims to open on 1 August.
“To date all the lower trails have been cleared of debris and unsafe structures. Some burned out waterbars and steps have been replaced. Most of the bridge crossings have been reinstated. Path margins to guide walkers and protect new seedlings from being trampled have been placed in areas. Temporary trail markers are currently being placed on trails to help orientate visitors when they return and to keep feet from wondering off the designated routes,” was announced.
The higher trails might still be unsafe to access at this time, but hikers and runners will soon be able to have their morning and evening walks and runs at the reserve. Reserve management and rangers have already observed new plant growth popping out amongst the burned debris, so the reserve will hopefully be back to its green self.
Picture: Friends of Helderberg Nature Reserve / Facebook