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Jewel of the Karoo just over yonder

Lifestyle Section - Environment


tonyfrostm1The Western Cape is just so blessed with beautiful places and destinations, it is difficult to choose – and because it is all around us we tend to take much for granted. This is especially so when you can see the big, obvious places of beauty so easily – the mountains, the sea and the beaches, the vineyards and the stunning natural biodiversity that almost smacks you in the face at every turn.

And then there are the real gems that you need to know about or seek out.

One is the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden, on the slopes just above Worcester. It has a fascinating history. It started in 1921 about 5 kilometres outside Matjiesfontein at a site called, of all things, Whitehall.

It seems that the name originated from the abundance of white quartzite rocks that exist in that area of the Witteberge mountains. The original site was chosen by Professor Harold Compton, then director of the Kirstenbosch Gardens, the railway’s horticulturist Frank Frith and the owner of the farm, James Logan.

For many years the garden was maintained and managed by Joseph Archer, the station master of the Whitehall siding, who eventually left the railways and took on the curatorship of this fledgling botanical garden.

tonyfrost-m3In the early 1940s, the re-direction of the national road, severe drought and poor public support during the war years forced Kirstenbosch to seek a more suitable site.

The Worcester Municipality and Charles Heatlie donated the land of the current site.

The move and establishment of the new garden at Worcester took place under the watchful eye of Kirstenbosch and, in particular, a Swiss horticulturist, Jacques Thudichum. It was officially opened in 1948.

While Worcester hardly seems to be a desert region, it sits on the fringes of the Karoo – and a visit to the gardens will confirm it is a very happy home to thousands of magnificent and unusual succulent plants that one is unlikely to see anywhere else. The variety and diversity of plants to be found in this garden is simply breath-taking. Make a point of visiting the nursery to see some of these, close up.

Against the backdrop of the mountains, with valley stretching out below the gardens this should become one of the “must-see” destinations for those living in the Western Cape, a definite for the people of the Boland and a great stop-over place for those travelling through Worcester, on their way either to or from the hinterland.

Written by Tony Frost You are reading Jewel of the Karoo just over yonder articles

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