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Alex Smith

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Secret Gardens of Cape Town #4 Green Point Urban Park

LighthouseOne of Cape Town’s most loved places is the promenade in Sea Point – it is a place for dogs to bring their humans, children to bring ice-creams, babies to perambulate, older folk to power walk, lovers to love strolling, whales and dolphins to parade offshore for watches, ships to sail for spotters, stars to shine for gazers, and waves to break on treacherous rocks for ardent surfers. It is a happy place (with a bit of a dark side, but everybody has their secrets, don’t they).
Elias looking at the wading birds
LizardStocked up with a tub of fresh sliced mango and a couple of sour dough bread sticks from the Newport Deli, Elias and I followed the paving stones all the way to the lighthouse, then crossed Beach Road and found ourselves at an imposing gateway. From the outside the portal seemed to promise nothing more than a rather dull golf course (apologies to golfers, but neither Elias nor I have much interest in the sport) and some flatland beyond. And we almost changed our minds about visiting the uninvitingly titled ‘Urban Park’, but a bird squawked and Elias was intrigued enough to wriggle free of my arms. Seagulls are nothing if not brazen, but Elias is equally determined and our visit to the Urban Park commenced in a flurry as he herded a flock of gulls into the lake and then looked around and demanded More! More! But none were willing, so he set off again at a tripping pace over a bridge into the wetlands biosphere exhibit and through a plant-covered dome where a teacher with a large magnifying glass was telling a group of girls in pink uniforms about how an ant can transform a landscape. We did not have time to listen because just beyond her in a bed of Ericas and fan aloes, Elias spotted a beaded lizard and so he plunged into that thicket and attempted to wrestle the creature off the rock. Fortunately the garden planners must have anticipated such unbridled attention and the creature remained pinioned to his perch.

What is secret about this garden is that it is so utterly delightful: thoughtfully crafted, ecologically rich, beautifully landscaped and full of whimsical surprises in the form of artworks which celebrate the smaller wonders in life: chameleons, humming birds, bees, assassin bugs, spiders and ants.

Its position too is noteworthy. It sits in shadow of Signal Hill, and is flanked by two contentious and historic landmarks: on the left there is the lighthouse and on the right there is the World Cup Soccer Stadium which hovers beyond the lake and the reeds like a silvery mirage.

And there is another lovely thing (well there are probably many others) – without doubt the toddlers play area is the most elegant eco-chic one to be found anywhere in town, possibly anywere in the country, or even anywhere on the African continent. You can take your blue scooter and trundle down the mosaic-patterned ramp (but only if you’re under 6!)
bird mosaic elias small

Devilskein&Dearlove is due to be published by Random House Umuzi in SA and Arachne press in the UK in July 2014. It is a ‘Secret Garden’ for the 21st century, set in Long Street Cape Town. Perfect for precocious readers from the age of 12 and up!


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    March 8th, 2014 @10:38 #

    I'm working through my list of favourite secret gardens around town (and a few slightly out of town), but you can suggest a beautiful garden that you really love, that would be great, Ideally it should be open to the public or if it at least has some open days, that is fine too.


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