De Hel Nature Area is a riverine valley adjoining Table Mountain below Rhodes Drive to the northeast of Constantia Nek. The upper reaches of the Spaanschemat River runs through this 21,3 ha natural area, and environmental surveys of De Hel show that the site remains in a near natural condition. The land is designated as zoned public open space, and is owned by the City of Cape Town. A management partnership has been arranged between the municipality and the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts (FOCVGB).
De Hel has not been dubbed ‘the jewel in the crown’ of Constantia’s riverine open spaces without good reason. Its steep slopes, densely covered in trees, run down to the riverbed, and at the bottom, a flat piece of land known as ‘the Meadow’ is still home to pockets of fruit trees and garden plants, as the Meadow was cultivated in the past. The site has also been declared a Provincial Heritage Site. De Hel is linked to ancient cattle tracks originating from the Khoi-Khoi pastoralists in the Cape. The Dutch East India Company also established one of their four woodcutters’ posts in the area, and because of this and its associations with slave labour and slave runways, De Hel is a heritage site of significance.
A plant survey identified 250 plant species; a third of these being alien to the site. The indigenous vegetation is Southern Afrotemperate Forest and Peninsula Granite Fynbos, and is home to the endangered silver tree (Leucadendron argenteum) and Erica phylicaefolia.
Some 16 species of mammals have been observed, and a bird count yielded 72 species to date, with 17 reptiles and amphibians recorded. Notable endangered species include the Knysna Warbler (Bradypterus sylvaticus) and the western leopard toad (Amietophrynus pantherinus).
Invasive alien species are a threat to the granite fynbos, and controlling the spread of alien trees
without affecting the indigenous forest proves a difficult task.
ADDRESS: Between Southern Cross Drive and Constantia Nek Road, Constantia
OPENING HOURS: Sunrise to sunset
SIZE: 21,3 ha
ENTRANCE FEE: None
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Taxi
ACTIVITIES: Walking, jogging, birdwatching and photography
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION: None
FRIENDS GROUP: Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts
CONTACT: City Parks Tel 021 689 9141
Source: City of Cape Town (2010) City of Cape Town nature reserves: A network of amazing biodiversity. City of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.