A brief history of the property that I am lucky enough to have exclusive guiding rights too. A gorgeous, 150 hectare reserve; almost entirely indigenous forest.
To begin with…
Brackenburn farm was originally part of the William Newdigate estate of Forest Hall in The Crags, Plettenberg Bay. William was an English squire who built Forest Hall in 1862, and the Great Fire of 1869 came close to destroying the grand mansion. The tremendous ash fallout from the fire is what gave the hill-top road that leads up to the Brackenburn reserve today it’s name; Askop Road, literally translates to “ash-head” road, though these days we have shed the ash and progressed to tarmac, even sporting a few rather uneven speed bumps I am afraid.
At Brackenburn’s entrance there stand two magnificent (though alien of course!) Eucalyptus trees, whose trunks bear deep cuts; scarring evidence of days gone by when cables were fastened round them to enable ancient yellow-wood timber to be hauled out of the deep valley. Around 1950 Albert Pringle and his wife, Cynthia, bought two adjacent properties of land totaling 150 hectares in extant, founding the Brackenburn we know today.
Farming vs Wildlife…
Typical of rambling old farm houses from that time, the rooms are generous with lovely exposed wood floors, white brick walls and high wooden ceilings. In 1984, Bunny (Bernice) Berge bought Brackenburn from Albert, and she and her daughter Brenda continued the sheep farm for a while. Unfortunately, as Albert had previously discovered, leopard predation was too damaging to allow for a sustainable sheep farm; ultimately paving the way for another change to Brackenburn’s direction.
Besides planting trees and extending the gardens, in spite of the forests best efforts to see otherwise, Bunny had a wonderful skill for miniature crafts. Creating what she called her ‘field & forest creatures’, Bunny used pussy-willow blossoms and other objects found in the forest to depict mouse family scenes created in tiny matchboxes.
Onsite cottages were upgraded providing a peaceful holiday setting with fantastic forest walks. In 2001 Brenda undertook the establishment of Brackenburn as an official Private Nature Reserve under the guidance of the then Western Cape Nature Conservation Board. The wildlife is numerous and healthy, with the river itself sustaining an active otter population, and an abundance of fish, amphibians and insects.
Whilst the fantastic bird life is evident night and day, it has been the camera traps set up along the trails that have enabled a peep into the wonderful variety of mammals that reside here on the reserve. Exciting images have been captured of Leopard, Blue Duiker, Bushbuck, Porcupine, Bushpig, Large-spotted Genet, Vervet Monkey, Caracal, and Honey Badger.