Paul Visser is the Estate Manger on the Bokkemanskloof Estate in Hout Bay. NCC has been managing the on-the-ground operations of the estate since 2008.
The Bokkemanskloof Estate itself is not fenced off and borders the Table Mountain National Park. It is home to a wonderful array of indigenous plant species and small animals. Streams meander through the estate along pathways that create a network of walkways which are open to the public to enjoy. In the east of the estate, houses straddle a shady ravine. This area has become a closed forest of alien blackwoods and gums, but with great support from the community, we are clearing the invasive species and planting indigenous forest species. Our goal is to maintain the aesthetics and shady appeal of the forest, whilst ensuring the estate is as eco-friendly as possible. Ultimately, the plan is for the estate to be an extension of the national park.
Over the years, I have incorporated a fynbos-biome style of landscaping into the design of road verges, flower beds and open areas. We replace lawns with low-maintenance, drought-tolerant and visually appealing fynbos species. By doing this, we save time and energy on maintenance and we reduce the water consumption of the estate. By planting fynbos we enhance biodiversity and create a more suitable habitat for birds, small reptiles, butterflies and beneficial insects. This both increases the aesthetics and value of the estate, by making it stand apart from the mundane, as well as contributing to the ecological integrity of the area.
Clearing of invasive aliens is an on-going issue, but with the felling of trees comes opportunity. I make use of old logs and rocks to create attractive flower bed features and edgings. We created our own picnic tables and benches and have built a jungle-gym in the play area using gum branches and logs. Flower beds and pathways are lined with wood chips generated on site. Through a bit of creativity, environmental sensitivity and community support, NCC has not only increased the appeal of the estate, but we have reduced the immediate and long term costs of maintenance and development in the open spaces.
The clay soils in the area are easily eroded. We have focused on revitalising the streams to halt the undercutting of the river courses. Through creative reshaping of river beds, planting of indigenous riparian and ground cover species and the installation of gabions, we have given the waterways a sustainable face-lift. A number of pathways were redesigned to follow gradients and wet areas were laid with stepping stones made of gum stumps, all of which will reduce the long term impacts.
The estate members are fortunate to live so close to a national park, but of course it comes with certain challenges. I catch on average of 15 snakes every summer, especially in November and December when snakes move around as the weather warms up and they look for mates and water. The residents are very understanding and realise that wildlife is part of the appeal of living on the mountain.
As an on-going project, being a part of the management of Bokkemanskloof aligns perfectly with the NCC brand, with a strong focus on empowering the staff and residents, improving the environment and working to decrease long term costs. The Bokkemanskloof community is a pleasure to work with and are always eager to support and contribute towards practical environmental projects. They can proudly say that they are members of an eco-friendly estate and we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to be involved.
Some feedback from residents
Hi Paul, I hope you're well. The estate is looking really beautiful. We love the new jungle gym and paths - thank you for all your hard work. Thanks so much. Katie
Hi Paul, Ek het gesien julle het 'n mooi nuwe padtjie met fynbos en 'n vetplanttuin geplant. Dit lyk baie mooi - wel gedaan! Die begin van 'n nuwe botaniese tuin. Groete Thomas
Hi Paul, I just cycled and walked around the estate again this morning and wanted to say a HUGE thank you for the inspiring and thoughtful way in which you do your job and lead the team of guys as the estate fauna and flora is looking the best I have seen it in 13yrs!. It’s like coming home to an " enveloping embrace" -a chinese medicine term which means a sense of being held, supported and deeply nourished on all levels, an AWESOME welcoming feeling and I get to live here WOW, what a privilege! Your newsletter also provides wonderful insights into aspects we do not always see or know about as you do so thanks for helping us "see our world with new eyes". Take care and enjoy your time away. Debbie