Midlands Forest Lodge includes 15ha of indigenous mist-belt forest on the southern slopes overlooking the Balgowan valley. Three well maintained trails allow fellow environmental enthusiasts to share this treasure. One morning this week, I enjoyed wandering along the trails, escaping the heat under the cool, green canopy.
There are spectacular specimens of both Podocarpus latifolius (real yellowwood) and Podocarpus falcatus (outeniqua yellowwood) to be seen on the 1.2km uButshwalabenyoni trail. This trail is named for the plentiful Halleria lucida trees which are known in Zulu as “beer for the birds”. The walk is not difficult, although parts are steep. Benches are dotted along the way to allow for a moment of quiet time, absorbing the forest sounds. We saw Scolopia mundii, Eugenia zuluensis, Euclea crispa and Carissa bispinosa as well as many creepers and funghi. However, it was the giant Yellowwoods which were most memorable.
The short, steep Ngilinde Ingulube trail leads to a lovely viewing deck where dassies can be seen darting about on the rocks below. According to the interesting Midlands Forest Lodge guide book, Ngilinde Ingulube means “wait for the pigs” in Zulu, and is the indigenous name of the Cape Quince (Cryptocarya woodii) found in this forest. All trees which fall are left to decompose naturally on the forest floor, providing habitats to many creatures.
The longest trail (2.2km) winds along the grasslands and through the forest. Here the views over the valley are fabulous, with many raptors soaring in the skies above – giving this trail the name “free eagle” – uKukhuleleka Kokhozi. Grass orchids and bright blue Aristea ecklonii flower in summer, while in autumn the gorgeous orange Leonotis leonaurus attracts sunbirds, bees and butterflies.
Walking in this forest is a very pleasant way to spend a morning. Midlands Forest Lodge hosts a walk on the second Thursday of every month to raise funds for the Balgowan Conservancy. Starting at 9am and finishing around 10.30, it costs R10. To book call Diana on 082 904 6559.