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Upper Liesbeek River Garden

The rehabilitation and conservation of the banks of the Liesbeek in Bishopscourt Village is a residents’ initiative. The area is situated on land described as undeveloped Public Open Space (POS). Prior to 2004, the area was totally overgrown with alien vegetation, was a major security risk and was used as a dumping ground. Since the beginning of 2004, with the financial support of estate agents who have paid for a worker, substantial donations from residents and visitors and grants from City Council, the Roland and Leta Hill Trust, Personal Trust and the Nussbaum Foundation, the residents of Bishopscourt Village have transformed this area from an alien infested wasteland into a ‘little bit of paradise’.

The aims of the project are:
1. To remove invasive alien vegetation.
2. To reinstate indigenous riverine vegetation.
3. To prevent erosion of the banks.
4. To maintain a ‘healthy’ river.
5. To ensure safe accessibility for everyone.
6. To develop and most importantly maintain the area for the use of the public.
7. To provide employment and education for a River Project employee
8. To be able to ensure constant maintenance for sustainability of the area.

Rivers, vleis and wetlands are all under threat in South Africa and with the present trend of densification of the urban environment, the conservation and protection of such valuable and fast diminishing natural and historic assets is vital. This project has created an awareness of the important role rivers play in our environment and our daily lives. The project has also played an enormous part in the development of a community spirit in Bishopscourt Village. A boardwalk suitable for wheelchairs was built in 2007 by an Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) team from Table Mountain National Parks (TMNP) and funded by the City Council. The boardwalk is used by the elderly and carers and mothers with children in prams and many others for whom access to the park would be denied if the boardwalk had not been built.

This project has provided employment, training and education – an important component of this project – for our river worker, Matthews Moetsi.  He has been employed on the project since March 2004 and is passionate about it. In 2007 he was afforded the opportunity to spend some time in the Kirstenbosch Nursery learning the technique of propagation and subsequently a nursery was started for the propagation of some of the indigenous shrubs for planting on newly cleared banks. He has also attended a course on Landscape Maintenance in June and July 2008 and the cost of this course was generously sponsored by ROOMTOGROW BUSINESS SKILLS.

Matthews’ brother, Francis was able to be employed on the project until the end of August 2008 with money donated by residents and a small grant from Council. Residents and visitors to the area have been a source of funding which has covered day-to-day costs for petrol, tools, some additional labour, Bounce Back, compost, plants etc.

The work programme is varied and consists of development of new areas, maintenance (weeding, mulching, re-chipping paths, repairing fences, repairing seating areas, watering etc.), construction (paths, fences etc.), propagation and planting.

The two stepped paths to the river (which were constructed by residents in 2004 and 2005) have required to be upgraded and improved. One was reconstructed in February 2008 with a grant from the City Council and the work was carried out by an EPWP team from TMNP and the second will hopefully be done later in 2008 if we are successful to obtain a further grant from City Council for this to be done.

The flora to be seen is mostly indigenous and water-wise. More than 150 riverine trees have been planted and in the years ahead will replace the almost predominantly existing alien tree population (in particular the black alders) which has encroached along the banks of the Liesbeek. A list of the majority of the indigenous flora which has been planted in the area since 2004 is available in the BV Liesbeek Project Plant List and a selection of photographs can be viewed in the photo gallery category - River Project – Plants.

Many Garden Clubs and other groups request guided tours of the area and school children are taken on guided walks of the Liesbeek by the Friends of the Liesbeek. School children, cubs and scouts have shown a willingness to help with clean-ups, weeding and erecting fences.

The enjoyment this area gives to residents and visitors alike is encouragement enough to ensure that this project continues to be maintained and is sustainable for many years to come. An enduring complaint from residents and visitors to the green belt and riverine garden is that dog owners do not pick up their dog’s poos. Dog walkers are required to carry sufficient packets with them to clean up after their animals. The BVRA provides a ready supply of packets specifically for this purpose and the location is clearly visible. We appeal to owners of all dogs who visit our area for their daily walk and ablutions to take responsibility for your animal(s), so that cleaning up after them doesn’t become our unpleasant task, multiplied several fold.

See the photo gallery categories – River Project – early days 2004-2005 and River Project - Recent photographs for a selection of photographs of the development of the area.

The severe flooding experienced on 26 July 2007 can be seen in the photographs in River Project – Flood 26 July 2007.

In November 2005 the residents of Bishopscourt Village received a Cape Times/Caltex Environmental award for this project. They received a commendation certificate for outstanding achievement in the Category ‘Architecture and Built Environment’.

In the Western Cape region of the 2005 PAM GOLDING PROPERTIES/HOME LOANS FROM ABSA GARDENS OF PRIDE COMPETITION, held under the auspices of the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) our Resident’s Association (BVRA) was given a special recognition award.

In November 2006 we won the Western Cape region of the 2006 PAM GOLDING PROPERTIES/ HOME LOANS FROM ABSA GARDENS OF PRIDE COMPETITION, held under the auspices of the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), in the Corporate Garden Category, and with it a R5 000 voucher for plants from the Kirstenbosch Garden Centre.

In March 2007 the Executive Mayor, Helen Zille, officially opened the 65-metre wheelchair access path to the riverine garden.

Contact person for more information: Joan Parker, River Project Coordinator .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


The Liesbeek - the name is derived from Lies (reed) and beecq (stream) - is the oldest urbanised river in South Africa.

Vaalkat, Nursery and Skeleton streams arise on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. The first three join to form Protea stream in Kirstenbosch Gardens. Below Winchester Avenue (in the Boschenheuvel Arboretum) Protea joins Window stream to form The Liesbeek. The Liesbeek flows for 9kms through Newlands, Rondebosch, Rosebank and Observatory, and due south of Voortrekker Road it joins the Black River; the latter flows into Table Bay.

Most of The Liesbeek (approx 70%) is canalized but we are most fortunate to have in Bishopscourt Village, what has been described historically as the most beautiful stretch of the river.

Other mountain streams which drain the eastern slopes of Table Mountain include the Loeriebos and Fernwood Streams (which drain the portion of Table Mountain between Kirstenbosch and Newlands Forest), Hiddingh and Newlands Streams (which flow through Newlands Forest) and Rhodes Memorial Stream (which drains the north eastern portion of Table Mountain). With the exception of the Fernwood and Newlands Streams, most of these streams flow through the suburbs in underground culverts.

Last updated: Sunday, 05 August, 2012