Heritage Western Cape (HWC) has unveiled the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve as a provincial heritage site.
Situated off Melbosstrand Road and the R27 in Blaauwberg, Cape Town, it represents one of the most intact and diverse lowland vegetation habitats in the city, marking the beginning of the West Coast flora region.
The reserve contains approximately 1 445 hectares of rich biodiversity, protecting three threatened vegetation types which includes the endangered Cape Flats Dune Strandveld, on the coastal plain, the critically endangered Swartland Shale renosterveld, on the hill, and the critically endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, inland from the hill.
The Blaauweberg Hill, which forms part of the nature reserve, offers one of the few viewpoints in the world from which two World Heritage Sites – Table Mountain and Robben Island – can be seen.
The Blaauwberg Nature Reserve presents a rich cultural and historical heritage of various periods in history. Shell middens dating back to approximately 15 000 years have been observed, indicating early human occupation.
In addition, the reserve conserves the site of the Battle of Blaauwberg in 1806, where the British took second occupation of the Cape and retained ownership until South Africa’s independence. Blaauwberg Hill features several buildings constructed during World War II, one of which includes the first radar station built in South Africa.
The battle of Blaauwberg was a turning point in the history of the Cape Colony and South Africa in general. The Blaauwberg Nature Reserve over and above being a significant natural heritage site contains the battleground and field hospital associated with the Battle of Blaauwberg that took place in 1806. The National Monuments Council declared the battle site a conservation area in 1996 under the National Monuments Act.
The site includes the landscape where the events around the Battle of Blaauwberg took place, including the iconic Blaauwberg Hill, the battlefield and the site of the field hospital. The reserve contains Middle Stone Age and Late Stone Age occurrences, which contribute to the understanding of the occupation of the South-Western Cape by the indigenous groups over time.
The Muslim community of Cape Town, many of whom were slaves, were granted their own burial ground (Tana Baru) in recognition of their contribution in the defence of the Cape against the British during the Battle of Blaauwberg.
“This nomination is a milestone and will place the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve, with its rich history and heritage and the most spectacular views, in the same league with other important heritage sites” says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Alderman Marian Nieuwoudt.
“There is a lot to see and do at the reserve. I encourage residents and visitors to visit the reserve and enjoy its benefits. A special word of thanks to the Friends of Blaauwberg Conservation Area for the role they played, as members of civil society, in the establishment and development of the nature reserve and for advocating to proclaim it as a provincial heritage site”.