Timber industry

By 1880 over 1000 people had settled in Knysna. In 1882, the settlements of Newhaven, Melville and the wedge of land between the two villages were amalgamated to form the municipality of ‘The Knysna’, named after the Knysna River.

Knysna’s timber industry peaked when George Parkes arrived from Britain and saw the opportunity to use the hardwoods of the Knysna Forest for export to elsewhere in the country, and even overseas. He established the Knysna Forest Company, later renamed Geo. Parkes and Sons Ltd, which is still trading to this day.

Millwood House Museum

In 1878, an important discovery was made in the area. A gold nugget was found in the Karatara River, near Ruigtevlei. Soon fortune hunters from all over the world arrived at the Millwood Forest in search of gold, and Millwood grew into a bustling town. Millwood was declared a gold field, the very first in South Africa. However, soon not enough gold was being recovered to sustain a growing town, and the mining industry in the area collapsed. Some miners relocated to Knysna, bringing their little homes with them. One of the houses, known as ‘Millwood House’, now functions as a museum.

Pledge nature reserve

Before Knysna was officially named a town, it was made up of small settlements, one of which was Newhaven, just east of today’s Long Street – the long straight road that intersects the town and runs down to Thesen`s Island. To the west was Eastford, a large farm that formed part of the extensive estates of George Rex. The”Founder of Knysna” In 1820 Rex gave 40 morgen of Eastford to the Admiralty. Some of this land was used by the Admiralty to set up a small boat building yard on the edge of the lagoon. The rest of the 40 morgen was used as commonage. In 1825, permission was given for the village of Melville to be built on the common. The village grew slowly at first, and by mid-century only a handful of simple houses had been erected. It became evident, however, that as the settlement of the Cape Colony increased, and the demand for the timber resources of the Knysna area grew rapidly.

As the area flourished, the settlements of Newhaven and Melville experienced their first “housing boom”. Woodcutters, furniture makers, coastal traders and related service providers settled in the area. It was to feed this boom and the subsequent demand for the kiln-dried bricks, those brickfields sprang up around the edge of the settlements, where there was abundant raw material and firewood available. One of these brickfields, on the northern edge of the town limits, as they were then, was an area called Bok-se-kloof. It is here, today, more than 100 years later, that the Pledge Nature Reserve lies, being restored, where possible, to its original natural beauty.

Just when Bok-se-Kloof brickfield closed down, is not known. Certainly, by the 1920’s, the area was known as “the old brickfield”. Daisy Eberhard, whose family was among the pioneers of the area, took over the “Brownie” movement in 1927 and, wanting a suitable meeting place for her group, she approached the Knysna Town Council to allow her to use a portion of Bok-se-Kloof.

In 1929, in support of her application, 500 yards of fencing was built on the hillside and the valley floor for her use. The area was adjacent to the old brickfield with a clear stream flowing through it. It was here that, under the guidance of Daisy Eberhard, generations of Knysna’s youth first discovered the diversity of the Cape`s botanical heritage.

Daisy Eberhard’s stream did not remain clear for very long. Ravaged by urban encroachment, the stream silted up and stopped flowing regularly. However, with its banks bare and sterile, it would flood after heavy rain. This caused silt and urban rubbish to be dumped into the fragile Knysna lagoon. The land itself, being part of a valley and largely unsuitable for housing, escaped major development. But it was left as waste ground — an informal dump, where invader vegetation soon took root and was spreading at an incredibly high rate. In 1988, Kito Erasmus, a local forest officer and a town councillor, encouraged the idea of getting the public involved in the eradication of plant invaders as an Arbour Day project.

His proposal received the full co-operation of the local branch of the Wildlife Society, under the Chairmanship of Margo Mackay, who inspired public interest and organised hacking parties. Their attention was focussed on the Bok-se-Kloof valley which by then was infested with 14 different exotic invader species.

The following year, the Department of Forestry received notice of an offer of sponsorship for a non-commercial forest conservation project in the Southern Cape. The Wildlife Society agreed to adopt Bok-se-Kloof as an environmental rehabilitation project for the Branch and a project presentation was drawn up which resulted in a generous grant from S C Johnson & Son whose range of household products include Pledge furniture care range.

The Community Project that became Pledge Nature Reserve received widespread publicity through popular environmentalist magazines and radio and TV programmes. This culminated in the project receiving M-Net’s Nature Foundation Award in 1991.

The Reserve has also received praise from botanists and environmentalists alike. An officer of the South African Botanical Society pointed out that Pledge’s situation so near to the Town’s centre made the Reserve both exceptional and of high value to Knysna that it should never be underestimated.

European settlement

The first Europeans arrived in the area in 1760, and the farm Melkhoutkraal was established on the eastern shore of the Knysna Lagoon. Stephanus Terblans, the first European farmer to settle in the area, was given a loan permit to farm here in 1770.

Upon moving to Knysna George Rex, a British-born entrepreneur credited as being the founder of Knysna, acquired the loan rights to Melkhoutkraal in 1804 and later, in 1816, to the farm Welbedacht, which he renamed Eastford. He gave 80 acres of Eastford to the Colonial Government, on which the Royal Navy established the township of Melville.

In April 1817, the transport brig Emu, belonging to the Cape Town Dockyard, was the first European vessel to enter the Knysna heads. She struck a rock, now known as Emu Rock, and was holed. Her crew ran Emu ashore to prevent her sinking. In late April HMS Podargus arrived to render assistance. After surveying the area, Podargus sailed safely into the Knysna and retrieved Emu’s cargo.

The next major settler in Knysna was Captain Thomas Henry Duthie, who married Caroline, George Rex’s daughter, and bought a portion of the Uitzigt farm from his father-in-law which Rex had named Belvidere. The construction of a small Norman-style church was commissioned by Duthie on his property, and was consecrated in 1855. The settlement’s population grew slowly, and Englishmen such as Henry Barrington and Lt. Col. John Sutherland, who established the settlement of Newhaven on a portion of purchased land, settled in the area. At the time, Knysna was a field corsetry of Plettenberg Bay within the Magisterial Division of George. In 1858, Knysna became a separate Magisterial Division, new stores and accommodation facilities were opened, and Knysna became the new commercial centre of the region.

On their way to New Zealand, the Thesen family who were travelling from Norway fancied the little hamlet of Knysna so much that they decided to stay, bringing with them their knowledge of commerce and sailing. Soon, timber was being exported to the Cape from the vast areas of forest surrounding Knysna, and a steam sawmill and small shipyard were established. Later, these were relocated to Paarden Island, later known as Thesen Island.

Just outside of Knysna is a small town known as Brenton-on-Sea. This town offers plenty houses and vacant land for sale. To view or to buy land here, call Sophie on 082 572 2729.

Thesen Islands

Did you know?

Thesen Islands is a multi-award winning port development located in the scenic Knysna estuary on the renowned “Garden Route” of South Africa. The marina is spread over 90 hectares and consists of 19 man-made islands linked by 21 arched bridges and surrounded by 25 hectares of tidal waterways. The marina consists of 512 individual homes and 56 apartment units, known as the Dry Mill apartments, situated on its own island within the harbour. All the homes are built in a colonial maritime architectural style.

Thesen Islands is linked by a causeway and bridge to the mainland, and is within walking distance of the pictorial waterfront, yacht harbour and town centre of Knysna.

Thesen Islands is steeped in the history of the Southern Cape. It is situated in the midst of the tranquil waters of one of the richest ecological estuaries in South Africa – home to the rare and endangered Knysna sea horse, Hippocampus capensis.

Legend has it that the San were the earliest inhabitants of the island. Later, settlers made the area their home, drawn by the rich indigenous forests where herds of the famous Knysna elephant roamed. The island became known as Paarden Island – ‘Horse Island’.

The name Thesen has its origins in faraway Norway. In July 1869, Arndt Leonard Thesen, a prominent timber merchant from Stavanger in Norway left his hometown with his wife and nine children, planning to start a new life in New Zealand. After their ship, the Albatross, ran into difficulties near Cape Town, Arndt Thesen decided to stay on in South Africa. The Thesens settled in the picturesque town of Knysna, surrounded by indigenous forests, where they started a timber trading company. In 1904 his son Charles Wilhelm Thesen bought Paarden Island, located in the Knysna River estuary. In 1922 he established a timber processing plant on the island, which soon became known as Thesen Island.

In the early 1980s Barlows, one of South Africa’s industrial businesses, purchased the island and its timber treatment plant from Thesen and Company. Barlows soon realized that the timber processing activities could not be continued on this island located in the midst of such a scenic and eco-sensitive lagoon. At the same time there was growing community concern about the environmental and industrial pollution caused by the factory’s activities. As a result the plant’s doors were finally closed. In the following years the abandoned buildings, machinery and waste dumps turned into an eyesore and a health hazard.

In 1991 Dr. Chris Mulder, a South African environmental proposed a complete redevelopment of the island into a unique residential harbour.

As the Knysna River estuary is one of the most sensitive ecosystems in the country and a major tourism attraction, the development of Thesen Islands called for extremely careful and sensitive planning covering ecological, architectural, engineering, artistic, social and cultural criteria. After eight years of research and planning by Dr. Mulder and his team, approval was finally granted in December 1998.

A visit to the Touw River Boardwalk

This is a River-side boardwalk of about 80 metres long. This timber structure allows visitors to walk alongside the Touw River for sightseeing and birding.

The Touw River spills into the Atlantic Ocean in the Wilderness region of the Garden Route. Due to the size of the catchment, the river mouth is closed more or less for six months year.

The Touw River is part of a larger system of natural lakes. They include Eilandvlei, Langvlei and Rondevlei, the latter being popular with birdwatchers. Both Rondevlei and Langvlei have bird hides which are open to the public year-round.

The area around the boardwalk is popular for fishing, birding and picnicking. Fish post likely to be caught in the area are Spotted Grunter, bream, kabeljou, mullet and garick.

Birds likely to be encountered are five types of Kingfisher, the Grey Heron, with the first price going to the Knysna Loerie found in and along the edges of the indigenous forest.

When visiting the Touw River and its popular boardwalk you will not be far from several restaurants, bars and shops. Milkwood Village is a sought-after venue and its shops will cater for most of your immediate needs.

Tourism information proudly brought to you by Sophie’s Properties.

More than just a home

At Sophie’s Properties we are not only passionate about our properties and getting you the best deal on your new home but we are also passionate about what our region has to offer besides buying a new home.

Where it is no longer a secret that the Garden Route is one of the most desirable destinations to live in South Africa, it is also true that the list of “Things to do” in our neck of the woods is expanding almost daily.

It is common knowledge that we offer great fishing, awesome events, great paragliding opportunities, world renowned whale watching tours and just about anything else that will get your pulse racing and the adrenaline flowing.

This list of places to see and things to do is updated regularly. It aims to take you to places in your own backyard that you might not have known to exist.

• Take a walk on the Touw River Boardwalk
• Tan or catch a fish at Leentjiesklip
• See whales from Dolphin’s Point
• Visit Marine Drive and fly with the eagles
• See a train station where no trains run
• Climb a Stairway to Heaven
• Explore the streets of Wilderness

Counting down to the Holiday Season!

Well, Spring is in the air, and there is a distinct feeling of getting things done before the end of the year. Things with us are no different, except in our case the pace is picking up, not slowing down, as the holiday season is our busiest time! We are still, however, dedicated to bringing you the best properties that Brenton On Sea has to offer…. speak to us… soon!

A stroll at Leentjiesklip

You can walk for miles along Wilderness Beach but as you edge closer to Leentjiesklip you run out of beach sand and you will have to be fit should you want to clamber up along a cliff to make your way towards the Kaaiman’s River mouth.

The easier option would be to take the N2 highway to drive up the Kaaiman’s pass and pull over at Dolphin’s point where there is parking and a thatched boma offering one of the best ocean views available in Africa. This lookout point is popular with whale watchers and it also offers you a unique view of the Wilderness Village below.

But let us first get back to back to the beach, what this story is about in the first place. Leentjiesklip is famous for far more than being a sandy beach with great views. It is popular with fishermen seeking kabeljou, baardman, blacktail and steenbrass. The deeper water associated with the nearby Dolphin’s Point lures the fish inshore bringing them within reach of shore anglers, especially those fishing under the veil of darkness.

But more happens under a veil of darkness at Leentjies, a summer culture you might not even be aware of. The area is also popular sunrise revellers. For early morning fishermen arriving at the beach, it is not uncommon to find a dozen or more night-owls, patiently waiting for the welcoming warmth of the first golden sunrays to crawl across the beach at dawn.

So visit us when next time you come to this place called Wilderness and go see for yourself this secluded patch of sand and its beautiful rock formations. If you don’t see a whale this time round then surely there will be at least a red beaked oyster catcher to delight you. But join us you must. We have many more interesting places of interest we would like to show you next time you visit Wilderness.

Garden Route places of interest and things to do brought to you by Sophie’s Properties @ Brenton-on-Sea.

Good news – Kiani Satu Update

It seems that there is good news all around with lovely sunny weather coming in, and less wind and waves…. the oil has stopped leaking out of the cargo ship and things are developing and will hopefully come a good conclusion…..