There is no evidence on the reserve of the presence of early man. However there have been discoveries of middens in the local area that date back to the Khoi, 2000 years ago.
There are remains a leopard trap built of stones, about 100 years old.
With the advent of the early European settlers, the gentler slopes were used for grazing sheep, which resulted in the increasing use of fire to stimulate nutritious grass regrowth. It has been suggested that excessive fires in the late 1800’s is the reason that few protea species are found at higher altitudes in comparisons to those in the southern Cape. (Woodvine, F. pers.comm, 2001)
Rudolph Schlecter, the famous botanical collector, visited the area on a botanical expedition in 1896 and again in 1897. He made 94 collections in Vogelgat amongst which were his Geissorhiza hesperanthoides and his Lobelia laurentioides (Jl S. Afr. Bot. Vol.30(3) 1964).
Other early collectors in the area were Niven, Mimetes palustris (consult Dr. Rouke at National Botanical Gardens)
The farm Vogelgat has a recorded history of sheep grazing from 1873 until the late 1960’s. It appears that the mountains were mainly used as a route to bring sheep to the harbour at Hermanus for export.
The earliest documentation known is a “Diagram” of the farm Vogel Gat, No. 592, surveyed in April 1873 by Surveyor, I.S. Struijs, representing 1 219 morgen 117 square roods of ground “situated in the division of Caledon Field Cornetcy of ‘Uilenkraal’, being portion of the Klein River Berg called ‘Vogel Gat’”, bounded by the Hartebeest Berg in the North, Rocklands in the East, The Fishery to the South and Glen Varlock on the West. The beacons were pointed out to “Field Cornet G E Moore and to Mr Surveyor Ins. Geo Muller”.
A “Report of Inspection” of “Crown Lands for Lease” was then forwarded to the Surveyor General on the 12th July 1873 by Mr Struijs and contained the following information:
Estimate of arable land: None
Extent of Pasture: The whole
Stock which could be kept: About 800 sheep for 4 months of the year – say from December to March.
Water supply considered: Very good.
Distance and direction from nearest town or village in a straight line by road or roads, describing them and their condition generally. That is bridle-path or wagon-road, – and if easy or difficult with ordinary load: Approximately 6 miles in a westerly direction from the village of Stanford, no road or foot path.
Assessment of a fair annual value of the lot : Say 10 pounds.
On 28th October 1896, the Colonial Government sold this piece of Crown Land, Lot 2417, registered as a “new farm” called “Vogel Gat” to be Brothers John George and William James Walsh, trading as Walsh, for 150 pounds. Expenses for surveying and erection of beacons cost 18 pounds- 2s-od. The Deed of Transfer was signed at Caledon by the Walsh Brothers and Civil Commissioner H F van Breda. A clause was added to the standard Deed of Transfer form issued and reads:
“VI That the proprietors shall allow the proprietors or lawful occupiers of adjoining farms a road or right of way over the land hereby granted but shall not be entitled to any compensation for the same”!
Transfer was made and a formal “Deed of Sale” issued “In the Name and on behalf of Her Majesty VICTORIA by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith” on 29th March 1887 and was signed by the Governor and High Commissioner Rosmead (no initial on document) and a Mr I te Wate and the Surveyor-General, J Templer Horne.
The Walsh Brothers owned the land for 17 years, trading with firms in Germany who bought the “Everlastings” for making wreaths and mattress stuffing. However, because of the onset of the World War I, the market collapsed and after the death of William James Walsh, the property was sold on 29th May 1914 to Michiel Daniel du Toit for 590 pounds. The Deed of Sale was signed by the Registrar of Deeds, W de W Luens.
Michiel du Toit was a keen horticulturist and knew of the Orothamnus (Marsh Rose) growing in the Hartebeest Berg. He protected the plants with a fence to prevent the sheep grazing around them. Meester Paterson, a school-master at Hermanus, who was trespassing on the land, came across them and claimed to have discovered the Marsh Rose. Mr du Toit had kept quiet about their existence in order to protect them.
On 4th July 1935, the land was sub-divided and a portion of 516 morgen (now Vogelgat Nature Reserve) sold to Barend Adriaan Beukes. The remaining 571 morgen (now Maanschynkop Nature Reserve) stayed in the possession of Michiel du Toit.
Water rights were sold to the Municipality of Hermanus for 125 Pounds in 1940. The municipality erected a number of weirs in the main kloof and the water used to supply Hermanus until 1945 when the Fernkloof dams were completed.
It is possible that the stone structure known as Moon Refuge was constructed to shelter the workers when a fence was erected from Diepgat Farm boundary to Bishop’s Dairy boundary (now known as Cilla’s Stables).
A black shepherd named “Karel” whom worked for Mr Beukes, lived at Vogel Gat. Barend Beukes owned a beach house in Hermanus and would walk up from Vogel Gat to check up on the shepherd and the sheep. The sheep grazed in the area until 1969. The grass was burnt in September or October each year when the soil was wet and 300 to 400 sheep were allowed to graze in February when the veld was at its best.
“Karel” put up two A-frame shelters. One on the N-W side of Vogel Gat (which is now the Shieling), and one on the S-E side (now the Bothy). He would walk up from Eertjies Vlei and spend two months (April – May) in the mountains tending the sheep.
The Hermanus Municipality erected a number of weirs in the main kloof of the farm in 1940. The water was used to supply Hermanus until 1945 when the Fernkloof dams where completed.
Vogel Gat was purchased by Dr Ion Williams; the Deed of Transfer dated 13th October 1969.
At this time the land was unspoilt, but due to a fire, invasive alien plant species sprouted in abundance and the area became heavily infested.
In 1974 the land was proclaimed a Private nature reserve in order to contain these alien plants finances was needed and a limited number of permits (100) were sold as membership. Membership started at R50 a year.
The Vogelgat Nature Reserve (PTY) Ltd was formed and it began by selling of one or more R1 000 shares to 18 shareholders (1984). The Vogelgat Trust holds the majority shares. A further 80 permit holders contributed R75.00/year i.e. R6 000/year. Today there are 24 shareholders and 350 permit holders contributing R 840.00 realising R294 000.00 An additional R120 for a permit to enter Maanschynskop Nature Reserve (R80 going to Vogelgat and R40 to Department of Cape Nature Conservation), Individual day visits will cost R20 per person (R12 to Vogelgat and R8 to Cape Nature Conservation).
During1975 a new access road from the main R43 to Vogelgat had been cleared and terminating in a terrace were cars are parked.
By 1976 all the aliens were cleared.
Work was already underway to clear paths to enable the members to get to the areas where the aliens were and these now serve the purpose as the 35km of trails within the reserve.
By 1979 two overnight huts were completed – The Shieling and Sip Lodge. A new path has been made from near Sea Sight, through the upper part of Hakea land and Sip Stream, to the summit of Mt. Lob. Another short path branch leading from Quark ridge to Vulture Ridge has been opened. The path from Sea Saddle up the eastern shoulder of Mosselberg was initiated.
The White House was finally erected on 10/7/1982. The painting inside is by Roland Pym -1906. On 11/11/1982 the Gate Posts were adorned with a pair of Kudu horns. (The last kudu shot in Vogelgat by hunter and botanist Burchell Williams). The store was completed on 26/11/1982. Secret Valley was opened up on 4/12/82. Pergola and French drain erected on 8/2/1984. The tiles at Uranus fitted 12/3/84. New shower completed 8/10/84. The path to beacon Head was completed on 23/5/1984.
A Cape Vulture was seen (14/8/1982) been chased by a pair of birds of prey (probably Jackal Buzzards)
Due to all the recognition gained by Vogelgat, Vogelgat was dedicated site No.5 on the South African Natural Heritage Programme in 1985.
After sweating blood and tears the original 2 bed roomed Warden’s house was completed in 1987. An additional bedroom, 2 bathrooms, showers and toilets were added to the warden’s Lodge in 2004. the old bathroom made room for a leading corridor.
The original two bed Beacon Hut was completed in 1989. This hut was completely restored in 1999 by Antony van Hoogstraten to accommodate 4 persons.
The warden heard leopard grunts at night outside the warden’s lodge in June of 1989. Mosselnook Hut was completed in the same year.
The Herbarium and Garage/workshop were completed in 1993. On 16 January 1993 the old shepherd’s hut on Maanschynkop was beautifully restored into “Moon Refuge”
Historical land-use patterns:
The reserve has a very low agricultural potential. Most of the reserve is not arable due to the rocky substrate, and very shallow or poor sandy soils. The natural veld has a very low carrying capacity for stock. Stock farming, mainly with sheep, was the predominant land-use prior to the establishment of the reserve. This entailed frequent patch-burning of the veld in the late summer to yield good grazing.
The Shieling Hut is the original shepherd hut used.
A piggery was established on the present “White House” site.
Vogelgat Nature Reserve was acquired in 1969. One of the original objectives was to eradicate all alien vegetation. In this pursuit, paths were created to places where alien vegetation occurred and today these path are the backbone of the 35 km of hiking paths that serve the reserve for the benefit of its members and their visitors.
The mission statement of the reserve sums up the current land use:
“ The conservation of natural ecological systems of the Vogelgat Nature Reserve and neighbouring land for the enlightenment and enjoyment of coming generations, in perpetuity”.
The most important examples of disruption of natural processes in the area include:
· Invasion of alien biota, notably woody plants such as Acacia cyclops, Acacia salgina, Hakea spp and Pinus pinaster.
· Changes in the “natural” fire regime ( see section 3.30)
· The loss of larger predators in the reserve, due to the resultant loss of pressure on herbivore populations.
· Previous farming practises (sheep) and the frequently burning of the veld to enhance grazing for these animals.