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.
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 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 were needed and a limited number of permits (100) were sold as membership.
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 670.00 realising R234 500. An additional R110 for a permit to enter Maanschynskop Nature Reserve (R70 going to Vogelgat and R40 to Department of Cape Nature Conservation), Individual day visits will cost R16 per person (R10 to Vogelgat and R6 to Cape Nature Conservation).
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.
Due to all the recognition gained by Vogelgat, Vogelgat was dedicated site No.5 on the South African Natural Heritage Programme in 1985.
Portfolio of Dr. Ion Williams
(For more information see page on Doc)
Arrived with his young family to live in Mossel River (now Voelklip) in 1947.
Dr William was intimately involved with Hermanus:
c.1950 – Klein River Vlei Water Scheme.
1950 – 51 – Ratepayers Association
1951 – 54 – Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor
Chairman of Public Works
1950 – 1976 – Developed Hermanus Yacht Club – 6 years as Commodore. Built the jetties and slipways.
1959 – 1980 – Fernkloof Advisory Board – of which many years as Chairman. Developed and constructed the first paths in Fernkloof Nature Reserve (1959)
In the following year He and Eric Jones, with the funding from the Hermanus Botanical Society, constructed the Cliff Path from the Scout Camp to the New Harbour.
From 1959 he was involved in the activities of the Hermanus Botanical Society and designed the stone buildings in the reserve. For his dedication he was made Honorary Life President
The Old Harbour Museum was started or motivated by Dr Williams. He was a member of the Board of Trustees with several years as chairman.
He motivated the construction of Rotary Way and the road from Grotto to Piet se Bos.
The successful display of flowers at the Fernkloof Visitors Centre was motivated by him.
A civil engineer by profession, Dr Williams’s abiding interest in botany soon became the focal point of his activities. In 1969 he purchased Vogelgat
He gained a PhD (Botany) in 1972 for his revision of the genus Leucodendron and several genera of the Rutacea and was awarded the Harry Bolus Medal for his outstanding contribution to botanical research in 1973.
In 1984 Dr. Williams was awarded the Cape Times Centenary Medal for Conservation.
In 1997, Dr. Williams was awarded the Freedom of Hermanus for all his outstanding achievements to the community. Only 4 others were honoured in this fashion.
He put Hermanus on the “Botanical Map” by introducing the plants at Vogelgat to several world – renowned botanists.
The botanical collection by Dr. Williams has brought to light several new species including Sympezia williamsorum (Oliver) and Indigofera superba (Stirton) with over 12 species still to be named.
Dr. Williams passed away on 7th January 2001.
List of Publications Dr. Ion Williams
1967 Some new species of Leucodendron. Jl. S. Afr. Bot 33: 85-89
1967 Some new combinations and three new species of Leucodendron.
Jl. S. Afr. Bot. 141 -153
1968 Leucodendron flexuosum Fl. Pl. Afr. 38: 1492
1968 Leucodendron modestum Fl. Pl. Afr. 38: 14 93
1968 Leucodendron meridianum Fl. Pl. Afr. 38: 1494
1968 Leucodendron stelligerum Fl. Pl. Afr. 38: 1514
1968 Leucodendron macowanii Fl. Pl. Afr. 38: 1515
1969 Leucodendron tinctum Fl. Pl. Afr. 39: 1527
1969 Leucodendron loranthifolium Fl. Pl. Afr. 39: 1528
1969 Leucodendron remotum Fl. Pl. Afr. 39: 1558
1969 Leucodendron concavum Fl. P. Afr. 39: 1559
1969 Leucodendron foedum Fl. Pl. Afr. 39: 1560
1972 A Revision of the Genus Leucadendron. Contribution Bot. Herb. 3
1973 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea): 1 Jl S. Afr. Bot. 39 (2): 179-183
1973 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea): 2 Jl S. Afr. Bot. 39 (3): 229-232
1974 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea): 3 Jl S. Afr. Bot. 40 (2): 85-89
1974 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea): 4 Jl S. Afr. Bot. 40 (4): 275-290
1975 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea): 5 Jl S. Afr. Bot. 41 (3): 167-186
1975 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea): 6 Jl S. Afr. Bot. 41 (4): 239-268
1978 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea): 7 Jl S. Afr. Bot. 44 (4): 329-362
1979 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea): 8 Jl S. Afr. Bot. 45 (2): 147-184
1981 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea): 9 Jl S. Afr. Bot. 47 (1): 63-102
1981 A new species of Leucadendron (Proteaceae) from the Outeniqua Mountain Jl. S. Afr. Bot. 47 (1): 121-126
1981 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea):10 Jl S. Afr. Bot.47 (2): 157-193
1981 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea):11 Jl S. Afr. Bot.47 (3): 373-403
1981 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea):12 Jl S. Afr. Bot.47 (4): 755-764
1982 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea):13 Jl S. Afr. Bot.48 (2): 169-240
1982 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea):14 Jl S. Afr. Bot.48 (3): 329-407
1984 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea):15 Jl S. Afr. Bot.50 (4): 425-434
1985 Studies in the Genera of the Diosmea (Rutacea):16 Jl S. Afr. Bot.51 (2): 149-151
Tribute to Pieter Buys
Pieter was born in 1950 in Kimberly and shortly thereafter he moved to the Stanford area with his family. He completed Standard six in Stanford and began to work on a vegetable farm, as there was no more money for school fees. He then worked on different farms in the Stanford area, each time moving from mountain to mountain closer to Hermanus.
He always enjoyed outdoor life and work. The paths of Vogelgat he knew like the palms of his hands. Regularly on his walks alone in the mountain, he would talk to himself and on returning to base he would always report on what he had seen, whether it was a group of “dassies” or a flower that he had not seen in a long time.
After 25 years of dedicated service Pieter “Oupa” Buys passed away at the end of 1999. He single handedly built at least 35 kilometres of footpaths using a bush pick.
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.