The scenic suburb of Clovelly is tucked quietly away behind the Kalk Bay mountain slopes, and overlooks Fish Hoek and the Silvermine Valley.
Originally established as a fertile vegetable garden supplying ships putting into Simon's Town and then called 'Klein Tuin' meaning 'Little Garden', Clovelly is today a quaint and quiet suburb consisting of just a few hundred houses.
In fact, the suburb is a well-kept secret, as not even many Capetonians known where it is! The lower boundary of Clovelly is marked by the Silvermine River, which is surrounded by a wetland nature reserve. This haven for waterbirds is packed with indigenous reeds and other gems unique to the Cape Floral Kingdom, and has a network of boardwalks perfect for visitors to go for a gentle stroll.
Clovelly a Natural History
The Cape Peninsula was once two islands separated by the Fish Hoek (Silvermine) Valley which was then a passage for the sea. During the Ice Age the waters receded and were, over the millenia, replaced by shifting sand dunes blown in by the south-easterly winds.
Plants introduced in modern times to stabilise the dunes became invasive and stifled the indigenous flora. Efforts are now being made to clear the alien vegetation, though some fear this may cause the dunes to shift once more. Now largely buried under the homes and gardens of the Valley’s growing population, the dunes remain a distinctive feature of the landscape around the Skildersgat Ridge which straddles the floor of the Valley.
An hour's walk takes you to the Skildersgat summit with its spectacular views of the Valley – flanked by False Bay in the East and the Atlantic in the West – and of the historic dirt road leading from Clovelly to the 17th Century silver mines and powder house (one of the oldest buildings in the country) built by the miners commissioned by Simon van der Stel (then-governor of the Cape) to search for silver in the area.
The Silvermine River runs along the Clovelly side of the Valley and is one of the richest amphibian habitats in the country. Many of the amphibians found here are listed as 'Red Data' (endangered) species. Summer nights often bring a loud chorus of frogs and toads from the river banks.
Housing encroachment on the Silvermine flood plain led to recent landscaping work on the river estuary to control the flood-waters. This included the planting of indigenous fynbos and the creation of substantial pools – the work is enhancing the amphibian habitat as well as attracting the attention of large numbers of birds. (Clovelly already enjoys a rich variety of bird-life – more than 50 species have been recorded in the garden of Clovelly Lodge alone.)
Because of its wind-protected location, Clovelly served as a vegetable garden in the 18th century (when it was named Klein Tuin, meaning ‘Little Garden’), providing fresh produce to ships putting in to Simon’s Town. Those sent to collect supplies from Clovelly often stopped for a few drinks on the way, forgetting all about the vegetables. A prohibition on the sale of alcohol followed, and was only lifted in 1996!