History of the Cape Flats Vleis (Part IV): Langevlei

27 April 2011

Langevlei is a little-known vlei in Retreat.  It is the last of a series of small vleis that formed the original headwaters of the so-called Sand River, now a stormwater drainage system that extends far north of Retreat (see earlier post, here).

Location of Langevlei (Retreat, Cape Town)

The map below shows the aforementioned complex of vleis, pictures of which appeared in the same earlier post. Note how this map shows Princess Vlei and the Diep River, but leaves out Little Princess Vlei.

Langevlei and associated vleis, late 1800s

A map from the turn of the 20th Century (below) shows Langevlei firmly up against Myer Road, but no Tana Road yet.

Langevlei, approx. 1900

By the 1980s, Langevlei had become 100% choked with sediment and  Typha reeds (see photo following).  This became a significant hydraulic (flood) problem and the vlei was dredged during the early 90s, creating a pretty waterbody – much as it looks today – although the general housekeeping around the edges leaves a lot to be desired.

Langevlei looking north over the bed of reeds, 1990 (Photo: Bill Harding)

After rehabilitation, same view, 1992. (Photo: Bill Harding)

During the war years, when food supplies were scarce, the banks of the stream leading into Langevlei, were converted into vegetable allotments, as was the case with many streams and the other vleis.

Langevlei (1945) with banks of inlet intensively farmed

Farming upstream of Little Princess Vlei, 1945

and upstream of Princess Vlei, 1945



2 Responses to History of the Cape Flats Vleis (Part IV): Langevlei

  1. Grant says:

    This is fascinating. So where then did Little Princess Vlei come from?

    • Bill Harding says:

      Little Princess Vlei is an oddity which does not appear on most early maps, and only as a river course on some. Local mythology (promoted by Jose Burman and others) has it that it was part of Princess Vlei, now cut off – but if you look at the distance between the two you will see how inaccurate this statement is.

      The vlei appears to have been excavated as part of the Diep River flood management scheme as an off-channel pond located on a minor stream that confluenced with the Diep round about where the vlei weir is now. At least this is how I have it from the late Mike Lief, a former City of Cape Town engineer who I worked with on the Vleis Management Team many years ago.

      If anyone has other, substantiated information then I would be keen to learn thereof.

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