Long-lost Western Cape wetland to be recreated

22 September 2012

View across the Klein Zeekoevlei, the area beyond the dam (Photo: Bill Harding)

A lost wetland that few people even know about is to be re-created just outside Somerset West, near Cape Town, South Africa.  The Klein Zeekoevlei (small hippo pan) wetland, will form a central component of the Sitari Field Lifestyle Estate, situated between the N2 and the R104, just north of Macassar.

Boundary of the original Klein Zeekoevlei (light green)

The wetland remediation plan is being prepared by wetland ecologist Bill Harding (see link here for impression of what the wetland could look like), creator of the Intaka Island constructed wetland environment at Cape Town’s Century City, Capricorn Lake in Muizenberg and the wetland system at the mouth of the Silvermine River in Fish Hoek.  Bill also provided input over several years to the conversion of Somerset West’s Paardevlei, from a grossly-polluted factory dam back to the beautiful seasonal wetland that exists today.

Klein Zeekoevlei as in 1938 – the diagonal oval area at centre.

The Klein Zeekoevlei lies on the former Vogelsang Farm, immediately east of Croydon. The land was granted in 1702 to Sarah Tas, the sister of Adam Tas (the famous freeburgher who was instrumental in bringing the corrupt governor Willem Adriaan Van der Stel, to justice). At the time Sara Tas was unmarried – a fact which has caused some speculation as it was very unusual for an unmarried woman to be granted land. The farm was owned by for many years by persons who were the elite of the 18th century colony. In 1720 the land was owned by Johannes Swellengrebel (father of Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel) who also owned Zandvliet in Macassar. Later on the farm was owned by Hendrik Cloete who later sold it and several other farms in the district before taking up ownership of Groot Constantia on the Peninsula. By 1800 Vogelsang had taken on the name of the Vlei on the property – (Klein) Zeekoeivlei, the name which it has retained to this day. In 1818 the farm once again was owned by the Cloete family when Pieter Lourens Cloete (fifth son) acquired the farm [Source: Dr Tim Hart].

Extract from 1700s map showing the Klein Zeekoevlei wetland.  Paardevlei, then known as Flamingo Vlei, is drawn to the south.

The wetland is depicted on maps from the 1700s and more accurately alongside the Old Cape Road, on 1890’s cartography.

Extract of map drawn in 1890 showing the position of the wetland (east of Zandvliet, centre of image)

The Klein Zeekoevlei was probably last seen as a wetland well-before 1900.  The earliest available aerial photographs, taken in 1938, show the wetland completely ploughed over.  During recent times motorists passing by on the N2 will recall the site being used to grow “roll-on lawn” sods.  This activity removed much of the remaining bed of the original wetland.

Naming confusion will be obvious from the above maps.  Historically it would appear that both Paardevlei and the wetland discussed here enjoyed the title Zeekoevlei, as does their larger counterpart on the Cape Flats.  The maps shown here have the Sitari Fields wetland as Zeekoevlei, with Paardevlei as once known as Klein Zeekoevlei!  At this stage of the Sitari development the name ‘Klein Zeekoevlei’ seems to have been settled on for the reappearance of a wetland not seen for more than 100 years!

Bill Harding, involved with wetlands and vleis in the Cape since 1988,  is designing a multi-functional wetland environment that will cover the remaining 22 ha of the original wetland footprint.  This design will encompass retention of the last remnants of the original system, a seasonal stormwater treatment system, as well as seasonal grasslands and meadows.  After the Paardevlei, this will be the largest wetland remediation undertaken in the Western Cape, a unique opportunity made possible by the development of the site.

Other DHEC wetland designs:

Century City Intaka Island (Source: CCHOA)

Century City Intaka Island (Source: CCHOA)


Paardevlei (Source: Heartland Properties)

Paardevlei (Source: Heartland Properties)

Silvermine Flood Management Scheme Wetland modules (Photo: Bill Harding).

Silvermine Flood Management Scheme Wetland modules (Photo: Bill Harding).


Capricorn Lake (Photo: Bill Harding)

Capricorn Lake (Photo: Bill Harding)

One Response to Long-lost Western Cape wetland to be recreated

  1. Bruce Kania says:

    This project has important implications. Hopefully the restoration process will be tracked and provide a model for future similar efforts.

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