Robert Dempster
Welcome to my PMB blog!
Nonsuch Road
a walk that has become a journey!

Proudly South African South African flag

Nonsuch Road, does it exist?

Most definitely, Nonsuch Road can be found near to the top of Town Bush Road in Pietermaritzburg. Town Bush Road runs up the Town Bush Valley that lies in the lee of Pietermaritzburg's famed (or perhaps infamous) Town Hill. You can find Nonsuch Road quite easily using Google Earth or any of the other modern map systems using the coordinates: -29.564197,30.332508. You can also see an image of Town Hill as viewed from my web cam which is situated about 200 meters from the said intersection. The image is updated every 10 minutes and the sequence of images can be viewed as a movie clip at The images can also be viewed at my own PICPMB Weather site, WeatherUnderground, and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

Why would I write about Non Such Road?

I think that there is a good story to tell, so much so that I recently wrote to the Witness in order to invite them to write the story. The Witness did not actually decline, they simply did not reply.

So let me begin - A Dog's Life

As long as I can remember, there has always been a dog or two in the home I lived in. Walking the dog(s) has been a daily ritual, and the walks for the past ten years have inevitably been up Nonsuch Road to where it ends at the gates of Africa Enterprise. When my wife and I started walking up Nonsuch Road (2004) in the evenings, we pretty much had the road to ourselves. The old house some 400 meters up the road was still there, and the roadside with the exception of that along the Waltdorf boundary, was badly overgrown with aliens that now feature prominently on the current lists specifying Invasive Aliens.

Back then the traffic on the road was minimal, and so we could release the dogs from their leads and allow them to run free. We still do, but the traffic has increased, sometimes quite markedly. There are also many other walkers (with or without dogs), runners and cyclists to contend with. Mostly we all get along just fine and it is a pleasant place to spend some time before we all return to our homes for the evening. In fact it is now becoming a place where a sense of community exists, something seldom found in suburbia in recent times.

With or without the aliens, Nonsuch Road makes for a very pleasant walk. The road mostly follows the Cascades Stream and runs adjacent to it where the stream cascades through a series of sandstone ledges. Ironically the alien gumtrees and large clumps of bamboo form a canopy in that vicinity that almost encloses the road and the adjacent stream, and in doing so makes it a very attractive area.

If one is lucky, one will occasionally spot a Bushbuck. If you are very lucky, you may spot three or four Bushbuck. There are also Porcupines in the area as at least four have been flattened by cars during the time we have been walking up the road. When grazing is in short supply one will also occasionally come across the cattle that have strayed from the farm that is still functioning at the top of Town Bush Road.

There are plenty of birds in the area and their calls will inevitably make your walk that much more enjoyable. One bird does deserve a special mention, the Crowned Eagle that was hatched in a nest in the area a few years ago. The event was documented as part of a study by XXX and photographed by YYY. The photographs are stunning and can be viewed by following this link or by visiting the Ferncliffe Conservancy website. Nonsuch Road falls within the Ferncliffe Conservancy area.

Mandela Day

When Mandela Day was first launched my wife Edith, son Bruce, and I decided we would start cleaning up the area between Town Bush Road and the Cascades Stream beyond the bridge and below the retention pond adjacent to the Town Bush and Nonsuch road intersection. The couple of hours of work that we did on that day hardly made a dent on the mess made up of dumped garbage, garden refuse, and the acute alien invasion of the area.

Determined to make the effort we had put into Mandela Day count, Bruce and I decide to continue to work there on a weekly basis. A resident living across the stream had also done some work in the area, and so had the Waltdorf complex. Gradually the situation improved and thanks to others who have also contributed, the area is now much improved.


The Waltdorf complex spans Nonsuch Road with the bulk of their property being above Nonsuch Road. Waltdorf is an interesting development as it includes three retention ponds. These were put in place to try and ensure that the initial runoff from the roads during a thunder/rain storm does not immediately enter the Cascades stream. The most readily accesible retention pond can be found on the lower side of the intersection of Town Bush and Nonsuch Roads. The other two can be found further up Nonsuch Road, but are not as readily accessible.

The construction of these retention ponds was probably deemed essential as the general development in the area has seen the streams overflow quite regularly during storms. The most recent storm (late summer, 2014), saw the stream passin the Cascades Center flood its banks and resulted in the tarmac covering a substantial part of the rear parking area being washed away. The largest and most recent development in the area would be the Victoria Country Club Estate (VCCE) and I would presume that the VCCE has similar water management systems in place. Given the nature of the terrain on which this development is taking place, one would have thought that such measures would have been mandatory.

Returning to Waltdorf - in recent years the complex started clearing the piece of land below Nonsuch Road. The work started in the vicinity of the first retention pond and the first initiative saw the old house demolished and the area between Town Bush Road and the old house levelled, grassed and planted with indigenous trees. This has greatly enhanced the area and also allows the folk walking dogs along Nonsuch Road to do so without hindering the vehicular traffic.

A year ago Waltdorf extended the cleared area by removing alien trees and scrub vegetation from an area beyond that already cleared. Unfortunately the contractor who cut down the trees did not also remove them. More recently Waltdorf, or possibly Africa Enterprise has again removed alien trees and scrub vegetation from the side of Nonsuch Road.

This work has not only removed alien vegetation, it has improved the situation from the perspective of those folk who walk dogs along Nonsuch Road, as it allows them to get their dogs out of the way of passing traffic. The interaction of this traffic, much of it related to Africa Enterprise, and walkers/cyclists/runners has in my experience been cooperative. It is my view that these walkers/cyclists/runners have contributed hugely to not only making the road a safer environment generally, but also one that is somewhat friendly and welcoming. Incidentally vehicular traffic travelling along the road is restricted 30 kph if the sign near the beginning of the road is to be believed.

Africa Enterprise

Africa Enterprise (AE) was first located at the top of Town Bush Road in XXXX. As the road primarily serves AE, they have probably been the most proactive party with regard to the maintenance of the road. This work is ongoing as some of the road has a gravel surface and the sections that are tarred, probably need to be tard. The work is also necessary as the road inevitably gets damaged during the summer months as a result of heavy rains and occasional flooding.


There is also a Telkom telephone cable that runs up Nonsuch Road to AE that has been subjected to Cable Theft at least twice during the past five years. In an endeavour to prevent further disruption to the telephone service, the cable has now been placed underground in ducting that was laid alongside of the road.

Much of the original telephone cable is still there, dangling from telephone poles. Much of the first and second replacement cable is also still there. The same can be said for some lighter cable that was used to provide a temporary service after the second theft. It has always intrigued me that Telkom does not retrieve this cable, and the poles and their fittings. If this cable had value as stolen property, then surely what remains must still be of some value to Telkom.

Regarding this cable, I have even considered approaching Telkom for permission to remove this cable and then to sell it on to the scrap metal trade myself. I have also considered doing the same for the poles. When one stops for a moment and thinks about it, then one soon realises that South Africa is littered with telephone poles that have been stripped of the cables that they once carried. Surely an initiative could be launched to start up some small BEE companies to harvest these poles and sell them on. In fact I am convinced that several large villages could be established with log cabins (Telehuts) built from these telephone poles.

The Aliens

The alien invasion alongside Nonsuch Road is an excellent example of how bad the problem can get to be. There are of course gum and wattle trees. There are also extensive clumps of bamboo that follow the stream and do very well there. There is Bug weed, Lantana, Wild Ginger, Cats Claw and last, and certainly least, Mauritius Thorn. The latter has rendered much of the area impassable.

Being in the mist belt below Town Hill the route is always lush and green. The aliens also put on some spectacular shows when they flower. So as ironic as it is, the aliens do make for a pleasant walk. It is also a situation that will persist until significant funds and a concerted effort is made to rectify the problem, not only along Nonsuch Road, but in the adjoining areas as well. The Ferncliffe Nature Reserve has deteriorated badly in this respect during recent years.

The Big Tree

There is a very large Gum Tree in one of the gardens just beyond the intersection of Town Bush and Nonsuch Roads. I would guess that it is probably the largest tree in the area. It serves as a roost for countless Hadedas and a half a dozen cranes every night. Various raptors, Egyptian Geese and Woolly Necked Storks have also been spotted in the tree. I guess it is one alien that I would probably like to see remain in the area indefinitely. Another guess would be that it would cost an arm and a leg to remove it, and so despite the threat of falling branches, it remains aloof and untouchable.

More recently I discovered another large and impressive tree in the area. It is located in the bush adjacent to Nonsuch Road in the vicinity of the area where the Umgeni water pipes cross Nonsuch Road. It is not far from the road itself, and I only discovered it thanks to the Mountain Biking fraternity.

During the recent World Marathon Championships the organisers took the course that they built right past the tree. They also placed a bridge across the stream, and so it did not take me long to cross the bridge and follow the cycling route up the hill to the point where it emerges from the bush onto Town Bush Road, not too far from the entrance to the D V Harris Water Works. The tree is impressive and well worth visiting. I would suggest that you do so within a group as one becomes rather isolated once you are in the bush. If you approach the cycle track from Nonsuch Road, you will have to jump across the stream as the bridge has been removed, presumably by the Mountain Biking fraternity.


Nonsuch Road also provides access to Queen Elizabeth Park (QEP) Nature Reserve from the lower end of the reserve via a pedestrian entrance that opens onto Nonsuch Road. The entrance can be found by proceeding beyond the point where the Water Pipelines cross Nonsuch Road and proceeding up the short steep incline that follows. The entrance is used by walkers, runners and cyclists who make the road through QEP part of their training routes. Recently AE did substantial work in clearing the mostly alien vegetation on either side of the latter half of Nonsuch Road. In doing so they have made the lot of those who regularly walk along Nonsuch Road a lot easier.

Unfortunately the clearing on the side of the road thad borders the The QEP property has exposed the Reserve's boundary fence which is a very poor state of repair. It has also exposed the duplicated segments of Telkom cable that was not removed by the thieves for whatever reason. Not that the fence and the cables distract from what is now a clear view of a section of the Reserve in which Zebra can occasionally be seen grazing. If the level of maintenance of the road through the QEP is anything to go by, then it would suggest that the fence is not likely to be repaired anytime soon.

Fortunately one soon forgets the fence when one walks, runs or cycles through the park. I ride through it regularly on my Mountain Bike on training rides, and for me it is always an uplifting experience, one that I treasure. The recent increase in Rhino poaching and subsequent efforts to try and distribute South Africa's rhino population more widely in order to thwart the poachers. Mentioning the rhino has reminded me that when I first arrived in Pietermaritzburg in 1984, there was a Rhino Enclosure within the QEP reserve. Back then there were also rhino in the now defunct reserve that was adjacent to Midmar Dam.

The Witness

Several weeks ago I was so taken with the developments along Nonsuch Road, that I thought I would contact the Witness and suggest to the paper that it consider coming up to the top of Town Bush Road to take a look at Nonsuch Road. Given the features that the Witness has recently run on both Copper Cable theft and Alien Plants, I thought they could feature Nonsuch Road in both of these contexts, and perhaps even delve into the history associated with the area. Unfortunately the Witness did not bother to reply. The Witness has run such articles before as a Witness Article published in 2008 regarding Walks that can be found in the greater Pietermaritzburg area.

So I am now hoping that writing this blog will initiate a similar process, but involving anyone who would like to contribute to complete this story. If you are interested in making a contribution please feel free to contact me. A historical account of the evolution/development of this area together with photographs would be particularly welcome.


Photographs published previously that relate to Nonsuch Road, Alien Invasions, Cable Theft, Flooding in the area, Mandela Day, and efforts to eradicate aliens from the area and by so doing generally improve the local environment. These photographs are presented as albums together with some general commentry for each album and commentary specific to individual photographs. The system used is of my own invention and I would hope that it does not detract from the message this material is hoping to convey.

The first set of photographs is the most recent, and tries to set the scene for what is currently happening along NonsuchRoad. It also endeavours to convey something of the experience of a walk along Nonsuch Road. The slide show is different from the others in that it presents larger images in order to also do that i.e., present the Nonsuch Road walk experience. I guess I could do the video, perhaps I still will.

The presentation could undoubtedly be improved and so criticisms, comments and suggestions are more than welcome. That said, hopefully they setup is good enough in its present form to convey the message.

  1. A couple of walks along Nonsuch Road during October 2014
  2. Telkom Copper Cable Theft - Blog 014 - 19 June 2012
  3. Mandela Day every day - Blog 020 - 17 July 2012
  4. 80 mm of rain during during 2005
  5. A walk along Nonsuch Road during April 2012
  6. 80 mm of rain during during March 2014
  7. Telkom Copper Cable Theft - Africa Enterprise Goes Underground!

  8. E-mail address
    [email protected]
       Facebook facebook icon      google plus icon Google+ home page icon