Recently, the London Daily Telegraph newspaper voted Hermanus the world’s top destination for watching whales. We have been saying that for decades.

We all know that the Hermanus topography lends itself to grand ocean views from the rocky cliffs that abut the sea for a distance of around 10 km. So it’s no surprise that the Hermanus Cliff Path is described as providing the “best land-based whale viewing in the world”. The cliff path provides access to the entire stretch of this coast.

The many lookout points offer not only whale sightings but also beautiful natural vegetation, such as the endemic cliff lily (Gladiolus carmineus). The path also takes you close up to amazing rock formations that enhance the wild and natural feel of our coast, loved by residents and tourists.

There are various ‘firsts’ about the Hermanus Cliff Path. It is the first and only cliff path in the Overstrand to be part of a proclaimed Nature Reserve. It is the first to have been started by private individuals. This happened as long ago as the 1960s when members of the Botanical Society laid out the original path.

It is the first to be jointly administered by a private organisation (the Cliff Path Management Group) and a Municipality.

It is the first (and only) one to have raised more than R2 million in private donations and bequests for its work. For a number of years additional ward-specific grants from Ward 3 have enabled the near completion of the path.

The Cliff Path Management Group (CPMG) has been overseeing the Hermanus Cliff Path since 2002 under the inspirational leadership of David Beattie, who raised the funds to resurface 12 km of the path, mostly with exposed concrete aggregate. Members of CPMG, notably Frank Woodvine, tackled and almost conquered the invasive alien plants. David produced a DVD extolling the Cliff Path Experience and an informative brochure that enhanced the pleasure of all who walk the path.

David’s untimely death at the end of 2018 left a huge void that will be difficult to fill. Stalwart member, Harvey Tyson also died in 2018. But the good work that David started must go on. The CPMG has enthusiastic new members who, together with the original members, are determined to carry on the good work.

Several important projects are planned for the coming years, as funds become available.

CPMG plans, together with a private donor, to upgrade several existing informal paths in Westcliff to ensure that viewpoints with benches are more accessible.

Sections of existing paths along the entire 12 km stretch that have become worn and “stony” will be re-surfaced.

Overgrown Searsia shrubs that are choking the life out of the cliff path biodiversity will be thinned out to encourage re-growth of seeds and bulbs. This will also reduce the danger of wildfires and open up views to the sea. CPMG will also work with the Municipality on plans for controlled “block-burning” sections of the path to reduce the wildfire hazard. The favoured method is slashing, stacking and burning small piles at a time.

But the first priority project is the production of a new Cliff Path brochure, dedicated to the memory of David Beattie. The new brochure will be enhanced by professional photographs and reduced text. The map of the path that David designed will be retained, together with a new feature explaining the origins of the names of the various points on the map – such as Tamatiebank, Kammabaai or Sieverspunt. The brochure will be more compact than before, making it easier to pop into a pocket while walking along the path.

The previous printing of 20 000 copies was funded by a donor and distributed free of charge to tourism offices, hotels, guest houses and B&Bs. David hand-delivered most of them. They have all long since been given out to tourists, thereby enhancing their appreciation of this fabulous Hermanus feature.

CPMG aims to follow up on David’s initiative and print 20 000 copies of the new brochure, which will cost in the region of R25 000. Funding is needed for this.

Perhaps lovers of the cliff path could consider donating money towards the printing of the brochure, thereby commemorating David’s great work and enhancing the pleasure of everyone walking on the path.

As long as there is a Hermanus Cliff Path, David Beattie will not be forgotten. His legacy will live on in the path along the cliffs – which he literally and figuratively put on the map.

Contributions to CPMG to cover the cost of printing the cliff path brochure dedicated to David Beattie can be made to Investec Bank current account, branch number 580105, electronic account number 50002115857. For more information please email hermanuscliffpath@gmail.com

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