A stroll through the Paarl Arboretum, just minutes from the city’s busy centre, is a soul restorer – one big oxygen-filled sigh of relief.
Every Saturday morning, you’ll find it teeming with the takkie brigade, fitness fanatics doing the 5km Parkrun, but at pretty much any other time the Paarl Arboretum, spread along nearly 3km of the eastern banks of the Berg River, is a haven of peace and tranquillity, filled with the sound of birds and the rustling of leaves in the wind.
The history behind the arboretum
The approximately 2 600 trees, representing some 650 species, are mostly well-established now, but the Arboretum’s history goes back to 1957 when the Paarl town treasurer of the time, Mr. A. E Short came up with the idea of this great big green lung as a showcase of trees from all over the world. Later that year the Arboretum was formally inaugurated by Professor H. B Rycroft who was the Director of the National Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch.
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Over the next 30 years things developed slowly, but thanks to the knowledge, energy and input of Mr A. M J Scheltens, curator of the well-known Arderne Gardens in Claremont, another tree paradise famous as a wedding photo-venue, lots of trees were planted and the Arboretum started to flourish.
By 1987, it could be said that Mr Short’s idea had finally taken root – and in October that year, to coincide with Paarl’s 300th anniversary festival, it was fully opened to the public by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mr G Kotze.
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So what’s there to see?
Well the Arboretum is divided up into six regions – Europe, Africa, South America, Asia, North America and Australia with trees and bushes from those continents. Some of the trees are numbered and labelled, but unless you’re a full on arboriculturist who feels the need to identify each and every one, you can just enjoy the line-up of trees in all their splendour – tall and towering, short and flowering.
In September 2016, the One World Festival of Healing was held here in conjunction with the Institute for the Healing of Memories. The event has become an annual one, so keep eye on One World Festival of Healing Facebook Group for the latest info about the next event. Don’t wait until the next festival visit; you can go any time to picnic, photograph, birdwatch or just sit and breathe in the excess of oxygen.
Entrance is at Parys Sports Grounds in Market Street and opening hours are: 8am to 8pm from October until March, and then from 9am until 5pm from April to September
+27 (0) 21 872 4842; [email protected]
Words Nancy Richards
Photography John Clive