Once upon a time Symmonds Stream rose in the grassland and trundled along merrily for a couple of kilometres, before tumbling over forest clad cliffs into the uMngeni River gorge.
Nowadays, this little river emerges at the base of thirsty gum trees, fights its way through suburbs, invasive plants and sewage spills on its way to join the uMngeni. Despite the valiant, voluntary efforts of the Friends of Symmonds Stream to protect and preserve as much as they are able, the stream is a shadow of its former self.
However, memories of Symmonds Stream abound amongst older Howickians and the Forgotten Falls have taken on an almost mythical status. We had heard tales of a path, known in pioneering days, as Lover’s Lane, and set off to find the waterfall.
We caught glimpses of what may have been a path at some stage, but mostly the steep banks were cloaked in Wandering Jew. Drawn by the sound of rushing water, we simply followed our ears.
Holding onto forest trees, we edged down the slope – on our bottoms mostly. The pervading fragrance was lemony Clausena anisata – most likely caused by our hands grabbing at branches!
It was not long before the elusive falls were visible through the trees. A thrilling sight.
In days gone by, the falling water would have eroded a deep pool at the base and must have been absolutely beautiful. Sadly, now the pool was mostly filled with silt, builder’s rubble and rubbish that had washed down the stream and over the falls. Illustrating clearly the eco-system destruction caused by careless up stream users.
After the obligatory MiniSASS and evaluation of the river condition (which was pretty dire), we simply reveled in the positive energy that one always finds besides waterfalls. Admiring the shapes of the rocks, the tiny plants clinging to the cliff and speculating about the humans who must have visited this place before.
We had hopes of heading downstream to the confluence with the uMngeni, but the steepness and slippery rocks suggested that it would not be a sensible thing to do.
Scrambling back up the slope, we spotted a small buck through the trees. We stood quietly as she gazed at us before moving off.
Soon we were back at the top in the hustle and bustle of Howick, thrilled to have discovered this treasure. A secret relic of the regal past of Symmonds Stream.