The King’s Blockhouse

The King’s Blockhouse, a National Monument on the Mowbray Ridge of Devil’s Peak, was built in 1796 by the British to advance their defences of the Cape Peninsula. It was positioned with views of Table Bay and False Bay. It is the highest and now least dilapidated of the 3 blockhouses built at that time by Major General James Craig. Just below the block house there are 2 large cannons and the ruins of a cottage. The King’s blockhouse is now a popular short hike, trail run and mountain biking destination or quick stop on a longer trail route.

The easiest and quickest way to hike to the King’s Blockhouse is to start at the Rhodes Memorial parking area. From the top of the parking lot you find a steep stepped pathway up. Keep on this pathway crossing over a few paths running perpendicular to this. Eventually the path will come to a T-junction, turn right and continue. You will then come to a turn stile and ladder. Continue through the turn stile and in front of you the road forks, take the left fork leading upward. Then continue along this road as it winds around the front of Devil’s Peak and switches back to lead you to the blockhouse. Alternately there is a stepped, steep short cut on your right from this road, but we decided not to take this with the kids. The route was fairly busy on the day that we were there, and we also saw 2 other families with kids. It is a short hike, but you do gain a fair amount of elevation over a short distance making for some good exercise.

Driving to Rhodes Memorial, Brian and I were looking forward to this hike as we had tried to do it a week earlier but due to cold and very overcast weather we ended up changing our plans on route and going to the Two Oceans Aquarium instead. We were however also a little nervous as our previous hike, Tygerberg Hill, had been a pretty terrible experience due to level of moan that Emma had reached that day. I decided to do what all good parents do and I resorted to bribery. I promised her bubble gum for a moan-free hike. And what do you know? Bubble gum is clearly a highly valued commodity, as it worked. I also think being able to see the Blockhouse from the parking area and that it didn’t look too far away helped.

We parked at Rhodes Memorial and then got the boys on our backs. Lately it seems to be working pretty well to have Jude in Brian’s hiking baby carrier and Seth in my Ubuntu baby carrier to start off with as Seth usually falls asleep pretty quickly and I think my carrier is way more comfy for sleeping. Then on the return leg we usually swop boys because it is easier for Seth to see out of the hiking baby carrier which keeps him happier and Jude enjoys the snuggle with me. From there we picked the path that seemed most direct out of the parking lot (there were about 3) and started our walk.

The start is stepped and quite steep so here keeping Emma chatting, showing her pretty flowers and playing “I-spy” helped and we made quick progress. We spotted some beautiful silver leaf tress which are always exciting and a little magical for a girl currently obsessed with princesses, unicorns and all things sparkly. We also stopped to climb a big rock, balance on a fallen tree trunk and chat to a family who were on their way down and had come from the Newlands Forest side.

When we started slowing down we had a quick stop for some water and some sweeties and then kept going until we got to the turn stile. On the left of the turn stile the fence is completely broken thus making the whole thing a little pointless, but to the right of the turn stile is a large ladder stile over the fence. Obviously, this stile needed to be climbed to get to the other side. Once on the other side we were on a dirt road and were passed by a few friendly mountain bikers on their way down. From here it took us about another 15 minutes to get to the Blockhouse.

The terrace below the King’s Blockhouse has a plaque mounted on a stepped wall (also perfect for climbing if you are under the age of 5) and 2 massive cannons (which of course needed to be mounted). We then picnicked, sheltered from the wind, in front of the Blockhouse with a view of Table Bay and Robben Island. We tried counting the ships in the bay and spotting our home suburb, but it was a too smoggy to see so far north.

Getting back down was fairly quick and uneventful, although by the time we got back to the car my legs were a bit shaky, which I’m blaming on the heavy two-year-old on my back and all the steps. Something worth noting is that while hiking I saw a blister bush next to the path. If you have come across these in the past you will know they are something that you want to avoid. If you have not, a blister bush (Notobubon galbanum) is a smallish shrub with bright green leaves similar in shape to those of parsley and an umbel head of small yellow flowers. When your skin makes contact with the leaves and the area is exposed to light a reaction takes place and the area will become red and develop blisters within a few days. It is not painful at the time of contact and washing the exposed area with soap and water as well as protecting it from light can reduce the effect.

Blister bush: photo credit –
https://thepoisondiaries.tumblr.com/

After the hike we went to check out Rhodes Memorial and then went to the restaurant to have coffee and enormous scones. The kids played in their jungle gym area and were nice and tired out for a peaceful drive home.

It’s a hike I would definitely recommend for those just starting out or those hiking with children. Its easily achievable, the vegetation is beautiful and it boasts magnificent views of the mountain, Cape Town and the surrounds. But as the general safety in the area hasn’t been great over the last few years, so try to go at a busier time (like a weekend morning) and in a group if possible.

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