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Belgravia Historic Walk

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In Kimberley

-28.7498, 24.7802

 

+27 53 839 2712 www.museumsnc.co.za

About

Kimberley is a city replete with history. The Belgravia Historic Walk is the perfect way to explore the highs and lows of its distant and more recent past. The two-kilometre-long circular trail offers tourists and business people visiting the Northern Cape city a perfect opportunity to leisurely explore a significant part of South African history.

The walk has been set out in Belgravia, Kimberley’s first exclusive residential suburb and, arguably, its most beautiful one to date. Taking in 33 of the city’s most important historical sites and monuments, the Belgravia Historic Walk showcases the characteristic architecture of the time, tells of the famous people of the area and recalls interesting anecdotes from years gone by.

Before embarking on the walk, visitors are advised to buy a Belgravia Historical Guide Book at the McGregor Museum in Atlas Street, which is the starting point of the walk and worth a visit itself.

The walk then meanders past sites such as the birth place of diamond magnate Harry Oppenheimer, the world's first drive-in pub (Halfway House) and the Duggan-Cronin Gallery, which was erected in 1889.

Other highlights along the route of the Belgravia Historic Walk include the old Girls’ High School (founded in 1887), a statue of Cecil John Rhodes and a cenotaph that was designed by William Timlin and erected in honour of 400 men killed during the First World War. The greens of the Queen’s Park are the perfect place to take a break.  Founded in 1874, the original Kimberley Public Gardens were renamed to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Diamond Fields

Northern Cape

About

The Diamond Fields is a relatively small region of the Northern Cape, encompassing the province’s capital city, Kimberley. Its enviable title stems from the large quantity of diamonds found here during the last century and a half.

Although the first diamond in South Africa was discovered just outside the region, further south at Hopetown, the area where Kimberley stands today is where diamond fever really took off. By 1870 fortune seekers were arriving in increasing numbers to scour the riverbanks of the region.

Then diamond deposits were discovered at Colesberg Kopje - until today this is the richest diamond deposit ever found - and by 1872 the mining town of New Rush was home to 50 000 diggers living in tents and shacks.

In 1873 the town was renamed Kimberley. When the mining stopped in 1914, 14.5 million carats or 2 722 kilograms of diamonds had been extracted.

What was once a koppie had become a deep hole! Today it is known as the Big Hole and is Kimberley’s main icon. The towns of Barkly West, Delportshoop and Windsorton also started off as diamond camps. 

Today the sought-after gems are still mined in the region, albeit on a smaller scale, and the Diamond Fields are far from barren. 

Accessed along the N12 from Gauteng via Warrenton the region is blessed with another sparkling commodity; water. A number of rivers including the Vaal and Harts combine to create a verdant and fertile environment in the Vaalharts Valley in the north of the region. T

he irrigation scheme here incorporates a network of canals that lead water from a weir in the Vaal River to over 1 250 agricultural holdings. It is the second largest irrigation scheme in the Southern hemisphere. Local produce includes olives, stone-fruit, pecan nuts, cotton and citrus. The main urban centres are Hartswater and Jan Kempdorp.

Moving west, away from the N12, and across the Vaal and Harts rivers, the landscape becomes more arid and less populated. In the far west of the region a long rocky ridge, known as the Ghaap escarpment, dominates the landscape. 

Further south the savannah, green after summer rains and beige during the dry winter, is dotted with Camelthorn trees.

Here the Mokala National Park - Mokala is Setswana for Camelthorn - prides itself on being a place where endangered species roam.

Look out for

The Big Hole - in 2006 the old Big Hole Museum underwent an extensive upgrade. The result is a much-improved facility. Visitors can now walk 90 metres along a cantilever to a viewing platform, the latter being the exact size of a 19th Century mining claim (10m x 10m). From this location, suspended just over the edge of the Big Hole, visitors get a good idea of its immense size. Another attraction is the underground mining experience, complete with simulated dynamite blasts and mine dust. There’s a display of authentic diamonds, an exhibition centre and an audio-visual theatre. When one has exhausted all this, a wander through the streets of the museum village is a trip back in time.

Kimberley - besides the Big Hole, Kimberley as a city has a lot to offer the visitor. One of the better-known attractions is the McGregor Museum which has displays ranging from archaeology to zoology. Neighbouring the McGregor is the Duggan-Cronin Gallery that houses an incredible black and white photographic collection depicting indigenous cultures and lifestyles from the early 1900s. Then there’s the William Humphreys Art Gallery with its representative collection of South African works, 16th and 17th century Flemish and Dutch Old Masters; and British and European Masters. Amongst the city’s wealth of historical sites is the suburb of Belgravia with its grand old houses from Kimberley’s romantic past, as well as the Kimberley Club, which once boasted more millionaires per square foot than anywhere else on earth. 

Mokala National Park covers 21 000ha in extent and is accessed from the N12, 57km south of Kimberley and a further 21km on gravel. There are several circular drives, accessible to all vehicles. Species to look out for here are black rhino, white rhino, roan antelope, tsessebe and Cape buffalo. The park has been proposed as the new birding hotspot in the Northern Cape with species numbers estimated at around 200. Accommodation options include three lodges, a separate cottage, and campsites.

Wildebeeskuil Rock Art Centre - 16km from Kimberley on the R31 to Barkly West has over 400 petroglyphs created by the Khoe-San on a sacred hill.

Anglo Boer War - the Diamond Fields played a big part in the hostilities during October 1899 and February 1900. Kimberley itself was under siege during this period. The result is that there are many memorials, historic sites and battlefields from these times in the area. The N12 battlefields route is signposted from Hopetown, 120km south of Kimberley. 

Bird watching - there are a number of popular locations for good sightings. At Kamfers Dam, 2km north of Kimberley, up to 30 000 lesser flamingos as well as large numbers of other water birds can be seen.

 

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