Not many Johannesburg establishments can claim to have been in continuous existence for 3-billion years. But Melville Koppies can.
Fair enough, Melville Koppies Nature Reserve was created, and the area declared a Johannesburg City Heritage Site with a view to conserving the last of the Witwatersrand's ridges, only after gold mining had largely rearranged the rest. But the rock formations go back 3-billion years.
We know people were living here as long as 500,000 years ago, thanks to a late Stone Age living floor. That's a layer of earth with tools and artifacts that can be dated to that epoch, with items left by later inhabitants lying in shallower soil. These other residents arrived recently, only about 1,000 years ago. Their remaining stonework (thought to have been a complex of cattle kraals) still stands on the northern slopes of the Koppies. In 1963, or in geological terms, yesterday, an ancient iron-smelting furnace was excavated and is on exhibited to the public.
Proclaimed in 1959, the 50 hectares of Melville Koppies central is the oldest part of the reserve. Access through this point is allowed only to organised tours and hikes. Both Melville Koppies east and west are open to the public daily for walks, which are scheduled for the latter. If you enjoy fresh air, a bit of sun and a good climb, then the Koppies are for you.
Vegetation on the Koppies is indigenous throughout, a remarkable example of Highveld grasses, flowers and trees, overlooked by progress and preserved intact, virtually in the city centre. The forest is mainly brack thorn acacia and blue gwarrie. At the crest of the reserve, the city stretches out all around you. Except for the traffic noise below, you could easily imagine yourself hiking in the wild, hours away from Johannesburg.
Flowing along the western boundary of the Koppies is the Westdene Spruit. Together with the Braamfontein and Jukskei spruits, this is one of several streams flowing northwards from the Witwatersrand watershed. The banks of the Westdene create a special environment in the Koppies, where giant stinkwood trees dominate. There are also large bushwillows, wild olive trees and wild peach trees.
The 3-hour guided tours through the heritage site cover about 4km. The cost was R60 per person. At the end of that, you'll be glad so many Melville establishments minister to the thirsty. In contrast to most of Johannesburg, Melville like some of Braamfontein, Emmarentia, Greenside or Parkhurst, still has restaurants and bars giving directly onto the street - which is better for heritage than having them tucked away in some featureless mall. There's also a choice of more than 30 guesthouses around and about, if you need accommodation.
Their contact details:
Phone: +27 11 482 4797