By Chris Marais
Nieuwoudtville, locally pronounced ‘Nowtville’, is a tiny village in the Bokkeveld mountains of the Northern Cape, a place internationally acknowledged as the bulb capital of the world.
In spring it’s all about the daisies, as vast carpets of colour arise from the disturbed ground. But the fynbos and the succulents of Nieuwoudtville are there all year long.
Here four ecosystems and dramatically different rainfalls happily collide – classic fynbos, endangered renosterveld, a dolerite sill larded with unique bulbs and geophytes, and of course, the shrub Karoo – an area most people know as Namaqualand.
For botanically inclined people, there can be no finer destination.
This is where Sir David Attenborough came to film parts of his documentary The Private Life of Plants.
Sir Ghillean Prance, retired director of Kew Botanical Gardens in London has flown out twice to take in this treasure of the Earth.
Well-known Japanese photographer Shin Sawano is a serial visitor, coming out practically every year, usually for months at a time.
Nieuwoudtville’s more public fame started, arguably, with a sheep farmer, the late Neil MacGregor.
At his farm, Glenlyon, Neil took down all internal fences and opened the area to his livestock. They pruned the plants, ate the dry residue and trampled the seeds. He left the diggers and plant predators, especially the porcupines, to open the earth to rain.
He was rewarded with the flowering of an extraordinary biodiversity on his 6 500 hectare farm. The sheep also flourished, botanists came to visit, and tourists started to arrive.
Neil’s Flower Bus tours were world famous, and his farm was later declared the Hantam National Botanical Gardens. What better legacy could someone leave a town?
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