Wild at heart: Old gardens and young dogs

There is nothing that makes a dog happier than the promise of miles of open space ahead of them, snaking, tree-lined pathways, and perhaps a dam or two to splash through. All of this preferably leash-free. For our two dogs, every car journey is filled with promise, unbridled excitement and the taste of adventure.

“One way to get the most out of life, is to look upon it as an adventure” William Feather


Johannesburg is not particularly dog-friendly, well not if you compare it to most cities in Europe and the USA. We’re always looking for places where we can take Paddington and Darcy to let off some steam, which is why I got so excited when I read an article about James Delaney and his dog Pablo.  

James and Pablo live close to an area known as “The Wilds”, near Killarney and Houghton. Despite “The Wilds” reputation for having become dangerous over the years, James and Pablo, in search of new playgrounds, ventured into the overgrown gardens and emerged unscathed. 

Delighted by the potential they saw in a forgotten place needing some love and attention, they took things a step further and kicked off an initiative to make the park accessible, safe and usable once again. Volunteers came on board and helped to clear things up – a significant project – over the past two years. James is an accomplished artist and he immediately got to work installing beautiful stainless steel sculptures of birds and animals. As the teams toiled, the magnificent historic park with its stone-cut paths and panoramic city views gradually came back to life.

The park is hilly and planted with thousands of indigenous trees and other native flora, crisscrossed by several kilometers of winding stone paths, bridges and – soon to be completed – water features. A footbridge links the western and eastern sides of the property. It seems that all kinds of people (and their dogs) have once again embraced this special piece of land right in the centre of Johannesburg.  While we were there couples and singles were arriving for walks or a quick jog; families with prams cruised in and spread their blankets for a lazy Sunday picnic; a middle-aged lady snoozed peacefully in the sun, with her book open across her face; dogs chased each other on the grass; while others simply sat and admired the spectacular views. There was even a couple practicing Tai Chi.
According to SA History Online: “In 1925 the township owners of Houghton Estate, the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company Ltd., donated the original portion of The Wilds to the Johannesburg Town Council on condition that it be kept as an open space for public recreation. Since 1936 The Wilds has been planted with indigenous flora only and remains one of Johannesburg’s most attractive parks. It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 20 February 1981.”
Paddy and Darcy were delighted with our new discovery. They went crazy tearing about on the flat, grassy stretches, they hauled us up the steep mountain paths and eventually exhausted, they flopped under the trees to rest.
We were dazzled by the vistas across the city, the bountiful vegetation and indigenous flowers and the fact that we hadn’t even known that this place existed. 🌸



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