Oaks – our cultural heritage

Oaks, Main Street

Oaks, Main Street

This time of the year Paarl’s oaks become prone to fungal diseases, and without fail the debate of replacing Paarl’s iconic oaks begins. Oaks are vilified for not being indigenous, for having branches that break off, andOaks may not be indigenous to the Cape, but they are certainly part of our cultural landscape, and have been so for more than three hundred years.

Timber played an important role in those early economies. Trees provided wood for construction, and carpenters used wood to make doors, windows, furniture and to build wagons. Every household needed wood for cooking fires and to warm houses in winter. At the Cape, timber was also used to repair ships during their stopover between the East Indies and Europe. Continue reading

Why the name Drakenstein?

Van Rheede

Van Rheede (Wikimedia Commons)

It is often quite surprising how few people know why the mountain range east of Paarl is called the Drakenstein Mountains, or why Paarl is situated in the Drakenstein Valley, or why our municipality is called the Drakenstein Municipality. Why Drakenstein? The most common held belief is that the word is derived from the Dutch for dragon. Not so.

The Drakenstein in question refers to a Dutch nobleman with the impressive title of Henrick Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein, Lord of Mijdrecht (1636-1691). Van Rheede’s family estate, Drakensteijn, was near Utrecht in Holland. He was a high ranking official in the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and visited the Cape in 1685 as a High Commissioner to reform the administration of the VOC’s outpost. Two years later when Governor Simon van der Stel granted the first farms in the Berg River valley he called the area Drakenstein to honour the VOC official. Continue reading