The Story of Hilton


Nestling in the hills above Pietermaritzburg, at a distance of twelve kilometres, lies the picturesque village of Hilton. Enjoying a very pleasant all-year round climate, its park and English village like setting, boasts a wealth of botanical splendour. Regarded as the 'Gateway to the Midlands', it is here that travellers from the coast receive their first glimpse of the distant uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Mountains. Consisting of a number of leafy undulating suburbs, including Sweetwaters and Winterskloof, Hilton lies within close proximity to popular beauty spots such as Worlds View, Howick Falls and Karkloof. Now part of the uMngeni Municipality Hilton has over 3 000 happy inhabitants who have chosen to occupy the peace and tranquility of the many gracious homes with which the area abounds.

Hilton owes its name to Jane Henderson, wife of farming pioneer and financier Joseph Henderson, who no doubt was nostalgically thinking of Hilton Park in her native Staffordshire when they first named their farm Hilton in 1860 which adjoined Philip Zietsman's Voortrekker farm, named 'Groenekloof' and was used as access to the early wagon routes.

The Zulu name for Hilton is Nyazake, which means 'His Feet' and is derived from old Zulu war trails connecting the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg region with Kranskop, approximately where Hilton farm is today. The earliest record of Europeans in the Hilton area goes back to the early 19th century when transport riders travelled into the hinterland over World's View, making overnight stops at Ketelfontein, Sedgley and The Knoll at Winterskloof.

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The Story of Sweetwaters & Winterskloof


Situated on the north western fringe of Pietermaritzburg and nestling between the Swartkop and Teteleku ridges which enclose the head-waters of the Dorpspruit, is a beautiful, verdant and undulating valley. In all seasons, swirling mists expose some beautiful natural forest and short savanna grassland. The gentle rush of meandering stream water can be heard as the numerous small tributaries cascade and churn towards the Msunduzi floodplain.

Splendid examples of indigenous tree and plant species abound, including the exquisite gardenia amena, scopcopia zeyheri, diospyros whytena, trimeria grandiflora and many others. Varieties of dove, cuckoo, bulbul, eagle, robin, sunbird and weaver comprise over seventy bird species which find nesting and foraging space in the pockets of undulating temperate forest.

Blue and grey duiker, bushpig, genet, mongoose and vervet monkey are also known to find a 'home' in this picturesque conservancy area, covering an area of approximately one thousand hectares.

In pre-historic times, the Stone Age hunter-gatherer San people hunted varieties of buck and wildebeest in the nearby Mgeni valley gorge, there having being a number of pre-historic camp sites found in the vicinity. It is even suggested that elephant tracks might in earlier times have been identified in the lower Dorpspruit catchment area, as fossilised footprints were claimed to have been found near to the old Voortrekker barn at Summerwood.

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The Hills Above Pietermaritzburg

Peter Alcock is a science graduate with a Ph.D. who has become interested, in more recent times, in South African indigenous scientific knowledge and history as well as geographic interpretations of selected South African novels. Peter published a book in 2010 on indigenous weather knowledge in this country ("Rainbows in the Mist").

Peter prefers to avoid the "well-trodden path" in his research, and generally concentrates on the road less travelled.

Residents of Hilton and surrounds will find his writing about The Hills above Pietermaritzburg interesting. Click here to enjoy this complimentary read.

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