Concerns have been raised about the condition at the end of the summer season of  the Simon’s Town beaches and their surroundings . The following is a report by Prof Geoff Brundrit of the Simon’s Town Coastal Forum. The issues will be addressed at the quarterly meeting of the Forum on Sat 25 May 2013.

The Beaches

The City of Cape Town in its publication “Beaches: a Diversity of Treasures” recognises eleven beaches along the Simon’s Town coastline.

Smitswinkel Bay: A small isolated beach surrounded by holiday homes with no real access. It is a popular dive site, close to artificial reefs formed from scuttled vessels.

Miller’s Point: A recreational resort managed by the City of Cape Town, which includes two beaches, a tidal pool, a caravan site and two slipways for ski boats used for line fishing and diving in False Bay. Just south is the popular dive site at Castle Rock.

Fisherman’s Beach: Created in the last century by trek-netters displaced from the beaches lost to the SA Navy harbour, this is a popular swimming beach.

Frank’s Bay: Named after Frank Muller, it is also associated with trek-netting, but now it is filled with kelp and is little used.

Windmill Beach: A small, relatively sheltered, beach which is popular with families. It is named after the original windmill erected in the early years of the last century to pump fresh water from a small stream to the houses at Boulders.

Boulders Beach: This is small sheltered beach, inside the Boulders Penguin Park, where families can play on the beach and paddle and swim with penguins. The nearby Foxy Beach is reserved for penguins. An entrance fee is charged by the National Park.

Seaforth Beach: This is a sheltered beach, backed by grassy lawns and is popular with families. In the nineteenth century, Seaforth had been used as a small boat based whaling station.

Long Beach: This is a long strip of white sand on the sea side of the railway line at Simon’s Town Station. It is popular for picnics, swimming and kayaking, though wind can be a problem.

Mackerel Beach: A little used beach opposite Dido Valley, though trek-netting still takes place under licence.

Shelly Beach: A tiny sandy cove with a nearby tidal pool.

Glencairn Beach: A long sandy beach which is popular with swimmers and, in windy conditions, with kite-surfers. There is a large tidal pool on the rocks to the south of the beach.

More details can be found in the publication.


Present Management

There are no beaches open to the public within the limits of the South African Navy Harbour, though access to the sea is available from the slipways at the False Bay Yacht Club and Blue Flag Marina, and from the Simon’s Town Jetty.

The two completely managed beach areas of the Simon’s Town coast are within the Boulders section of Table Mountain National Park and within the Miller’s Point Resort of the City of Cape Town. Within the Boulders section of the TMNP, the public has (paid) access to Boulders Beach during daylight opening hours, whilst the remainder of the coast is a penguin area, off limits to the public. Boulders Beach is managed according to the criteria laid down by the National Park. There are two beaches within the Miller’s Point Resort. The southern beach and tidal pool is open to the public on payment of a daily resort fee, while the northern beach has recently been opened to the general public. Millers Point is managed by the Sport, Recreation and Amenities Department of the City of Cape Town. The whole area is run down and in need of careful rehabilitation.

The remaining nine beaches are “managed” by the various Departments of the City of Cape Town; “managed” because the underlying approach has been to recognise that these beaches are “natural” beaches, and so management interventions should be “gentle”. Clearly some interventions are needed by the City Departments. There is a need to tidy up after people who have made use of the beaches, for example litter bins need to be emptied regularly by the Solid Waste Department. Ablution facilities, managed by the Sport, Recreation and Amenities Department, are to be found between Fisherman’s Beach and Frank’s Bay, at Windmill Beach and Seaforth Beach, Long Beach and Glencairn Beach. In peak season Law Enforcement is present to uphold necessary Bye Laws. The Displaced Persons Unit is occasionally called in to move on unwelcome squatters from the beaches and other areas along the coast.

Broken kelp washed ashore is not removed from these beaches, but is occasionally placed high up the beaches to help fertilise any dune grasses and lawns. Old palm branches tend not be removed, but should be as they can give nasty cuts. It appears that the lawns and dune grasses are not watered (watering in not natural?), but the heavy public use of the beaches mean that these back beach areas are generally degraded. The degradation of grassed areas and the loss of dune stability is of major concern at Long Beach and Glencairn Beach, where they threaten the viability of the railway line. It appears that sand is either removed or pushed back into the sea at Long Beach. Finally, the tidal pools at Glencairn and at Shelly Point are both (temporarily) closed to the public, pending strengthening of their walls. Perhaps the “natural” approach should lead to the return of the tidal pool at Shelly Point to its natural state as just another rock pool.

The Environmental Resource Management Department is presently involved in an assessment of issues related to the viability of the railway line along the coast south of Fish Hoek. The Simon’s Town Coast Forum would also welcome an assessment by the ERM Department of the success and benefits of all aspects of the “natural” beach approach at all our beaches along the Simon’s Town coast. It may also be valuable to establish some sort of Beach Guardian/Volunteer scheme in support of the City’s efforts, for each of our beaches. Something of the sort formed part of Working for the coast, formerly managed by the Kommetjie Environmental Awareness Group.

Geoff Brundrit April 2013