The Alberts Farm Conservancy more commonly known as Alberts Farm Park, is a 90ha piece of gently sloped land running along side Greymont with it’s entrance on 8th Street. The park lies against Northcliff ridge, the second largest green lung in the city after Delta Park. It is an ecologically significant area, with a high diversity of indigenous grass and shrub species, as well as several dams, a wetland, a marsh and, of course, the spring and stream.
The conservancy provides local residents with a welcome green lung. It is a popular weekend picnic area, and is used every day by dog walkers. There are many cycling routes through it as well.
Two slanted rock formations form the spring – the south-facing shale meets the downward-sloping quartz rock from the north, forming an impenetrable basin in which the water forms. It is then forced, under pressure, to the surface.
A normal spring is formed when underground water, moving through permeable layers, hits an impermeable layer and is forced to the surface.
Bubbling out of the ground in a rocky, mini forest in the middle of the park, it feeds into a soccer field-sized dam. This dam drains from one corner through a marshy area into a lily pond about 100 metres below it.
There are fish in the dam, which is used on weekends by church groups for baptism. Concrete circles have been created in the park for these groups to use.
The farm dates to the 1890s, when, it is thought, Hendrik Abraham Alberts leased 114 acres from the owner of the large farm Waterval. The original farmhouse is long gone, but the family cemetery exists, a lonely, fenced presence in the parkland.
It is a tranquil spot, standing among the trees with a gentle breeze blowing up the valley. There is no trace of any cultivated fields, although it’s said the Albert’s family farmed mealies.
In 1946 the family sold 45 000 square metres of land to the City, for £18 500, specifying that the land must be kept for public use.
East of the wooded area are unusual rock formations, which are believed relate to the Vredefort Dome at Parys, 100 kilometres south of Joburg. The dome is a vast basin formed when a meteorite hit the earth some two billion years ago.
Flora and fauna
About 139 different bird species have been spotted in the conservancy, which has a red data plant and a swathe of natural Transvaal grass which, according to Perry, deserves protection.
The Friends of Alberts Farm committee represents the surrounding suburbs of Northcliff, Greymont, Albertskroon, Albertsville and Westbury. It spends some of its time removing weeds like kakiebos, blackjacks and bugweed, perpetual problems in any areas that birds fly over, dropping seeds.
The park is dotted with trees – 70 different species have been identified, 35 indigenous, 35 exotic. In addition, 29 grass species have been found and 78 species of shrubs (18 of which are exotic).
Alberts Farm, unlike other parks such as Zoo Lake, is deliberately left largely in its natural state, says Alan Buff, the general manager of technical support and training at Johannesburg City Parks.
“We don’t manage all parks like a bowling green, but rather we look at the natural environment to maintain the biodiversity of the park.” This principle also applies to Delta Park.
Buff says that in the 1970s, when Delta Park was being established as a public park, white guinea fowl, ducks and small animals (and several springs) were found in the long grass, which was subsequently left uncut for the wildlife.
Several years ago the City undertook a vegetation survey of Albert’s Farm, done by Wits University. Its recommendations included carefully monitoring the wetland, labelling the trees and cutting down some of the alien trees, controlling dumping, building a bridge over the stream, building raised walkways over the wetland, constructing educational boards, and, once a fence was erected, charging an entrance fee.
The survey points out that Alberts Farm is a catchment area, feeding the Montgomery Spruit, which forms part of the larger river network of the city and should therefore be managed in an eco-friendly way.
Source for most of the information here is from an article by Lucille Davie