Lydenburg is situated at the foot of the Long Tom Pass at an altitude of 1 469 m above sea level. The town was founded in 1849 by the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius. The name means “Town of Suffering” and refers to the misery suffered by the Voortrekkers as a result of the drought and malaria in this part of the Lowveld area. When alluvial gold was discovered in 1873 on the Spekboom River north of Lydenburg, the town experienced a gold rush to the Finsbury Goldfields. To this day, a few hopefuls remain, searching for their pot of gold in the river-bed. Lydenburg is now a healthy, thriving agriculture and mining centre that the local Black population call “Mashishini”. It is the chief soya-bean growing area of South Africa as well as an important cotton, wool, tobacco and grain-growing area.
Adventure And Sport
Fishing: Lydenburg has one of the few rivers in the country where trout breed naturally. As a consequence, excellent trout-fishing opportunities exist in the area. Loch Long allows fishing from the banks or from float tubes and rowing boats. Other fish that abound in these waters of the area are carp, bass, barbell, yellowfish and bream.
Golf and other sport: The town has a nine-hole golf course in excellent condition as well as well as squash, tennis, swimming and bowling facilities.
Hiking: Explore the beauty of Lydenburg by choosing one of the following hiking trials: the 9-km Crane Nature Trail to a dam and vulture restaurant, the Famba Farms Trail, the Maratan Trail, the 5-km Pedi Trail to the ruins of a settlement once inhabited by ancestors of the Pedi people, the 12-km Protea Nature Trail winding through dense stands of proteas and past old Anglo-Boer War forts, the Ribbok Trail that starts at the Lydenburg Museum and leads through the Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve, and the Sterkspruit Trail.
Archaeology And Palaeontology
Lydenburg Heads/Masks: The “Lydenburg Heads” are believed to date back to 500 AD. A farmer’s son, Ludwig von Bering, found pieces of the heads/masks on his father’s farm in 1957. He later developed a strong interest in archaeology and kept on collecting shards from the site. It later proved that the shards were part of seven clay heads/masks. Among his treasures were also iron and ostrich-egg shell beads, copper bands and pieces of bone. The heads/masks are thought to have been sculpted by early Iron Age people and might have been used in cultural rituals.
Entertainment And Shopping
Lunar Landing: This wonder world is situated some 10 km north of Lydenburg and overlooks the valley of the Spekboom River. It is a world inhabited by life-sized concrete animals, including elephant, giraffe, lion, hyena and a larger-than-life ape man. There is even a sculpted San cave reachable by a tree-branch ladder.
Fauna And Flora
Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve: This grass and wetlands reserve houses a number of indigenous species of plants and animals and is a popular bird-watching site (a checklist is available from the museum). A breeding colony of Cape vultures live in the reserve and are regularly fed – do not miss out on the opportunity to watch them lunch at the “vulture restaurant”. Many species of antelope, such as kudu, grey rhebuck, blesbok and the rare oribi roam the grasslands. The ruins of an unknown tribe that used to live here in mediaeval times can still be seen within the reserve. The reserve has been earmarked as the location of the province’s first astrological observatory. The Gustav Klingbiel Reserve is considered extremely safe for children and is accessible to disabled people.
(Starling) Fisheries Production Centre: Visit this noted trout hatchery and aquarium for a very interesting tour to find out how trout are hatched and farmed.
Lydenburg Nature Reserve: Several scenic walks traverse the Lydenburg Nature Reserve, allowing visitors to appreciate the local scenery.
Scenic Routes: There are three scenic routes that link Lydenburg to Burgersfort (via the Watervalsriver Pass); Pilgrim’s Rest (via Robber’s Pass) and Nelspruit (via Long Tom Pass). All these routes travel through lovely countryside and each of the passes offers spectacular views from the summit.
Sterkspruit Nature Reserve: This mountain escarpment reserve lies some 10 km south-east of Lydenburg near the Sterkspruit Dam and is an excellent trout-fishing venue. It is the starting point for the renowned 32-km Rooikat Hiking Trail that traverses some spectacular mountainous terrain.
History And Architecture
Historic Buildings: Lydenburg is renowned for its fine examples of early Transvaal architecture.
The oldest building in town is the Voortrekker School built in 1851. There are two historic Dutch Reformed Churches in town. The Voortrekker Church was completed in 1852 and is flanked by a replica of the mother church in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. This church has a teak pulpit, made in 1894. One of the churches houses a small museum. The old powder magazine was built from stones taken from the formerly British-controlled Fort Mary. The old ZAR Post Box is still in use today.
Lydenburg Museum: The museum and its exhibits will take you back in history to the early days of the town’s existence. It includes replicas of the “Lydenburg Heads”, terracotta masks of animal and human heads, shards of which were found in the area and believed to date back to 500 AD. The museum also has its own distillery and visitors may taste the “heady” traditional Afrikaner brew, “mampoer” (moonshine/peach brandy).
Steenkamps Bridge: The historic bridge over the Spekboom River is situated some 12 km north of the town. The bridge has been proclaimed a national monument. Opened in 1897, the original structure was destroyed during the Anglo-Boer War and rebuilt in 1903. The bridge stands alongside the modern Schalk Burger Bridge erected in 1965 and can be reached via a network of footpaths. There are picnic sites on the banks of the river.
“Die Berg”: This peak, simply translated as “The Mountain”, in the Steenkampsberg Mountains is 2 331m high and presents some lovely views of the surrounding countryside.
Hydra (Lydenburg) Falls: The dramatic Hydra Falls consists of three falls that drop some 245 m to earth where the power of its waters is harnessed to supply electricity to the town.
Long Tom Pass: The summit of Long Tom Pass, 57km long, is 2 149 m above sea level and connects Lydenburg, on the Drakensberg Plateau, with Sabie, on the escarpment. It is one of the highest passes in South Africa and offers spectacular views. During the Anglo-Boer War the retreating Boers deployed two 155-mm Creusot artillery guns nicknamed “Long Toms”, in the pass, against the pursuing British forces, hence the name of the pass. A replica of one of these guns stands guard at a spot some distance from the summit of the pass.
Mtotolo Volcanic Pipes: The Mtotolo Volcanic Pipes at the end of Voortrekker Street date back some 2 000 million years.