There was great celebration this March as Addo Tourism launched a revamped attraction, the beloved Sir Percy Fitzpatrick Lookout greater Addo region. With funding from Sarah Baartman District Municipality, the Addo Tourism Association were able to revitalise the flailing Lookout area and Fitzpatrick family graves.
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick is best known for writing the beloved South African novel, Jock of the Bushveld. A well-travelled politician, mining financier and a pioneer in the fruit industry, Fitzpatrick chose the Sundays River Valley and the greater Addo region to make his home. After arriving in the valley, he established the Sundays River Settlement Company, which encouraged people to settle in this area and played a vital role in the establishment of irrigation schemes enabling agriculture to flourish and providing employment for many people in a thriving citrus economy.
At the launch in March, Duma Magxwalisa, Sarah Baartman District Municipality acting director for Planning & Economic Development praised the project as a public–private partnership example that could stimulate the recovery of tourism in the region.
“Covid-19 dealt us all a blow and we have very limited resources with which to recover, so it is only right to acknowledge the team that handled this project, they were able to put the space created by our existing and natural resources to good use” said Magxwalisa.
The Lookout venue came into being after Sir Percy Fitzpatrick bought a piece of land next to the river and built a platform from which his friends and guests could enjoy a panoramic view of the valley below. It is now fondly known as “The Lookout” where visitors and residents of the region can still go to marvel at the view. His daughter, Cecily, donated the land to the Sundays River Valley community and it was declared a national monument in 1953.
Offering one of the most spectacular views of the valley and orchards, the Lookout Deck has been a popular sundowner and picnic spot for many decades but had recently fallen into disrepair. Spearheading the project were Addo Tourism committee members, Julie Puttergill of Chicane Bed & Breakfast and Tracey Stratford of Avoca River Cabins, both of whom frequent the Lookout with guests, family and friends.
Judy Puttergill took on the project when funding was secured and said the following: “Addo Tourism identified the Lookout as an important attraction for both travellers and tourists alike. Sadly, it had become very neglected; the once-pristine indigenous bush surrounding the platform was overrun with alien plants. While COVID delayed the project for some time, it kicked off in earnest towards the end of 2021.”
During the project all goods and labour were sourced from within the local community. Once the news got out, individuals and businesses came to the party – the old walkway gate was lovingly restored to its original beauty at no charge and a reinforced security door, made to specification at no cost and free of charge, was installed to secure “the cave” – a small room below the actual Lookout. This area will be developed into a showcase depicting the history of the valley in a collaborative manner.
Puttergill said that the objective behind the renovation was not just to turn the site into a must-see attraction but also to create a space that the community can enjoy, providing them with an opportunity to take ownership of and be proud of what the area has to offer.
Tracey Stratford, responding as Addo Tourism’s vice chair said: “Not only were we able to restore the Lookout to its former glory, but we created an additional drawcard by documenting and marking the indigenous fauna and flora along the walkway. It therefore now adds an interesting and educational aspect to the site, and we hope that the schools in the area will make use of it to provide the learners with an opportunity to get hands-on experience as part of their curriculum”.
The indigenous plants and trees were identified by Lloyd Edwards of Raggy Charters, fellow Addo Tourism committee member and chair of the Eastern Cape Dendrological Society. Each plant or tree is now identifiable by a specially designed plaque. He has also enlisted the help of local farmers to eradicate any existing alien plants still on the site.
ABOUT THE GREATER ADDO REGION
The Greater Addo region encompasses the Addo Elephant National Park, the third largest in South Africa, and the park is serviced by the charming gateway villages of Addo, Kirkwood, Paterson, and Colchester. Addo is the only national park in the world to boast the African Big Seven (lion, rhinoceros, buffalo, elephant, leopard, great white shark and southern right whale).