Cheerful welcome to nature reserve

Alex Dampies welcoming visitors to the Helderberg Nature Reserve with a smile for 24 years.

Anne Alessandri, Helderberg

I’ve lived in Somerset West for over 20 years – and for all of that time, I’ve happily waved at the same cheerful face every time I’ve gone to visit the Helderberg Nature Reserve, as I’m sure have many of you.

Then last week I stopped to chat to that cheerful person – to put a name to his face, and hear his story.

Alex Dampies has been working at the nature reserve for 24 years as the visitor controller.

He’s a trained peace officer, and his primary function is to ensure people’s safety and security in the reserve. He ensures we all behave ourselves and obey the Helderberg Nature Reserve’s rules.

Not only that, but he also does regular patrols of the reserve, checking fences and keeping a look out for any unusual happenings.

This man, a former Comrades Marathon runner (twice) and trail runner (he’s run the Foot of Africa a number of times) knows the mountain like the back of his hand, having hiked every inch of it more times than you can count.

His favorite part of the mountain? Ah – his secret, he tells me. A little magical spot, about half way up – accessible to hikers, but relatively unknown.

And he’d like to keep it that way.

I begged and cajoled, and with the promise to secrecy, I managed to get the location #happyme!

So if you’re looking for me this weekend, ask Alex where to find me… Happy hiking.