Felling stone pines is a blow to heritage

Henk Egberink, Kenilworth

I refer to the letter from Pixie Littleworth, in which she compliments the clear felling of the Pinus Pinaster around the Rhodes Memorial (“Good idea to cut fire-hazard pines,” Tatler, February 10).

With her obvious knowledge of trees, she should have known about the heritage of the site. The monument and the landscaping around it was designed by Herbert Baker. His purpose with the memorial was to make it stand out. The planting of the Pinus pinea (stone pines), oaks and silver trees was done in a specific pattern to draw one’s eyes to the monument.

The fire destroyed some of those trees, but there was no need to destroy the heritage site as completely as did the contractors. It confirms that the City has little interest in protecting heritage sites nor in conserving trees.

SANParks and the City should have consulted the historical records. The plans as drawn up by Herbert Baker in 1912 were available, and more consideration should have been given to saving the heritage value of such an important landmark designed by an exceptional architect.

There were no Pinus pinasters planted at the time by Herbert Baker, and I question whether they were there. If they were self-sown, there must have been some planted at a later date, but there appears to be no record.

Pinus pinea are foreign trees, but that does not mean that they automatically burn more readily. They were part of the heritage of Cape Town, and it is sad that they have been lost. There are very few Capetonians or foreign visitors who would not associate Cape Town with the impressive canopy of the stone pines.

In closing, I don’t think Dixie’s suggestions on replanting would be ideal for the area. The podalyria is too small to make any impact. I would rather that SANparks and the City turned to some of the very capable arborists operating in Cape Town to make recommendations on returning the surrounds of the memorial to its former impressive glory.