The private weekend trails market in South Africa tends to be dominated by those in Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga. Those in other areas of the country are less prevalent so it is always exciting when a new trail in another area appears on the map. Poplar Grove is just such a trail as it is situated close to Nottingham Road in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands. The area is focused around the green rolling hills that feed the Mooi River with its fast flowing waters that meanders through the farm. Numerous small waterfalls provide picturesque settings for the keen photographer while skywards, a wide variety of bird species are to be seen.


Trail description
There are two trails at Poplar Grove, both starting at the overnight accommodation and returning after a loop is completed.


Oribi Trail-10km

This, the main trail, takes you into the low mountains that encompass the farm. After a short section of the trail shared with the second day, you turn away and head up a valley to a beautiful curtain waterfall. From here you skirt the head of the valley where the trail offers excellent far off views of the falls. After this you reach the mountain top from where you have a superb view of the valley below. You now descend into another valley to visit Double falls, a pair of waterfalls that provide an excuse for a well-deserved snack and photo break. From here the trail undulates over rocky outcrops before descending to your access road for a final short stretch back to base.

Ystervark Trail -6km

The temptation on the part of some hikers of basecamp trails is to skip the second day of a basecamp trail and to instead, take the opportunity to relax at camp. The Ystervark Trail is such a beautiful route that you are well recommended to don your boots and do it. After departing from the short shared path with the Oribi Trail, you follow the course of the Mooi River upwards through its valley until you eventually descend to cross it by way of a footbridge. On the far side you ascend steeply through indigenous forest that seems to cling to a near vertical mountainside high above the gurgling river far below. Eventually you descend to re-cross the river by way of a suspension footbridge. For a short distance you re-join the outward going trail before you leave this to descend to the river and to another bridge crossing which takes you to the far bank and a cool walk through a grove of Poplar trees. Another bridge crossing is followed by a short walk back to base.

Highlights

The environs of the Mooi River provide a suitable backdrop to a really beautiful area for hiking. The Poplar Grove farmhouse must be one of the most beautiful settings to be found on any trail.


Trail type

2-day base camp trail


Accommodation
Poplar Grove provides an assortment of accommodation.

There are two rooms with double beds, one with two single beds, all with bedding provided. There is also a room with eight bunk beds but here bedding has to be provided. First class ablutions are a pleasure while the lounge is spacious and provided with excellent and comfortable furniture.

 There is a fully equipped kitchen that would be the envy of most and includes gas hob, refrigerator and enough crockery and glassware.

Outside there is an undercover braai.


Where is it
Poplar Grove is about 25km outside Nottingham Road in the KZN midlands.

The house is at GPS reference S29 24.022 E29 47.235


What should I know about security?
At the time of writing no problem have been experienced by people visiting the area.


How fit do I need to be?
The trails should be able to be accomplished by any person with a moderate degree of fitness. It should be noted that the bridges on the second day could be a problem to some as they tend to sway a bit.

The Oribi Trail in particular is largely in open grassland and temperatures during summer months can be high. It is important to put on Sun block and take along plenty of liquid. Snow is common during winter months.


Background information
Poplar Grove is a cattle farm and you are likely to encounter these during your hike. When I walked it in February 2016 we came across many bird species including several raptors. We also came across several buck species.