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Leisure Isle

 
Map Of Leisure Isle

A-Z Of Information About Leisure Isle
A SHORT HISTORY OF LEISURE ISLE
ALIEN PLANTS
ART &. CRAFT ON THE ISLE
BIRDS
BOATING
BOWLS
BRAAI FIRES
BRIDGE
CHURCH SERVICES
CLARIS HALL
COMMERCIAL PRECINCT
CONNNECTED
CROWD CONTROL AT PEAK HOLIDAY TIMES
DOGS AND DOG-WALKING
DOMESTIC WASTE COLLECTION AND RECYCLING
FIREWORKS
FISHING
FLORA
GARDEN CLUB
GARDEN REFUSE / RUBBLE
INVERTEBRATE RESERVE
ISLAND LIVING
LEISURE GARDENS
LEISURE ISLE COUNTRY CLUB
LEISURE ISLE FESTIVAL
LEISURE ISLE PRIVATE NURSING SERVICE
LIBRARY
PANSYSHELLS
PUBLIC FACILITIES AND AMENITIES
PUBLIC TELEPHONES
PUBLIC TOILETS
ROSE SOCIETY
SEAHORSES
SEAWALL
SAFETY AND SECURITY
SAFETY IN THE WATER
SECURITY HUT AND SECURITY GUARDS
SEPTIC TANKS
STEENBOK NATURE PARK / KINGFISHER CREEK
SWIMMING
TENNIS
TIDES
THE LEGEND OF LEISURE ISLE
TRAFFIC AND ROADS
TRANSPORT TO / FROM LEISURE ISLE
USEFUL BROCHURES
USEFUL BOOKS
USEFUL NUMBERS
A SHORT HISTORY OF LEISURE ISLE  

 

(with acknowledgement to Vicky Williams and Winifred Tapson)

Before the recorded history of Leisure Isle, it lay undisturbed near the mouth of the Knysna lagoon, a grassy sandbank that was home to countless birds, small mammals and a population of steenbok.

The Island was formed some 5 000 years ago during a time when the level of the sea was four to five metres higher than it is now. There was considerable sand movement within the estuary, as there is today, and when the sea level began to fall this caused large sand banks to form. These gradually rose in height through tidal and wind transport of sand, and the islands initially called Steenbok Island (Leisure Isle) and Paarden Island (Thesen Island) were formed. Soon plant and animal life began to colonise the island habitat.

The eastern shore of the Knysna lagoon was granted in 1770 to Stephanus Terblanche, the first white settler in the area. There he established his farm Melkhoutkraal, which in time became an impressive estate, but it did not include the scrubby sand-dune which had become known as Steenbok Island - this remained state land.

A Scottish master mariner, James Callander, was the first man to fall under the thrall of the Island, become excited by its possibilities and develop a vision for its future. He was commissioned by the Governor to explore the rivers, bays and forests in this area in 1798. Callander made Knysna his base, built a small wooden cabin on the Eastern Head and soon became convinced that Knysna could become a first-rate port. He wrote: 'It is the best situation on this coast for shipping timber, having a small island (Steenbok) immediately within the narrow entrance where fifty ship- loads of timber may lay....This island is so situated that it commands the entrance of the River - and a few guns on it would destroy any [enemy] coming in'. Callander applied for twelve morgen of land, including Steenbok Island, where he planned to start a fishery. His application was refused but he re-applied fifteen years later 'to have a Grant of 500 yards of land on the Island named Steen Buck for Establishing a Fishery in the river Nysna'. This too was refused.

Steenbok Island was the property of the Colonial Government until 1821, when it was ceded to George Rex, the fourth owner of the farm Melkhoutkraal. Rex and his descendants owned the Island from 1821 until 1929, when it was purchased by George Cearn, the shaper of the Island's destiny. Cearn, an American who had made a considerable fortune from coffee in Kenya. purchased the Island from John Duthie of Woodboume Farm for £7,000. George Cearn was 53 when he and his wife Ethel retired to Knysna, and he was in search of a 'project'. Steenbok Island soon captured his attention, and to the great astonishment of the people of Knysna, as well as his wife, he developed a vision of turning the uninhabited little island into a place w here people could live and build their homes, raise their families and retire in idyllic surroundings. He re-named it Leisure Isle, and set about turning his dream into reality.

Connecting Leisure Isle to the mainland and securing its perimeter from the corrosive power of the waves and currents was the first priority. Mr Dantjie Keyter. a massive figure of a man, was employed as foreman, and he recruited a labour force of some fifty short-term prisoners from the local jail by paying their fines and making them free men. They were paid half-a-crown a day and received a hearty meal cooked by Dantjie's wife. They quarried stone from a hillside on Woodbourne Farm (the scar is still visible as you leave the Island) and for three years they toiled, building the causeway, the road foundations and the sea wall that encircled the Island. The stone was transported in long lines of cocopans to wherever it was needed.

When this mammoth task was done, George Cearn proceeded to have the Island surveyed in 1933, and declared a township in November 1935. Preparations took shape under Cearn's meticulous eye - clusters of pine trees were planted, and an avenue of gums along Links Drive. The township plan included a school, a church, a commercial precinct and a recreational area. A network of roads criss-crossed the Island, and all was ready for the first Islanders to claim their place in the sun.

During the 1930s George Cearn set about building a nine-hole golf course on the site now known as Steenbok Nature Reserve. Sand dunes were flattened and planted with grass, and fairways, bunkers and greens were laid out. The Cearns built a house near the course. The Knysna Golf Club had at that time a rather miserable course on the slopes near Thesen Hill known as the 'goat course', and in 1939 it was decided that they should make the new course on Leisure Isle their home. The Cearn's house was then leased to Mr G E Herring and became the clubhouse. Herring extended the building and opened a Private Hotel, which became the pivot of social life on Leisure Isle. Herring sold the hotel to Bill Anderson, who applied for a liquor licence and established the well-loved Leisure Isle Hotel which survived for many years, eventually giving way to the Island Cove development. The Hotel was very popular and many, including Bobby Locke, enjoyed its golf course and other attractions.

Three hundred plots were offered for sale. As Winifred Tapson described it 'One by one little cottages sprang up. Tentatively at first, and in a patchwork sort of way. Only a handful of the more adventurous Knysna inhabitants dared to take the bait. The rest of the community remained profoundly indifferent. A retired couple from elsewhere put up a house; then another, and another. A few, not yet retired, built cottages for their summer holidays. Gradually more confidence crept in, and the houses gained in size and design....Throughout the first twenty years of Leisure Isle's life, human occupation seeped into it very cautiously.'

In the mid-fifties most of the interior of Leisure Isle remained scrub and bush, and steenbok could still be encountered along with the few surviving pheasants, which had been introduced from England. In 1951 a Village Management Council was instituted, tailing under the Divisional Council. This took care of the affairs of the Island until 1968, by which time problems with the supply of water and electricity and other essential services necessitated a take-over by the Knysna Municipality - a step which was strenuously opposed by many islanders.

Over the next fifty years Leisure Isle grew and evolved into the special place we know today. The full tale remains to be told.

LIRA contemplates publishing a separate, expanded History of Leisure Isle, and would welcome input from anyone interested in sharing their memories and knowledge of the early days of this Island.

 

ALIEN PLANTS

 

The eradication of alien plants in Steenbok Nature Park, Kingfisher Creek and the other parks in the Island is being led by LIRA, with the support of SANParks and the Knysna Municipality as an ongoing project.

The invaders, aliens and exotics to be eliminated are Port Jackson, Yucca, Castor Oil bush, Cestrum, Loquat, Lantana, Syringa, Sword Fem, Guava. In addition, Myoporum (Manatok) will be removed where it occurs near water.

 

ART &. CRAFT ON THE ISLE

 

( Convenor: Peter Marais 384 1771)

Once a year, in spring, the gardens at the entrance to Leisure Isle are the venue for a weekend of fun and pleasure for Islanders and visitors. The two-day event is held in conjunction with Open Gardens, and was started with the objective of giving local artists, crafters and hobbyists an opportunity to display their self-produced works and offer them for sale, and in doing so to help enhance the community spirit of residents both of Leisure Isle and Knysna.

All proceeds from this event, including a percentage from all sales made, are donated to a variety of local charities. The wonderful support from the community and the growth in the number of participants has resulted in substantial increases in our annual contribution to local charities. In 2005 an incredible R30 000 was raised from the fair and the Open Gardens and distributed to the charities.

Enjoyment begins as one is greeted by the colour, fun and buzz at the entrance garden, and a stroll through the park reveals a wide variety of talent and enterprise. The items on display vary from year to year, and have included works by renowned local artists as well as talented amateurs. Pottery, oil and watercolour paintings, wooden items, clocks, a variety of gifts and Christmas-related goodies are featured.

Food and refreshments are available and a local charity runs a tea-garden for the benefit of exhibitors as well as the public. The pleasure of the day continues as one strolls around the Island enjoying the Open Gardens on display - each one an individual tribute to Spring.

The event has grown in size since first started in 2003, and in 2005 fifty artists and crafters participated. This success has spurred us to celebrate and expand, and in 2006 the LEISURE ISLE FESTIVAL will make its debut with extra events and venues to attract the Knysna community.

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