History

HISTORY  – THE FIELD AND STUDY PARK

This community asset was part of the original Farm Driefontein.. It stretched from Craighall to Bryanston. It was one of the first farms proclaimed in 1857  It was owned by various families prior to  the Wilhelmi family who came to South Africa in 1871. Years later they sold off 40 acres to the Arnold family who hand built the present house – which is now a Heritage House, – in about 1936.

They farmed cattle and asparagus. The bark from the trees down by the river was used by the tannery which was situated on the Spruit not far away.

In 1957 the heirs to the Arnold farm offered the Sandton Town Council first option to buy the 40 acre property as it was such a beautiful piece of open space on the river and ideal for a park.  The house, now a heritage House is a busy Recreation/Study centre with courses for body, mind and soul. Further buildings have been added over the years.

Mr. P. le S Milstein of the Dept. of Conservation wrote a report recommending that the ‘land be utilized for Park purposes” and that it “fills a need for a River trail system”.  He also stated   “the area is one of the finest stretches of Stream (Braamfontein Spruit) in Sandton”. In his report he warned of the dire effect of a proposed 40m East /West highway which would go through the “heart” of the park.  This highway was known as ‘South Road” later.   A  long and very public battle was subsequently successfully fought to stop this proposed highway.  The park remained intact.

In a Council Resolution of 27.1.75 it was resolved to: “Reserve the following Open Land as Public Open Space” with a recommendation for an Educational Nature Reserve hence the name “Field and Study”.  The council also purchased a portion of the farm Zandfontein from Mr. Dorrestein senior in order to “increase the open space” of the Park. Erf. 151 Sandhurst was included to facilitate the entrance and the price paid for all three including costs was R268,000  The Park and Centre are zoned “Special – Public Open Space’.

The Park, consisting of the two huge, open natural fields and the river walk is priceless in terms of a green lung in the heart of Sandton. It is here for the last 37 years that the community have been able to enjoy the natural open surroundings with the Braamfontein Spruit running through the valley. This Heritage site needs to be protected from the greed and avarice of Council and Developers.  This is our mission.

The horses arrived in the late 90’s needing “temporary’’ accommodation. This arrangement subsequently became permanent with a riding school and ranger base within the Park grounds.

6 years ago a tender was placed in the newspaper by the Johannesburg Property Company  asking for ‘consultants’ to evaluate the Field and Study Park and Centre for Development. 200,00sq. m of Development was proposed.  The community was outraged but now acutely aware of the danger to the Park. Nothing happened.

In 2006 when Council took financial control of the Rec. Centre & Park which were one, the public called for a Sect. 21 Company to be established to fight development or sale of the Park or portion thereof.  This was done and we have been ‘guarding’  the Park ever since.

Subsequent studies showed that the park has 10,000 cars a month pass through the gates, is used for both passive and active recreation as well as a venue for school and community fun days, cross countries, company events and provides the stressed out workers and residents of Sandton with a quiet place to go and be with nature.  It has been proven that being with nature is vital for the human psyche and essential for their emotional and social well being.

“Friends of the Field and Study” Sect. 21 Co together with  anyone who could contribute to the debate, fought off or co-operated with JPC and Forest Farm regarding various proposals that have been put forward that have been either mutually beneficial or unacceptable to us and the community. Forest Farm have been the key to  success on two occasions but have changed their mind at the last minute.

It has been a commitment  of “FOFS”  to preserve the Park, its environment and, if possible, to increase the open space, so desperately needed in this constantly densifying city.

The entire West bank up to the Nichol Highway over the river belongs to Forest Farm with the exception of a 6ha portion of Park (never used) at the North end.

With negotiations re. use of the unkempt bank once again coming to nil, the squatter situation and the fact that the Park is a thoroughfare/shortcut to Nichol Highway through the West Bank, is not in anybody’s interest as far as security is concerned. This needs to be addressed with Forest Farm again and Council who are responsible for the servitude on either side of the river.

We will follow this up with future meetings with Parks head office. We are currently waiting for a 3 man team from Parks head office to meet us at the Park so that we can physically show them the problems we face and negotiate what can be done and how.

Rose Johnson

24 .8 .2012