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DateOriginal Topic
18th February 2004"Bridal path" Rorke's Drift/Helmekaar
By Paul
I am particulary interested in the Bridal path and its roll regarding this campaign.Alternatively the what was the actual route(s) between Helpmekaar and Rorke's Drift. To-date it not clear what roads (tracks) were in existance at the time .It appear that existing roads were not present at the time? Can any one help?..some maps would help. A huge amount was moved I would like to reconstruct actual routes used between the two centres. Thank you
18th February 2004Keith Smith
The xisiting road is not that used in 1879. I believe that the old road was 're-discovered' by Nicky Van der Heyde, of Classic Safaris in Durban (Hillcrest, actually). I'm sure you could contact her through her web site.
19th February 2004Martin Everett
Campaign Trails SA
E-mail Address(es):
[email protected]

The new lodge is nearly on the trail:

19th February 2004John Young

Here's a hint, and I mean this in jest, put your mouse arrow over Paul's e-mail address, and all will be revealed.

Thanks for the transcript, you beat Prince Joseph.


19th February 2004Peter Ewart
The Rev Geo Smith conducted an impressive service up there on the Biggarsberg for the many forces assembling at Helpmekaar at the turn of the year & it was apparently a very spectacular sight.

Does this thread imply it might have been a wedding service, then?

19th February 2004Martin Everett
Dear John,
I did miss the email connection - I did meet Paul on 21 January. Now i have to see whether any of the contemporary maps give a clue to the route of this bridal path. But Paul is right on the spot - it is potentially a fantastic place to stay near RD.
19th February 2004Paul Lamberth
Thanks guys...and yes I do own property where the bridal path passes through. However, I agee with Martin actual route(s) used are not really clear and I would like to back Niki's theory (whom I met to-day) If this route is relevant then it is our intention to open it up and a make it avalble for visits etc. as added value to a very interesting event.
Also the highest point on our estate is Sinqindi possible vantage point used by Spalding. If so then we will also add this to the project. None the less no claim should be made untill authenticated...and therefor I seek assistance regarding this matter
26th February 2004Mike McCabe
I think that Peter is gently pointing out that the term is 'bridle' path, and not 'bridal' path. I'm truly surprised that he did not go on to refer to bowling a maiden over, as we all know from him that when the British and Colonial troops were not fighting they were playing cricket.
If,though, we accept the reasonable supposition that the Noustrope pass was only used to bring cargo wagons down from Helpmekaar, then marching infantry not acting as wagon escorts would not have wasted their time using it. The logical sense of their being a shorter cross country route from H to RD is self evident, and helps explain how RD defenders might well have seen 'redcoats' approaching, and also some of the recorded interchanges betweeen refugees from Isandlwana/FD and troops on the line of march to RD (including Col Hassard and Lt Baxter RE).
It would probably be quite hard to research and identify an exact route, but any reasonably symbolic version based on short cuts and intelligent contouring would serve the purpose well. It is reasonable to suppose that the 'short cut' could at least take light carts/light mule wagons (up and down). So, the sort of slopes they could handle would also be a factor. And, the track would have had to be sufficiently marked (or obvious in nature) for unescorted, newly arriving marching troops to follow the way with very limited directions. On the night of 22/23 Jan 1979, the burning hospital would have provided a very visible and easy to locate beacon, except if mist obscured it over the longer lines of site. A very interesting project nevertheless, and possibly a nice link-up with the nearby 'Cannibals' trail.

26th February 2004Mike McCabe
Not forgetting the obvious; the track was probably primarily intended for use in daylight. So, once the top of Shiyane could be seen, then at least marching troops would have had a sense of direction and choice of routes. There are no sizeable (or unfordable) streams, so even light carts would have had a fairly free choice of routes except where a rock outcrop, or too steep a slope might create obstacles. Also, older mapping might provide clues - as it does on the original alignment of the modern re-aligned roads (1950s versus 1970s) near Isandlwana crag.

26th February 2004Peter Ewart
Thanks, Mike. Had assumed my pedantry had deservedly received short shrift & was thinking it just as well that I hadn't suggested that one of the early escapees from Rorke's Drift might particularly have sought out this nuptial pathway, given that he was the Acting Chaplain's "groom." Or perhaps the 24th, a couple of weeks earlier, had played a certain piece by Mendelssohn rather than "A Warwickshire Lad" on the way down?

Seriously, though, it is a very good idea on Paul's part and present an excellent opportunity for some useful research. I had not appreciated that the route(s) used in 1879 were no longer known. The only time I have been up there it was pouring with rain and visibility in all directions was nil, so the famous views were blocked out - and the slippery conditions of the mud road prevented a safe desent by vehicle, too.

What about the route(s) used by Buller, Bethune, de la Warr, etc., in May 1900? I wonder if they are known? Or perhaps there were too many?

26th February 2004Peter Ewart
I know - desent for descent is not decent.

29th February 2004Nicki von der Heyde
"Battlefields by Horseback" was a vision that I and my business partner had some four years ago, since when we have pioneered a number of new cross country routes through the battlefields of both the Zulu and Boer wars in KZN. One of these routes was the original wagon track between Helpmekaar and Rorkes. This track passes over the Noustoppe Pass neck and then leaves the present day road for a much more direct route. Paving stones and visible and evidence of much rock removal to make the track passable for wagons. The bridle path follows the same route for about half the way and then veers off to the right to follow a much steeper track. We are in the process of enlisting the help of a local farmer to open this route so that we can ride it.