Home > About the Ridge > Importance of the Ridge


Apart from being one of the highest natural viewing points in Johannesburg the Ridge as an ecological site has much to commend preservation.  Areas of importance include Topography/Geology, Vegetation, and Wildlife.

The area to the east of the water tower has always been a nature reserve known as Chudleigh View, though recent maps no longer indicate it as such. On the plateau there is a problem with weeds and human impact is visible in the form of graffiti, litter and fires destroying the trees and bigger shrubs. Below the cliffs there is less human impact and the vegetation is remarkably unspoilt. The Ridge has three distinct ecozones largely determined by the topography, namely grassland on the plateau, cliff face vegetation and protea grassland on the slope below. This adds greatly to the diversity and interest of the area.

1. Topography & Geology

  • Northcliff Ridge consists of a plateau, a rocky cliff stretching the entire length of the reserve and a steep slope below. The Witwatersrand, of which Northcliff Ridge forms part, is an ancient geological system of sedimentary rocks, mostly hard white quartzite.
  • Northcliff Ridge’s elevation provides the visitor with unobstructed views of the city and surrounding countryside. The view stretches from Mohale City in the west along the entire Magaliesberg range in the north to Bedfordview in the east, taking in business nodes such as Randburg, Sandton and Rosebank along the way. To the south, it offers a spectacular view of Hillbrow and the Johannesburg central business district.
  • View sites enable visitors to orientate themselves and are therefore always popular urban attractions to visit. Northcliff Ridge allows the visitor to enjoy the views in a natural setting rather than in a built environment from behind glass or barricades as in high buildings or towers. The Ridge is certainly most popular for its amazing sunsets.


  • Wild flowers
    At least twelve species of indigenous flowers are found on the Ridge, but there may be many more as flowering is seasonal and it takes many site visits to record them all. Many wildflowers are small and hidden by the grass, but are much more visible after a fire.
  • Trees and shrubs
    No trees grow naturally on the plateau or on the southern slope. However, the cliffs and northern slope have many different trees; some 28 species having been identified. The protea grassland especially has a rich variety of trees, of which the wild pear (Dombeya rotundifolia) and the highveld proteas (Protea caffra) make a fine showing when in flower. The cliff face vegetation includes Milkplums (Bequaertiodendron magalismontanum) and the delicious wild apricots (Landolphia capensis) in abundance.
  • Grasses and ferns
    Ten different grasses are found on the Ridge, including rooigras (Themedia trianrda), Natal red top (Rhynchelytrum repens), thatch grass (Hyparrhenia hirta) and weeping lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula). In summer, especially after a fire, wildflowers turn the grassland into a visual delight. Although not mentioned in the Walmsley report, the author has observed at least three different ferns on rocky outcrops in all three ecozones on the Ridge. Most common are the hard fern, Pellaea calomelanos, and its family member Pellaea quadripinnata.

3. Wildlife

  • Birdlife
    At least 64 different species of birds have been spotted on Northcliff Ridge according to the Walmsley Environmental Consultants’ report of 1992.Large numbers of swifts (Apus caffer, Apus affinis and Cypsiurus parvus) return every spring to nest in the water tower. Three flocks of guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) live on the Ridge and wander in neighbouring gardens and open spaces. There are several families of thick-knee (Burhinus capensis) nesting on the plateau; spotted eagle owls (Bubo africanus); African hoopoe (Upupa Africana) and Cape crows (Corvus capensis). The European bee-eater or Merops apiaster (one of the most beautiful colourful migrating species) and many other birds have been seen visiting and nesting in the park area.