I had long heard of the remarkable story behind the coming to being of the serene Brakenhurst forest. Of how a man’s solo quest to reclaim a piece of wasteland resulted in this beautiful and expansive canopy of indigenous trees that you can see today as you drive through the Limuru-Banana road.
But never for once had I considered Brakenhurst’s advertised nature trails through this forest until I read the inspiring full story of the Forest’s origin.
Brackenhurst started as a settler-owned farm in 1914. Being a marshland, the settlers introduced exotic grevillea and eucalyptus trees in an attempt to dry up the land and make it suitable for farming.
The trees, notorious for robbing an area of its life, did not only dry the land, they also choked everything else living to death. The area lost its vibrancy as its fauna and flora slowly gave way to a monotonous stretch of plantation that robbed the place of 60 years of character.
Then Mark Nicholson, the director of Plants for Life, a Kenyan NGO, entered the scene with a suggestion to Brakenhurst’s management to consider turning the land into a forest. That is how the spectacular 30-year restoration journey of converting a 40 HA section of the plantation to an upland habitat, began.
Today, after 17 years of ongoing rehabilitation, a beautiful forest of over 500 species of indigenous trees, shrubs and lianas provides a home to an assortment of insects, birds and small mammals.
You can experience this variety in nature through a number of interesting activities offered by the hotel including biking and walking trails thattake you through winding narrow paths in the forest and if you are keen, a whole world begins to unfold before your eyes.
On this day, I spotted an interesting species of slug I am yet to identify, a porcupine’s quill, suggesting there are porcupines around.
I also came across a number of mushroom varieties just beginning to bear their heads. You could experience the forest in 2 ways; through a 1 KM walking loop or the slightly longer 2.5 KM running loop.
Try the tea trail and walk among the famous tea plantations of Limuru. It can offer a refreshing perspective later at the hotel’s Muna Cafe as you sip your hot tea remembering where it all started in the farm to arrive at your cup.
If you are adventurous enough, you could visit Brakenhurst and do all trails in one day as I did and enjoy a taste of the modern meeting the ancient. Explore the edge of the forest where you suddenly emerge into this open forest of reeds growing undisturbed in a marsh as they did more than 63 years ago before they hatched a plan to reclaim it to establish a coffee plantation. Each of the trails provides great photo opportunities for only KES 150.00 for citizens. Go try it and share your experience.