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Sedgefield Slow Town - a Garden Route Gem

In October 2010 Sedgefield Slow Town came into being. Sedgefield was the first town in Africa to be awarded Slow Town status. This completely dovetailed with the concept of "conservation without boundaries". It complemented the overall vision that the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism had for the Garden Route National Park which was gazetted in 2009.

Sedgefield Slow Town Pledge on the Tortoise Pillar

Local businessman Andrè Gauchè came up with the brilliant idea of registering Sedgefield as a "Cittaslow" Town. We were affiliated to the Cittaslow towns of Italy where the movement started in Tuscany in October 1999.

Sedgefield met the slow movement standards effortlessly and it would  prove to be a fitting marketing concept totally suited to this laid back beauty where quality and simplicity triumph over quantity and fads.

It was hoped that the town would be able to consciously shape itself to harmonise with its magnificent natural environment. Furthermore, the Cittaslow criteria could nurture enduring values that endeavour to create a quality of life for all.

Unfortunately, we no longer subscribe to the Cittaslow governing body based in Italy because the subscription fees became increasingly onerous. Sedgefield is now a "stand-alone". However, it still naturally embodies many aspects of a Slow Town although there is immense pressure on local municipalities to develop the Garden Route beyond its ability to be sustainable for this vulnerable environment!   

Find out more about the Village

Find out more about the Garden Route National Park

Sedgefield Slow Town Philosophy

The Slow City manifesto contains 55 pledges or criteria, grouped into six categories upon which cities are assessed;

Environmental policy    Quality of Urban Fabric       Hospitality and Community

Citta Slow Awareness   Infrastructure    Support of local produce and products

Here are some aspects inherent in the criteria, 

  • Take time for contemplation  and reflection - it could prevent serious illness.
  • Appreciate simple pleasures often taken for granted.
  • Invest less in things and more in experiences and relationships.
  • Support local and encourage ethical business practices.
  • Find humane, environmentally friendly and durable solutions.
  • Value local cultures and support local traditions.
  • Promote stewardship of our natural environment.
  • Re-purpose and recycle wherever possible to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Promote a sense of place and community with public gathering places and effective public transportation.
  • Support development and infrastructure that reflects your town's unique character and quality of life whilst committing to sustainability.

Sedgefield Slow Town is fortunate to have on its doorstep the world-class Wild Oats Community Farmers' Market that empathizes with this philosophy. And there's access to all the adventure sports and outdoor activities this great environment offers to pursue healthy living goals.

Sedgefield Ratepayers and Residents Association

From the early years, Sedgefield had a Ratepayers and Residents Association and they gave their whole-hearted support to the application for Sedgefield to become a Slow Town. Collectively, their main purpose was to preserve the natural environment and to see the town's development and infrastructure kept this in mind. 

Their support has stood Sedgefield in good stead through the years, as proven when taking on some monstrous court battles to protect the village from seriously controversial developments such as the Swartvlei Peninsula dune in the 1980s and later in the 90s, another massive development that included a golf estate and yacht club alongside the Swartvlei Lake on the north side of the N2.

Once Sedgefield lost its autonomy as a municipality and was relegated to being a part of Greater Knysna, the Association persistently held meetings with their representatives to make sure the town's needs were not ignored. As of 2022, a Sedgefield resident is the Mayor of Knysna having previously been one of two ward representatives for our town for several years.

 Sedgefield Slow Town Mosaics

Sedgefield Mosaic Art Project was initially instigated by Di Young and then implementation through the NGO, Masithandane began in 2008. 

It was developed as a job creation project that has taught skills and created jobs for a number of our locally unemployed people.

The outcome has been a range of stunning mosaic artworks large and small  introduced into public places. It has given Sedgefield a unique identity that suits its quirky village personality and fits perfectly with the Sedgefield Slow Town theme.

The Sedgefield Slow Town Festival

Sedgefield Slow Town Festival Banner at the front of the street parade held on Sunday morning.

To celebrate our Sedgefield Slow Town status, organiser Amanda Dixon of Tumbleweed Events together with a team of local volunteers, initiated a Slow Festival with events that encompass the laid-back culture, quality of life and slow town values as presented by our eddict. 

Dramatic butterfly creations in the Sunday morning Slow Town Festival street parade.

Surrounded by abundant natural beauty, the magnificent sunrises and equally stunning sunsets are a regular talking point of the villagers so its not surprising that ORANGE is the colour that's been chosen to express joyful appreciation and the energetic vibe of the festival. 

The weekend long Slow Festival showcases all of these aspects of Sedgefield. From old-fashioned drive-in movies on the Village Green to a popular Dog Walk and Fun Show. From the 19km Goukamma Traverse to the "How slow can you go" bike race. From the "Amazing Car Race" to the "Anything that floats" fun boat building competition. 

Various Slow Town Festival scenes

From the Blues Concert with mind-blowing "Wild Lettuce" to the zaney recycled "Out of the Bin" Fashion Show. Art Exhibitions, MG Vintage cars on show, Trading posts with car-boot sales, a Slow Fest Beauty Pageant, Easter Bunny Beach Fling and not forgetting the Amazing Creatures and band Parade and much more besides, ensures there is something for everyone.

Miss South Africa 2017 - Sedgefield's Demi-Leigh Peters in the Slow Festival street parade.

To all locals' delight, one of the highlights of the Sunday 2017 Street Parade was the presence of Sedgefield's very own Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters who had been crowned Miss South Africa on 26 March.

She later surrendered her crown to the first princess, Adé van Heerden when she won the prestigious title of Miss Universe in Las Vegas on 26 November 2017. Congratulations Demi, you have made us proud!

Go to the website here to see what you missed! Covid brought an end to the Slow Festival. Maybe in time it could be revived.

Go here to see more festival photos

Sedgefield Slow Town-Angulate Tortoise

The Angulate tortoise is the one commonly seen in Sedgefield particularly roaming freely on the Island. It has therefore aptly been chosen as the Sedgefield Slow Town emblem.

It is medium sized and the males grow larger than the females. There are 5 claws on the front feet and four on the two back feet. The chin shield below the head is a unique feature of the South African species. All other species have a pair of widened gular shields. The males are territorial and court females in the Spring. The females lay 2-6 eggs that usually hatch after the first winter rains.

Sedgefield's angulate tortoise that roams freely on the Island.

Angulate tortoises are protected by the Nature Conservation Ordinance No. 19 of 1974 ( amended in 2000). Therefore they may not be collected or transported from the place where they are found. It is illegal to pick them up and put them in your car or take them to your garden.

Although not considered endangered, local populations may be threatened by land clearing for development or collection for the pet trade. A good many have been drowned in the floods in recent years. Hatchlings are opportunistically caught and impaled on thorns by fiscal shrikes and the Pied Crow population also targets them. Domestic dogs kill tortoises and they get run over by motorists so they face several threats to their survival locally and their defenders are right to be concerned about Sedgefield’s population.

They are an appropriate Slow Town symbol for us and that should encourage us to consciously take measures to protect the species whilst letting them remain the wild creatures they are, and free as they’re meant to be. They are common in many gardens and unoccupied plots especially on the Island - a residential suburb of Sedgefield.

Sedgefield has a Tortoise Rescue Squad of Island Conservancy volunteers. A building contractor can contact one of them,
Sedgefield Island Conservancy on Tel: 044-343 2448 
48 hours before clearing a plot for development so that a team can be assembled to comb the area and remove any residing tortoises to a safe  location. They can also be contacted about any tortoise needing help.

Popular Sedgefield Slow Town Activities

walkers and fishermen at Greickes Point
Canoeing and Boating on Swartvlei Lagoon
Sedgeview Paragliding Launch on Cloud 9

Links to other Slow Towns

In March 2007 Goolwa, Australia became the first non European town to be affiliated to Cittaslow International. Situated at the mouth of Australia’s greatest river, the Murray, this beautiful town is steeped in Aboriginal stories and unique riverboat history.

Cowichan Bay warm, friendly, vibrant and funky, is the first Slow Town in Canada. It’s a unique and historic waterfront community on southern Vancouver Island facing the Gulf Islands.

Updated 23-07-2022