Tom Jenkins Drive

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Very steep gradients on this short suburban pass Very steep gradients on this short suburban pass - Photo: Mike Leicester

This attractive and well-known little pass is situated in the heart of the leafy northern suburbs of Pretoria, appearing as a welcome surprise to those not familiar with the area. The pass is very steep at an average gradient of 1:8, causing some vehicles to labour heavily as they make their way up the pass in the rarefied Highveld air. This is also true for the runners which take part in the Tom Jenkins Challenge, an annual event which features the pass and which finishes at the nearby Union Buildings.

Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....

[Video cover photo by Mike Leicester]

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Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.

 Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the north, travel on the N1 in a northerly direction along the eastern side of Pretoria. Take the Stormvoel off-ramp, pass through the toll gate, then turn left into Stormvoel Road at S25.711439 E28.264455. Travel in a westerly direction for 2.4 km to S25.718437 E28.242339, then turn left into Stead Avenue. Travel in a southerly direction for 1.7 km to S25.732911 E28.246294, then turn right into Soutpansberg Road. Travel in a westerly direction for 1.7 km to S25.733681 E28.228904, then turn left into Tom Jenkins Drive. The pass begins 200m from this point.

Dressed stone walls on the Tom Jenkins DriveThis dressed stone wall protects the drop side of the pass / Photo: Mike Leicester

To approach from the south, travel on the N1 in a northerly direction along the eastern side of Pretoria. At the N4 interchange, follow the signs towards Pretoria Central. Travel through Hatfield along Pretorius Street for approximately 3.9 km until you reach Eastwood Street at S25.745558 E28.222357. Turn right here, then travel for 800m in a northerly direction to S25.738528 E28.221699, where the road kinks to the right and becomes Tom Jenkins Drive. Negotiate a very steep section of about 120m, which will take you to the summit and southern start point of the pass.

We have filmed the pass from south to north to take advantage of the magnificent views over the north-eastern suburbs of Pretoria. Once you have crested the summit, the road descends sharply, heading in a north-easterly direction. A sturdy dressed-stone wall, made from rocks broken up during the construction process, protects motorists from the sharp drop-off on the northern side for the entire length of the pass. The surface of the road is concrete, which has become cracked and uneven over the years, making for a very bumpy ride. Rockfalls from the hillside on the right are an ever-present hazard, and a few years ago the authorities elected to prevent this by guniting some of the cuttings towards the bottom half of the pass, despite vigorous protests from nearby residents and historians. The large “ribbed” building which is very visible as you descend the pass houses DIRCO, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. There is only one lay-by on the pass, but this has been fenced off for some reason, and there are unfortunately no other places where you can safely stop to take in the stunning views.

The pass was named after Tom Jenkins, born in 1883 in Paarl near Cape Town. His parents moved to Pretoria when he was six years old, and he lived in the city for 57 years. From 1907 to 1913 Tom was secretary of the Transvaal Museum, and he also worked for the Department of Inland Revenue. He represented Arcadia, Riviera and Rietondale on the city council, and in 1944 he was elected mayor of Pretoria.

Jenkins owned some property on the northern slopes of a small hill called Meintjieskop, and he agreed to sell the land to the authorities as part of the Libertas estate. A condition of the sale was that the existing footpath over the crest of the hill be developed into a fully-fledged road, and this construction took place during the latter stages of World War II, with most of the work being performed by Italian prisoners-of-war.

He later retired to Margate on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, where he again took office as mayor of that town. He died in Durban in 1966, aged 83.

Text & video footage by Mike Leicester

Fact File:

GPS START  S25.737861 E28.222508
GPS SUMMIT S25.737861 E28.222508
GPS END  S25.735564 E28.229009
SURFACE Concrete (Patchy)
DATE FILMED 27.11.2016
NEAREST TOWN Pretoria (5 km)

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More in this category: « Stewart Drive (Johannesburg)

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Mountain Passes South Africa

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.

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