In my early years in France, I had only one ambitious. Escape the dullness of the countryside and go to the city. Paris, London, Berlin, whatever. I only wanted to lose myself amongst millions of souls and live the frenzy life of city dwellers. But it took me a few decades before I started living the dream and, as a result I guess, I have developed antagonist feelings about the urban life. I can’t help feeling attracted to big cities. But whenever I’m there, I miss the green fields of my childhood. Life can be so complicated sometimes! City parks are therefore vital for me. They help keeping me balanced, and I escape there every week-end to find a bit of my own lost paradise. Jozi is great in that regard. They are parks and green spots everywhere in the city. Zoolake, Delta Park, Emerentia, Melville Koppies. You name them. And then there is the James and Ethel Gray park, a.k.a. my very own idea of paradise. Lost in Melrose, right beside the M1, it is not very big, a 36 hectares at most. But it is gorgeous. Once a bird sanctuary, it is still filled with many species, and you will easily spot their colourful plumage in the greenness of the park. There is a also small dam you can walk around, an acrobranch perched against the M1, and a few playgrounds for the kids. But the best part of the park is its plateau, right at the entrance of the park. A immense plain and even area that offers one of the best views over the city. You just want to go there with you favourite book, your camera, sit on one of the benches and watch the hours pass by while the setting sun is busy firing up the skyline of Hillbrow. It is also said to be one of the best spots to see the sun rising. Never done that (yet), but I believe it’s true.
What makes the James & Ethel Gray park so dear to me, apart from its breathtaking view, is the daily routine that takes place every evening on the plateau. Every dog owner in the area brings his precious little thing and let him run wild in the park to play with the other dogs. The place is then filled with canine companions, running and jumping around, and the excitement you see is very quick in lifting up your spirits. There are dogs of every breed and every size, from pugs to great danes, it is truly a paradise for any dog lover, which I am. But be careful if you decide to come and bring your own pet. Some of them play a little wild, and you always have to keep an eye on them to make sure nobody gets hurt.
And for those who get easily tired of watching the dogs go wild, there’s a lovely cafe right behind the parking space. It is also very close to Melrose Arch. And as for any park in the city, it is always advisable to go by group if you decide to explore the most remote parts of the park or visit it in the least busy hours of the day. You can refer to the Johannesburg City Park website for more details.
Don’t hesitate to go for a stroll there, you won’t regret it!