Love is a many splendored swing

The swing at Noordhoek Common has a special story behind it, made possible by the Harwood family. Pictured is Johan Harwood being pushed on the swing by his wife, Jenna. On his lap is six-year-old Camden.

Noordhoek common is a bucolic place of joy for many families who relish its sweeping beauty while walking their dogs or playing with their children, but it holds a special place in the hearts of Johan and Jenna Harwood.

This month, the Capri couple celebrated the 6-year anniversary of the plank and tyre swings they put up in honour of their son, Camden, shortly before his birth.

The couple snuck over to the common in the middle of the night with a heavily pregnant Jenna being in charge of the torch as Johan put up the swings with a pulley system and secured them with a slip knot.

The couple often spent time at the common walking their Yorkshire terrier and Border collie, and it was a special place for them.

The idea was that their son would one day enjoy the swings and that they would bring the community, family and friends together with an activity for all to enjoy on the common.

At the time, Johan worked in Somerset West. He found tyres on the side of the road along the route home, and one day he just stopped, picked up a tyre and loaded it in the back of his Opel.

“I had a dream of putting up a swing in the park for everyone to enjoy,” he said.

They were not sure if they needed permission to put the swings up but decided to do it anyway and to wait and see.

Since then, the swings have become a landmark and have been used in many wedding photoshoots and music videos, such as the music video for Jeremy Olivier’s Beautiful.

But the Harwoods’ dream of having their son use the swings was shattered after severe complications during his birth left him with special needs.

“He was almost completely blind for the first two years of his life and sustained a lot of neurological damage and could not talk,” Jenna said.

The prognosis had not been good, and there were nights she cried herself to sleep, thinking he would never be able to enjoy the swings as she and Johan had hoped he would.

But Camden, who turned 6 earlier this month, surprised doctors and his parents by not only making huge developmental progress but by recently having enough strength to hold on to the swings on his own… and for the first time, the Harwoods could enjoy the swings in the way they had intended.

Over the years, the swings have been vandalised, but caring strangers have repaired them each time.

While the Harwoods have no idea who carries out these repairs, they are grateful to them for keeping the swings “alive” on the common.

Once, Jenna placed a post on Facebook asking for rope to fix one of the swings after it had been vandalised, and her friend’s husband, Rob Lillieke, took it upon himself to make a new seat and provide new ropes for the swing.

Rob’s seat is still there.

“We have been blessed in so many ways,” said Jenna.

In April, the couple welcomed Ruben, now 6 weeks old, into a world where the swings his parents built six years ago wait for him and his brother to make memories together and fill the common with laughter.