The trails are built and owned by emerging farmers who live on two of the three farms they run through and who are also the sole beneficiaries of the trail fee that gets paid into an honesty box at the start of the route.
It might rain, said the Norwegian weather-forecasting service that many outdoorsy types consider more reliable than most for planning their activities.
Luckily we ignored it.
It did rain a bit – but there was sunshine in between and, to be honest, the cooler weather provided perfect conditions for trying out the middle-length trail.
It was the 13km we chose, with hotshot mountain biker Jason Meaton, and Leonie Yendall, whose love of the area provided the inspiration for the trail, as guides.
The other options are an easy 3km and a challenging 19km.
"Twenty five years ago I used to spend hours exploring the kloofs around here," Yendall said as we stopped for a breather next to Bluegums Stream, where tiny waterfalls cascade over what look like tree trunks growing in and across the water. They aren't.
"This stream is full of minerals. That's what makes the water brak – you can't really drink it. And these are actually calcite deposits that form wherever there's any sort of obstacle in the stream."
"I used to disappear here for days at a time," Yendall laughed. "I'd take my horse and some camping gear, and sommer spend the night in the bush. My husband just had to get used to it!"
Twenty five years later, things haven't changed much.
Husband Rodney still provides cheerful backup as Leonie traverses the country on the solo long-distance cycling trips that she loves. She recently returned from such an odyssey in the Northern Cape.
It was the freedom of those early magical adventures in the kloofs of the area that inspired Leonie to imagine the trails that are finally up and running.
The journey to Sunday's success hasn't been an easy ride though – for any of the farm's residents.
Aloe Ridge, then owned by Rodney and Leonie, was in the news five years ago.
An agreement facilitated by then MEC of Agriculture Gugile Nkwinti (now Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform) saw the allocation of a portion of the farm for an agri-village in 2009.
As the wheels of government rolled slowly into action, disputes flared up periodically in the intervening period.
The Yendalls have complained of vandalism and poaching.
The former farmworkers have disputed boundaries and ownership.
With the national, provincial and local government administrative processes finally having run their slow course, much of that has been resolved, and the agri-village project was formally handed over to farm residents this week.
For this reason, the Manley Flats Developing Trails represent far more than a beautiful place to run, cycle or birdwatch that's right on Grahamstown's doorstep.
They are the living work of people who have faced the difficulties of overcoming one of South Africa's most painful and pertinent issues: the ownership, occupancy and use of land.
You can meet some of those people on the trail. At their request, a section passes below a small settlement of emerging farmers.
We did stop and chat, and were welcomed into beautifully finished wattle and daub homes, doors and windows freshly painted in time for Christmas.
Some bicycles of our own would be nice, said the kids.
Partners in the project, the Yendalls, later spoke about plans to make that happen.
Mtshizana clan head Xolisile, whose younger relative Mluleki has been involved in developing the trails, showed us his plot, where he was growing mielies, cabbages and potatoes.
"The only thing is the dam is there," he said, pointing below. "We have to carry buckets up to water our crops.
"We need a pump," he said.
Leonie later explains that, even at the former established main farmhouses on land transferred to farmworkers, there is no electricity – despite all the infrastructure being there.
Although as occupants of the land (not owners – the State holds the title deeds) they may register with Eskom to obtain electricity, they cannot afford the Eskom holding deposit or the monthly Eskom bills.
"If electricity was switched on, the water issue would also be resolved: water could be pumped from the borehole and gravitated to the houses," Leonie says.
"If the electricity was on and water could be pumped from the borehole, it would also be unnessesary to transport water from town, costing Makana millions).
"Without electricity, it's very difficult to run a working farm." With electricity, two of the main farm houses would be suitable to be rented out by the land occupants. They would also be suitable for Lodge and Backpackers accommodation.
Leonie feels the State should consider subsidising the R2 500-odd electricity bill that a fully functioning commercial operation would incur. The beauty of the trails is there, whether you think about what's gone into creating them or not.
Mostly singletrack, the trail is open for hiking, birding, trail running and cycling. There's also a grade 1-3 4×4 route on a separate jeep track, away from the other trails.
We took our time on the 13km route, stopping often to enjoy the view from the high points, or the tranquillity of the forest during one of the many stream-crossings.
Several gently undulating sections flowing alongside the stream were sheer mountainbiking pleasure. Of course, as we countoured down into the kloof, we were mindful that what goes down must come back up. There was some climbing – but more on-the-bike than off-the-bike.
A moderately fit cyclist could definitely have ridden the whole route, which is made for mountain biking. Runners and walkers would probably say it was made for them. Butterflies, bird sounds, pristine Valley Bushveld and the perennial Bluegum Spruit your constant companion, it was R30 well spent.
"The local community has worked very hard to bring these trails to you," Leonie had written in an invitation for outdoor enthusiasts to come to the opening. "All funds generated from these trails will go to the community."
* For now the trails begin at Radway Green B&B. The farm is on the R67 about 15km from Grahamstown and 25km from Bathurst.
* The trail entrance is marked and safe parking is provided at the start.
* Trail fees for hike, bird, run, cycle are R30 per adult per day and R10 for school children.
* The 4×4 trail fee is R100 per vehicle and R30 per person per day.
* Payment is done via a honesty box and permits are self issued. Yearly permits are available.
* No need to book, just arrive. Park, sign permit, pay and enjoy!
* Users should bring their own drinking water. Trails at user's risk.
Now watch here to experience some of the new Manley Flats community trails scenery.