Newsletter - Autumn 2011

leonotis flowering


Exciting news is that one of the dassies released in our Rock Hyrax Reintroduction Programme at Dargle Farm has moved down into the farmyard and successfully produced a litter of little dassies.

The falcons have already left, the swallows are gathering for their epic journey and it seems that the Emerald cuckoos are reluctant to leave as they are still calling cheerfully. The European Storks appear to have caused some confusion with differing reports from "they are a month late" to "hardly any arrived" to "the most we have ever seen"! Barry Downard had a real surprise when he saw a Spotted Bufftail (the one that keeps him awake!) crossing his driveway followed by four scurrying chicks. At Old Kilgobbin, a pair of Sombre Bulbuls has been observed on a few occasions chasing off a Southern BouBou that came too close to their nest. On Benven, Kevin Barnsley has seen a Martial Eagle a number of times – on the last occasion eating a Hadeda on a hay bale. A single Crowned Crane has been hanging around Constantia for a while and recently, a Crowned Eagle flew by on a rare visit down that way, being harassed by a falcon and sending the monkeys into a frenzy.

There seem to be many caracals around – one is occasionally seen lying in the driveway at River's End farm. On Misty Meadows a bushbuck was killed by a caracal last week and Gill Addison often spots a rooikat at Antheap. Down at Clyden Valley Farm they believe that game has increased enormously in the past couple of years and particularly have seen many bushbuck about this year. They are concerned that there are far fewer owls spotted than usual, despite having put up a number of owl boxes to encourage them. Many people report seeing fewer Cape Parrots this year too, although two flew over the top of the D707 a couple of weeks ago.

Snakes and frogs will be slowing down now, however a pretty green water snake and a purple glossed snake were seen recently at Old Kilgobbin.


During March, Gareth Boothway attended all the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme meetings with Caroline Conway-Physick of Ezemvelo, to get up to speed on the progress being made in securing land under BSP agreement. He will continue to meet landowners this month and as soon as the funding we have applied for comes through, will get down to some serious work.

A steering committee established for the development and implementation of this project has engaged with other project partners who had also submitted project proposals to CEPF (i.e. Botanical Society, BirdLife SA) to ensure that activities are not duplicated. We sent in a revised proposal to CEPF in early April. We hope to hear from them within a couple of weeks. The steering committee is a strong team that is well up to the task at hand and has a vision for the role that the Midlands Conservancies can play in conserving our remaining biodiversity on privately owned land outside of formal protected areas.


It's harvest time – time to gather the abundance of the growing season and make celebratory soups. In the Midlands we are fortunate to have lots of local food produced close by; pickles and jams, wines, honey and mustards to plums, berries and a vast array of cheeses, vegetables and meats. Eating locally grown food, in season, is an easily way to reduce your impact on our planet's resources. "Locavores" (as local consumers are known) are actually quite trendy now and seeking out seasonal produce can be great fun too!

The Country Pumpkin or Karkloof Farmer's Market held on Saturday mornings is a good place to start if your usual greengrocer doesn't know where his lettuces come from. You'll get to know the farmers and producers of goat's cheese, real free range eggs, organic vegetables, pasta and mushrooms and help make their businesses more sustainable, adding to food security in our community. If you can't make it to the market, things we should be eating right now in Autumn are: brinjals, tomatoes, sage, butternut, rosemary, sweet potatoes, peppers, celery, beans, grapes, pineapples, granadillas, gooseberries, pomegranates and pumpkins. Quite likely these are the less expensive options in the stores at the moment, so you'll save money while you save the planet. In the Midlands there are quite a few farm stalls which support local, organic farmers, and are definitely worth a leisurely visit.

Much of our supermarket food is shipped from far away, generating "food miles" which add to your ecological foot print – quite unnecessary in the abundant KZN Midlands. Ask your usual store what is locally produced and make a point of buying that, you'll very likely influence the manager to think about supporting local more too. Of course, you could always grow some of your own food – it doesn't get more local than your back yard. Start with easy things like lettuce, spinach, spring onions and parsley and pop in some pea and broad bean seeds for a tasty spring treat. Many folk in the Dargle are fortunate to raise their own animals, fed on grass the natural way. According to research conducted by WorldWatch and the United Nations, a feedlot produced, meat based diet uses vast amounts of water, lots of fossil fuels and adds greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.

Begin a delicious adventure today, join the growing band of locavores. Not sure how to use up all those big pumpkins in your veggie patch? Send an email to for some delicious recipes.


30 April, 1 and 2 May - Midlands Indigenous and Edible Plant Fair
It's the International Year of Forest, so why not celebrate by creating a forest refuge for garden wildlife or starting a food forest to feed your family? Agapanthus, Almond and Artichoke to Ziziphus and Zucchini – the Midlands Indigenous and Edible Plant Fair will have them all.

Entrance free from 9am to 4pm
Cattle Arena at the Royal Show Grounds in Pietermaritzburg.
Entrance through Gate 5 off Hyslop Road.

Wednesday 4 May - Movie Night 5.30 for 6 at Tanglewood Country House
Prosperity without Growth
Is more economic growth the solution? Will it deliver prosperity and well-being for a global population projected to reach nine billion? Tim Jackson – a top sustainability adviser to the UK government – makes a compelling case against continued economic growth in developed nations. No one denies that development is essential for poorer nations. But in the advanced economies there is mounting evidence that ever-increasing consumption adds little to human happiness and may even impede it. More urgently, it is now clear that the ecosystems that sustain our economies are collapsing under the impacts of rising consumption.

Donation R10 to Dargle Conservancy Enjoy supper with friends and neighbours afterwards Booking for supper is helpful – call Nicky Mann on 033 234 4366 or 083 645 5619

Forest Walks: 5 May, 2 June and 7 July
These walks are a real treat which attract people from far and wide. Recently, a family with guests out from the UK commented after their walk: "What a passionate introduction to a treasure we didn't know that we had." and "great display of Saprophytes" (cool mushrooms!)

9am to 11am at Kilgobbin Cottage D707
Phone Barend Booysen for details and to book: 082 787 0797
Donation R10 to Conservancy funds

Cape Parrot Counting Day: 7 and 8 May
The Yellowwood forests of the Midlands provide natural habitat to the critically endangered Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus) which fly between forest patches calling raucously during early mornings and evenings.

Volunteers are needed to help count the birds, and document their movements. Celebrate the International Year of Forests, by gathering some friends with binoculars beside the Mist-belt Forest at sunset and sunrise and support an important conservation effort while having fun.

As the numbers of birds are low, this census is extremely important to determine if the effects of the beak and feather disease are wide spread and if numbers have declined.

Contact the coordinator for the Dargle/Balgowan/Nottingham Road area – Nikki Brighton on 033 2344290, 083 473 3074 or e-mail

To read recent Cape Parrot newsletters, go to Useful Information on this website:

Annual General Meeting - Thursday 19 May 6 for 6.30pm

Nominations for the committee to be forwarded to

Dr Andrew Venter and Dr Roelie Kloppers of Wildlands Conservation Trust will present: "The Maputoland-Pondoland-Albany-Hotspot Partnership: Catalyzing a new conservation legacy for the KZN Midlands."

We will show a short powerpoint presentation on the Dargle Nature Reserve.

Join us for a buffet supper afterwards. Booking for supper is essential – call Tanglewood on 033 234 4366 to make your reservation.

World Biodiversity Day - 22 May

World Biodiversity Day is an UN-sanctioned day to increase the awareness and understanding of biodiversity issues. Biodiversity – the number, variety, and variability of living organisms – is not just about plants, animals, microorganisms and their ecosystems, but also about humans and their needs such as food security, clean air and water, and a healthy environment.

The theme for 2011 is Biodiversity and Forests, so why not make sure that you spend some time exploring our special Dargle Forests? Kate Robinson would be delighted if you would like to wander along the paths in the 90ha of Mist-belt Forest on Lemonwood. Call her on 033 234 4848 or 082 052 6072 to make arrangements.

Movie Nights - 4 and 29 June

Tanglewood Country House, 5.30 for 6: Power of Community and Transition Towns.


Anne Weedon has taken on the task of helping Dargle School with their Recycling depot. Please help the Dargle School, and at the same time help the planet and yourselves. The Dargle school is very enthusiastic about collecting recycling and thereby making a little money for the school's needs. At the same time they are teaching the children not to litter, to recycle where possible and to work together towards a common goal. We should help them do this! They have new bins and the children have been educated about sorting recycling. All they now need is your support. Last year they only made R85!

To make it quicker and easier for you, we have set aside an area just OUTSIDE the school gate where you can drop off your recycling at any time and the children will take it inside later and attend to it appropriately. If possible, sort recycling into bags e.g. dog food packets, chicken feed or cattle feed bags or black bags and leave them at the gate. If you only have a small amount you can put it into one bag and the children will sort it for you. Bottles, cans, cartons etc should be rinsed out.

If you own recycling bins that you want to empty and take home again you will have to deliver during school hours, hoot at the gate and someone will come and assist you. PLEASE do not empty recycling directly onto the ground and PLEASE do not dump rubbish outside the school as we do not want to set these children a bad example or cause them a health hazard.

Recycling will reduce your amount of household rubbish by more than half. This means fewer trips to the Howick dump and that alone must be an incentive!

Thank you in anticipation of your support. Phone Ann on 083 325 1082.


Annual Subscription of R250 for membership of the Dargle Conservancy is now due for 2011. Thank you for contributing to conserving our local habitats and landscapes. Our Annual General Meeting is coming up in May and as you know, only paid up members are entitled to vote.

If you are keen to support our activities in future, please pay the annual subscription fee of R250 into our bank account (FNB Howick 220725 Acc no: 622 1187 9236) or pop it into our post box (no 30) at Dargle Store. Any questions? Contact Clive Shippey, Treasurer of the Dargle Conservancy on 033 234 4354 or

Enjoy pink clouds as the sun rises, afternoon walks in the hayfields amongst giant bales and star spotting in the clear night skies.

For any additional information please click here to contact us.