Autumn 2015 Newsletter

Autumn is our favourite season in the Midlands. Trees put on their multi-coloured coats and wood piles grow. This is time to tune into the natural cycles, slow down a little, sit quietly as the seasons change.  Marashene Lewis captures Autumn beautifully in this painting. Enjoy the fresh air, fresh faces, fresh ideas and fresh water featured in the the Autumn news.

Fresh faces

A warm welcome to our new members - Jayne and Chris Darroll, Gugu Zuma, Jeremy and Debbie Barlow, Brenda Grant and Jessica Francis, Warren and Michelle Campbell and Tiffany Atwell. We are delighted that Brenda Grant and Gugu Zuma will serve on the Dargle Conservancy committee.

Fresh Ideas

Movie nights always a fabulous to spend time with neighbours, meet new people and learn a little too.  We have screened a few interesting movies recently including:
Inside the Garbage of the World – enough to put anyone off plastic
“The movie provided a lot of food for thought.  We are indeed making a heck of a mess of this planet aren’t we? I’m curious as to why we don’t RE-USE veggie punnets, milk cartons and the like, rather than sending them to be recycled, which costs water, energy, effort and increases the carbon footprint.  Seems to me we could be saving a HUGE amount by returning those things to source for cleaning and re-using.” Kim Brett

Blue Gold - World Water Wars – a terrifying look at corporate control of our most precious, and rapidly dwindling resource. Well worth watching if you get the chance.

Cowspiracy – An investigation into why major Environmental Organisations are ignoring the fact that intensive animal agriculture is one of the leading produces of greenhouse gasses.
Iona Stewart (farmer) said afterwards: “You put on a movie which has made us think, and better still, it makes us ask questions.  We really enjoyed last night, despite the fact that we found lots unscientific about the movie. You have given us lots to read and chew over.  I believe it is good to produce controversial matter every now and then – it is good for the planet! Thanks for the great evening, good company and interesting food.”

Brandon Powell and Tinks Fowler

Hunting and Poaching Presentation
Over 50 people turned up for Samson Phakathi’s presentation on Hunting and Poaching last month. The main messages were:

  • Dog Hunting is not for food, it is wealthy people gambling.
  • People are coming to our areas to hunt because there is nothing left where they live.
  • We are borrowing the environment from our children and have a duty to look after it on their behalf.

It was most informative and he answered a wide variety of questions at the end which illustrated the depth of interest in the subject.   Everyone received a beautiful poster with the SA Can Anti-Poaching number to take home.  If you are concerned about an activity that looks dodgy, send a message via SMS or even a ‘Please Call Me’ and SACan will call you back. Anoninimity is guarenteed.   086 167 2226

 “Our staff certainly enjoyed the talk and they proudly showed me all the literature given to them. Thank you so much for arranging these talks, as they are so beneficial to our members and staff.”
Chris O'Flaherty Woodford Timber Estate

“The feedback I received was all positive, our staff did enjoy it but also found it to be very interesting. Our operations manager reported that a lot of questions came up, which is a good thing.”  Louise from Knight Security

“The presentation was great. One of our staff members took notes and gave a presentation on what was discussed. I only had positive feedback from my team and I’m hoping that it will take the message back to their communities where they live. Samson knows the culture and traditions and my guys appreciated his depth of knowledge. We were also impressed with Ntokoza Cele from Ezemvelo. Her answers were direct and to the point.”
Brett Smith Senior Education and Reserve Officer WESSA Umgeni Valley Reserve

Fresh Format

Our AGM has become a fun event that locals look forward to, rather than avoiding.  This year was no different with almost 50 people turning up on the first really cold evening of the season. Rather than long speeches, the committee had created a visual feast of recent activities based on the theme of “What does conservancy mean to you?” followed by a local feast prepared by Nicky Farquharson at Tanglewood.
Read the Chairman’s report and see the presentation on our website:

After many years of sterling service on the Dargle Conservancy committee, Barry Downard will be retiring. He was thanked for his vision, creativity and commitment. A donation was made to FreeMe in recognition of the contribution he has made to conservancies in the Midlands – in particular for his prinicpled approach to development issues.   

“Commenting on EIAs is a thankless, frustrating task.  Barry has managed to keep his sanity whilst being a voice for Dargle and the Midlands. His comments are always level headed, insightful and un-emotional.  There are few people – far too few - who take on the task of submitting comment when the inevitable development applications are circulated, we all owe him an enormous thank you for standing up and tackling often contentious issues head on.”  Penny Rees DUCT

Wildlife Sightings Winners for the year were:

Tom and Luncinda Bate “As ever it was a ‘good fun’ AGM with lots of good company. We are always bowled over by the committees hard work and your presentations. You seem to take the conservancy to greater heights every year.”

Stalwart Dargle supporter, Chris King, drove all the way from beyond Nottingham Road “If I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t come! I admire so much what is being achieved in the Dargle -  you are a very special community.”

Gilly Robartes, Tammy Robartes, Helen Booysen and Tiffany Atwell

Fresh Produce

What are your favourite buys at the Dargle Local Market?  There are always surprises – like Kate Fleet’s free range sausages and Gilly Robartes’ giant garlic. Dolf’s Dargle Dop goes down a treat on chilly mornings and Eidin Griffin’s Easter activities for kids (of all ages) were absolutely delightful. Regular patron Karen Zunckel commented “Such a fun story, made extra special by Eidin's reading and great company. Thank you Dargle for adding to our girls' Easter happiness.”

Fresh Water

Water was on everyone’s minds last summer. There are plenty of dams that didn’t fill up and as autumn arrives heralding the dry season, conversations about the changes to our rainfall patterns are common. Recently the DC committee received phone calls from residents concerned about neighbours who house too many families (or livestock), with the streams that trickle through the forest simply cannot cope with all their needs.  Others in our valley can no longer drink the water in their streams (the source often within sight) as they are contaminated by effluent.  Not being able to drink from the tiny tributaries of the uMngeni River is quite unacceptable.  No wonder eThekwini municipality spends a fortune every month to provide clean water to its citizens. 

The Dargle River Walk undertaken by DUCT volunteers last year highlighted the state of the uMngeni catchment. Some landowners pay no heed to the legal 32m buffer zone requirement alongside rivers and streams with kikuyu pastures, cottages or cattle kraals right on the banks. So if you care, even a little, about the health of our Midlands rivers that provide water and sanitation services to millions of people and support some incredible bio-diversity, do read:  

It would appear that some riverside dwellers do not recognise their roles as custodians of this natural resource or realise that their actions impact on millions of others.  Mike Beresford has made a big effort to restore the riverine areas on his property, removing invasive plants and clearing plantations along the banks.  He comments, “I can see the difference after knocking away for the last seven years at the bramble and St John’s Wort. Plenty of natural vegetation is coming back, and I have noticed water birds in the pools and evidence of otters. Wildlife prefers the more open area. It looks much nicer too.”

Dargle Conservancy once again hired Alfred Zuma and his team to follow up on the work we began clearing the invasive vegetation at the Dargle River bridge.  Have you stopped to see the difference?  We are so impressed with Mr Zuma’s work – not only did he clear the banks of bramble and bugweed, he chopped up and removed a fallen tree causing a log jam, picked up all the plastic and old feedbags floating in the river and carted the rubbish away.  Barry Downard quipped “The wrong Mr Zuma is running the country!”. 
Read this story about him:

Alfred Zuma


Paid up DC members are entitled to free installation (value R300) of an owl box of their choice, only having to pay for the actual box from the Owl Box Project run by Shane McPherson and Tammy Caine. During March they installed four boxes and will be returning in June to do a few more. Bridgette and Louis Bolton, Rob and Carol Mackintosh, Katie Robinson, Howard and Cheryl Long look forward to having new neighbours soon!

Don’t miss the Talks on Owls on the 10 June.
13h30-14h30 Zulu presentation for farm staff at Lion’s River Club
18h00 for 18h30 presentation and supper at Tanglewood Country House

Tammy Caine and Shane McPherson

Fresh Eyes

Gugu Zuma brought the kids from the Nxamalala Enviro Club to visit the forest. They noticed particularly that the trees were not in rows, were astonished at how old some of them were and loved the quiet.  Two big snails on the forest floor had everyone enthralled.  Thanks Barend and Helen Booysen and Robin and Tinks Fowler for helping with this trip.

“The forest walk was such a lovely thing to do. I liked it when we had quiet time in the forest - listening to the birds singing. I felt so connected to Nature's creations."
Tshepho Cele

Nxamalala Enviro-club

Other activities have focussed around recycling and the creative use of waste in preparation for the Dargle Drag Race and Dress-Up competition to be held during the winter holidays – wire and waste cars and recycled fashion!

Fossil Free, Fracking and Fresh Developments

Last year Dargle Conservancy joined the worldwide Divestment Campaign by making a donation, believing that Governments, around the globe, are not meeting their climate targets - a failure that will hurt Africa most of all. Meanwhile, coal, gas and oil companies have business plans that will effectively destroy our common future. The problem is that we are all forced to use the dirty energy they offer.
There are now hundreds of fossil fuel divestment campaigns, at universities, cities and in faith organisations, working to shift money away from big polluters and into clean energy. Successes are mounting. As part of Guardian's Keep it in the ground campaign, the Guardian Media Group have started divesting in fossil fuels and reinvesting in renewables. 

Fracking is another short term solution with long term side effects. In the KZN Midlands and Berg foothills, technical cooperation permits have been issued to companies (Sungu Sungu and Rhino Oil & Gas) interested in extracting the natural gas that may be trapped in the shale, using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or more commonly, fracking. Thanks to our own Brian Lewis for helping us to interpret the local geological maps.

The Midlands Conservancies Forum, of which Dargle is a member, opposes, on ecological, economic and social grounds, the use of fracking to recover natural shale gas and has launched a campaign to inform residents and landowners about this possibility.  The MCF believes that the risk of contamination of groundwater in an already water-stressed environment is simply unacceptable. Despite assurances from potential extractors that the technique is safe, evidence of failed safety measures and resultant contamination is increasingly common in areas where fracking has been undertaken, even under first world conditions. Want to be better informed about this issue? Learn more here:   

Dargle Conservancy has commented on the following developments recently:

  • Additional accommodation at Everglades Hotel.  Objection on the grounds of sub divisions being contrary to the uMngeni Municipalty LUMS.
  • New Chicken Sheds for Ndiza – no objection in principle but expressed concern over potential waste disposal and water issues due to relatively close proximity to a watercourse.
  • N3 Bypass - 13 routes  - only one of which would potentially pass near Dargle.  DC will not take a NIMBY approach.
  • Bridge widening over the uMngeni River at Petrusstroom.
  • Use of herbicide Gramoxone by Merensky Forestry
  • Low Cost Housing development opposite Thokans. Approval of a settlement comprising 540 houses, plus a school and some shops has finally been given. The DC registered and lodged comment. No objection in principle, but expressed concern over potential sewerage disposal and water issues, and road safety.
  • Barry Downard attended uMngeni Municipality LUMS Steering Committee meetings, and group from Dargle attended a meeting on the Environmental Impact Assessment process hosted by Lions Bush Conservancy.

The DC continues to engage with the relevant development authorities, but it is a task that ideally needs several pairs of hands, and pairs of eyes to ensure it is dealt with effectively.

Forest Walks

Barend's forest walks on the first Thursday of each month are as popular as ever. Contact: 082 787 0797
Katie Robinson invites you to walk in Lemonwood Forest at any time, as she will no longer guide a regular monthly walk.
Simply call her to ensure it is convenient. 082 052 6072
Walk Donation to Conservancy R20


Don’t miss the Talks on Owls on the 10 June.
13h30-14h30 Zulu presentation for farm staff at Lion’s River Club. 18h00 for 18h30 presentation and supper at Tanglewood Country House