Summer 2014/15 Newsletter

Dargle sunset

We share a few snippets of recent activities as the year rolls hurriedly to its end. Amongst all the frenzy which accompanies this season, do remember to be thankful for the soil, water and diversity of life that make Dargle such a special place. Consider too the effect which our consumption is having on the rest of our planet and think about giving gifts that don’t cost the Earth – for example:

Adopt-a-Dargle-Dassie -,  and,
Mad-About-Chameleons - 

Quietly, Kindly. Respectfully.

We do know how lucky we are to live in Dargle, and particularly, to be able to wander in Mist-belt forests. Fortunately for others, we are happy to share our treasures too. A number of visitors have explored the Kilgobbin Forest during the past few months as winter turned to summer - all have been fascinated. Barend Booysen has been a generous guide, inspiring everyone to fall in love with forests and take responsibility for one's footprints.

Dargle Primary School decided on a few rules before they visited the forest.

  • To be quiet in the forest
  • To be kind and helpful to each other
  • To respect the forest and its inhabitants

Read more about the learners visit, and all the other people (from tree enthusiasts, media, fellow conservancies and N3TC shareholders) who have smelt the leaves, examined fruits, found pods and quills, drunk water from the stream, watched the birds, met the monkeys, felt the texture of bark on their cheeks and left refreshed and inspired, here -

A few comments from our forest fans:

Anita Heyl, N3TC: “Oh, my goodness what a special piece of paradise. If I was Winnie-the-Pooh this would most definitely have been my part of the forest.”

Jenny Stipcich, Dargle : "I learned that curiosity has no 'off' button.  I have hardly slept as I try to remember all that I learned these past two wonderful days amongst the trees."

Olwethu Nzimande, Grade 6 Thembilihle Primary "I was swinging on the vines, the flowers were lovely and the air was nice. I miss Papa Ben, I wish to go back."

Kathy Milford, CREW: “I felt like Alice in Wonderland! Eugene showed us the most amazing little details on the leaves and trees that would normally have escaped my attention!"

Penelope Malinga, Mpophomeni Conservation Group: "I was amazed by the Samango monkeys eating new Celtis leaves. I have never been so close to these creatures before."

Jenny Fly, Dargle: “I enjoyed every minute with Eugene, such a nice man, so knowledgable with his trees and so happy to help us mere mortals along the way. I need to get into the forest far more often to get really familiar with all of them."

Bothwell Hlaba, Public Investment Corporation: "Many thanks for showing us the great work that you are doing conserving our forests and the ecosystems. I really enjoyed the forest walk and the picnic."

Alison Lettinger, CREW: “Kilgobbin is one of the most beautiful, accessible and diverse forests that I have been in.”

Tshepiso Mafole, SANBI:“It was great to be part of the inspiring and refreshing world of conservationists in the forest.”

Wind. Sky. Wild times.

The Spring Hike up Inhlosane was not the summer-dresses-and-picture-hats, flower-smelling picnic of previous years, but a dramatically beautiful climb up the mountain's flank in a howling, icy gale. A small troop of Dargle members and friends braved the elements.  The landscape was still suffering from the late start to the rainy season but nonetheless golden and perfect in the dustless spring light. We scrambled up like mountain goats with the Hotel dog leading the way.

Although Jethro Bronner utterly lost his mind and forgot to bring his Stanley flasks filled with tea, we were saved in the wild hurricane at the top by the kind Speed family from Howick who generously shared their complete and perfect picnic with the rest of us.

Rose Downard: “The wind was so strong, I was afraid we’d be blown right off!”
Ashley Crookes made a fun video of the day – you can watch it here:

A small and enthusiastic group enjoyed the Dargle Nature Reserve Spring Hike held on the Spring Equinox.  Everyone loved Barend Booysen's intimate knowledge of the forest. Once out of the forest and onto the grassland, the dryness of the area was really brought home by the dried up stream we crossed. Though uneventful, the rest of the walk through the grasslands and Lemonwood forest was much enjoyed by all, as was the tasty lunch and cool lemonade presented by Katie Robinson at Lemonwood at the end.

Learning & Local Food.

Investing in small scale farmers is both good business and good development. It is also good for conservation.  Over the past year, many people living along the Petrusstroom road have become unemployed. We have heard incidents of increased poaching - an obvious response to lack of alternatives. In an effort to encourage people to grow their own food, Dargle Conservancy sponsored a Food Gardening Workshop for residents at Corrie Lynn School on Sunday 26 October.

Despite the windy, wet weather 12 participants turned up. Knowledgeable and passionate Mary Mlambo from Dovehouse Organics and Eidin Griffin and Gugu Zuma from MMAEP facilitated.  After tea and brownies the group were led through the concept of organic gardening and the importance of food gardening for food security, before heading to the school’s thriving garden for a good look at the companion planting, mulching, compost and infrastructure.

Each delighted participant was given sunflowers, cowpeas, beans, spinach and pumpkin seeds before they headed home to plan, plant and discuss the idea of setting up a co-operative garden project together.

Dargle Local Market continues to delight patrons as it enters its fourth year of existence.  The array of produce is astonishing – from artichokes to olives, free range eggs to zucchini, there can be no doubt that the market has had an impact of community and food security in our valley.   We hope that in the near future, we will be able to welcome residents of Nxamalala to sell their excess produce at the market too.

Keep up with the Market happenings on our facebook page: Read stories about local food producers on our blog:

Celebrating Summer in the Mist

In the great African tradition of auspicious rain for special occasions, the Midlands Summer Celebration we co-hosted with Midlands Conservancies Forum was suitably wet.  The Cairn of Old Kilgobbin Farm right in the mist-belt, beside the forest, is a wonderful venue whatever the weather. The drizzle did little to dampen our spirits.

Brandon Powell: “There were no Moaning Minnies on the misty walk through the Kilgobbin forest. Our guests emerged from the dripping gloom laughing and chattering like wood hoopoes in the undergrowth.  They were rewarded by a roaring fire, good wine and a delicious slap-up spread prepared by the well-loved Dargle enclave in Tweedie, the Farmer's Daughter.”

Midlands Conservancies Forum Chair, Judy Bell acknowledged Barend Booysen’s incredible contribution to inspiring, motivating and challenging so many people with his walks and insightful discussions along the way. Eidin Griffin of the MMAEP thanked Barend for his kindness and generosity in leading school groups and introducing them to the Kilgobbin Forest Magic, saying “The children had an amazing and inspiring time. One little boy slipped his hand into mine and whispered - this has been the best trip EVER.”  She read a few of the children’s delightful comments from the Eco-Schools portfolio they have compiled.

Gilly Robartes: “What a lovely evening. Wish I had arrived earlier. At least I was there for the dancing!”

Christeen Grant drove over from Boston: “Thank You for a simply wonderful Summer Celebration! I drove home on wings of inspiration through rain drenched fields, washed in the golden glow of evening sunshine with a glorious rainbow as I reached Boston, via Everglades, simply stunning and the road is good.  It was really good to spend time with people I already knew and meet new ‘earth friends’.”

Caroline Leslie EKZNW Honorary Officer for Lion’s River “Thank you so much for the lovely time shared by fellow enthusiasts.  The wine was splendid, the food was outstanding, the venue was breath taking but most of all was special times spent with special people.”

For the full account see:  

Owls and Other Entertainment.

Shane McPherson’s presentation on the Urban Ecology of Crowned Eagles (link drew a crowd from far and wide.  It was an engaging feast of photos and nest camera sequences, roughly following the eagle’s year as it builds a nest and rears an eaglet. We learnt that most of the prey is dassies, hadeda chicks and monkeys, with pets hardly featuring at all, despite the hysteria that surrounds eagles believed to be eating small dogs.

Earlier in the year, we assisted Tammy Caine of Raptor Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (RRRC) (link: to find suitable sites to release rehabilitated raptors, particularly owls.  Katie Robinson was first to respond. “What a privilege to be chosen as a suitable custodian and being able to engage closely with a bird of prey. This is a very rewarding experience if you have the enthusiasm, time and money to assist our precious raptors and contribute to conservation.”  Katie has put up a release enclosure that meets their specifications (and took the gorgeous photo below).

Shane is working in conjunction with RRRC on an Owl Box Project.  Raptors are often misunderstood and persecuted, so encouraging them to live in view of humans is a great learning opportunity and helps overcome these fears.  Specially designed boxes provide a more stable environment to enhance breeding success, while providing an ideal site to observe them doing what they do best.  The project will include diligent data for University of KwaZulu-Natal research on the biology and effectiveness of owls as biological control agents. 

By purchasing a box you are helping to support local owl populations, Raptor Rescue Rehabilitation Centre, and Crowned Eagle research. Shane can supply boxes suitable for Barn Owls, Wood Owls or Spotted Eagle Owls.  He does a site inspection to advise one on the best location of the box and then installs it.

Members of the Dargle Conservancy who are interested in purchasing owl boxes are eligible for sponsored consultation and installation. You pay for the Owl Box - R400, and Dargle Conservancy will pay Shane’s costs (R250). Contact Shane on 078 638 6867 or - remember to tell him you are a Dargle Conservancy member.

Spotted eagle owl

If you would like to learn more about Owls, Monty Brett is hosting an online course with knowledgeable Geoff Lockwood as lecturer, in January.  This is such a great idea – participate in the lectures from the comfort of your favourite chair with a glass in hand and no need to drive home afterwards in the dark. You can ask questions during the webinar too.

Geoff will cover owl adaptations (what makes an owl an owl?), the daily life and behaviour of owls, and identification of the 12 species of owls in South Africa. If you enjoy owls, you’ll simply love this course. 
January 19, 22, 26, 2015 from 18h30 –19h30. Cost: R450 per person for the three sessions. To book:

A variety of movies have been shown at Everglades, offering residents of upper Dargle, Impendle and Boston a chance to participate without having to drive for miles in the mist. Ashley has a great line up planned for 2015 including Blue Gold, Cowspiracy and Dirt.

At Tanglewood, Jason Londt gave us a glimpse of the fascinating world of insects. The total number of named insects is somewhere between 800 000 and 1 000 000 – about 55 percent of all species known on the planet. More are being discovered and named every day - quite likely the number of insect species on Earth is over 6 million!  At the current rate of habitat destruction, many probably become extinct before they are even discovered.

We also hosted Eugene Moll to talk about Vegetation Changes in the Upper uMngeni Catchment over the past 50 years.    Julie and Richard Braby, who live in Underberg, loved it. “We felt we were in another world and were sad to get home. The talk and very good food at Tanglewood in the company of Dargle Conservancy members, was wonderful. I am really inspired to start a Conservancy up here.”

A Greener Season of Giving

You don’t have much time, and certainly the thought of heading down the hill to the crowded mall is not a pleasant one.  Why not do your gift buying on line?  Two creative ideas are Adopt-a-Dargle-Dassie and Mad-About-Chameleons.

Show your concern for environmental issues and the local ecology by adopting a Dassie on behalf of family and friends to celebrate Christmas.  Ideal for your family overseas, urban relations, or your niece who would consider a Dassie too cute for words!  For R200, sponsors will receive a quirky Adopt-a-Dargle-Dassie certificate and a good feeling knowing they are making a meaningful contribution to conservation in the Dargle. Contact: See more at:

Many chameleon species are endangered due to loss of habitat and the international pet trade. By conserving forests and woodlands, and protecting the grasslands that they need to survive in nature, we contribute to the health of entire ecosystems.  

You can help do this with a donation to the Midlands Conservancies Forum which is working to safeguard biodiversity in the KZN Midlands.   A Mad-About-Chameleons gift certificate is just the thing for someone who cares about forest creatures.  Instead of actual wrapped presents for family and friends, give them a chance to contribute to the amazing planet we share with chameleons. R100 gets you an earth friendly Mad-About-Chameleons e-card sure to enchant the recipient.  Contact: Click here to find full details.