Newsletter - Autumn 2012

There are warm splashes of orange everywhere in Autumn – Leonotis flowering in the grasslands and Crocosmia and Argylobium on forest edges, bronze grasses in profusion, tiny scarlet and ochre fungi on dead wood, saffron seed heads on the Arums, bright butterflies, flame coloured seeds as the Kiggelaria pods burst, and of course, the cinnamon, russet and gold of the Plane trees too.  Just what we need as the chill begins to creep in. 

A Warm Welcome

We are delighted to welcome these new members: 
Ian and Jenny Sinclair
Ann and Trevor Hulley
Colleen and Willem van Heerden
Derek and Jenny Fly
Thomas and Jenah Barry
David and Tammy Schniedeman

Nelly Mwango, research student from UKZN so enjoyed her stay in the Dargle, starting to feel quite at home after a couple of weeks. She was so grateful to everyone for their generous help and cooperation. She also loved the Dargle Local Market. We have invited her to do a short presentation on her findings at our AGM on 24 May. She will also share her findings at the Midlands Conservancy Forum meeting which we host in Dargle on 26 July. Mark the dates in your diary now.

Dargle Events - Report back

The walks at Kilgobbin and Lemonwood are as popular as ever and have inspired other regular walks across the Midlands. Thank you very much to Barend Booysen and Katie Robinson for their generosity in sharing the forest they are stewards of with the wider community.  Last Sunday, visitors to Lemonwood simply didn't want to turn back once they reached the edge of the forest! Everyone said that they had found the walk "restorative".

First event of 2012 was the screening of Too Great a Toll about the Wildcoast communities who have stopped the mining and the toll road (for now). Nicky Mann put on a great local Dargle spread afterwards, as usual.
“Thank you, we had a wonderful evening and we promise to make every effort to attend your evenings from now on!” Merrill King
“The dinner was good and there is a good bunch of people living in the Dargle.” Dieter Setz
“Thanks, it's really wonderful to see all the 'sense of community' in action!” Nelly Mwango

Hillhouse ‘new forest’ Walk - 14 people attended, and all seemed to enjoy themselves and find interesting. Nick bemoaned the fact that he has quite a problem with alien weed infestation (american bramble, lantana, bugweed), and the problem is amplified by the difficulties of using herbicides in close proximity to all the re-introduced indigenous plants. We had an excellent sighting of a Burchells Coucal, and some soaring Steppe buzzards.
“Please do add me to the Dargle mailing list. Sunday was most enjoyable and inspiring. It was just lovely to be amongst like-minded people!” Thanks, Lian Wimmer

The End of the Line was a very interesting film about overfishing and the state of our oceans:
"Thnx, it ws vry interesting n luckly im nt a big fan of fish anyway." Ngenzi Sokhela
"Many thanks for organizing yet another excellent film. I will certainly think again about buying fish!" Lucinda Bate
"Thanks for the film and for the pumpkin recipes. Pumpkin is one of my favourite foods and I have gone off fish (strangely enough!)" Jo Johnson-Marshall

Peter Ardington’s talk on Grasslands organised by Carl Bronner at Old Kilgobbin attracted a large crowd from across the Midlands. Peter as able to answer questions on High Density Grazing methods practically and informatively.

One question was “What about biodiversity?” - I can see how this is good for grass, but what about the bulbs and orchids being eaten or trampled? Are some species not fire dependant for germination? Our precious mistbelt grasslands might need something a bit different from the FreeState?

Peter’s answer:
A good question and not simple. One gets a different but excellent mix without fire, including more valuable legumes in the grass sward. Part of the secret is in adequate recovery in securing survival of a diversity of plants. Wild flowers in particular burst forth after fire but their seeds survive for decades and there is little danger of extinction. As in the Cape fynbos, seeds that are fire dependent for germination, are very tough and can surviving waiting for decades suggest fire as a rare rather than a common ecological event. If fire were such a common event why would the seeds need to be able to survive decades waiting for a fire? A limited lightning fire every twenty years is a much more likely scenario than the soil depleting frequent fire we currently practice.

Where species are genuinely threatened common sense and ecological nous must guide one and one should not be blindly wedded to high density grazing/CAI everywhere all the time. A dense herd of cows in wetland grass could devastate a blue crane nest and crush eggs and kill nestlings. The answer to that is to refrain from grazing even lightly in such sensitive areas with such sensitive species during the blue crane breeding season. The same would apply to other birds and plants.

Whatever you do or try the acid test is DON’T LOSE THE SOIL because then you lose it all anyway. Andre Lund asked the Curator of the Karoo Park about soil loss and rehabilitating grass and the reply was “We are not that interested in soil conservation, conserving biodiversity is what it is all about for us!” Good gracious, what a comment! It all needs trial, error, research and comparisons for decades to unearth the truth in the diverse situations we have from Cape to Cairo and worldwide. A frustration of mine is that I can show you reams of research on and comparisons between exclusion of animals, traditional light animal impact, fire and mowing but almost none simulating what I read in the historical accounts of the great herds and what I saw on the Serengeti.

Carl and Peter are arranging a fieldtrip to Michaelhouse Oribi Reserve at the end of April.  MHS have been managing thier grasslands along these lines for the past 5 years. Contact Carl if you would like to participate 082 807 7772

Permaculture - India to Impendle - Sam's presentation was colourful, informative and interesting. The proceeds of the evening were donated to Sam's work with Eco-Schools in Impendle.  Many people expressed interest in visiting Rainbow Homestead to see Sam and Shine's low-impact lifestyle first hand.  Mark Saturday 26 May in your diaries for a fun-filled hands-on day of learning and sharing.

Dargle Local Living

• Property News featured Dargle Local Living in their March edition – great publicity for anyone wishing to sell their property in the valley.

• The Real Food Road trip – researchers from Food with a Story are visiting Dargle in the last week of March to meet some of our local food heroes. Follow their interesting food journey at . Thanks to Nicky Mann and Carl Bronner for giving them accommodation.

• Who will be crowned the Pumpkin King? Don’t miss the inaugural pumpkin growing competition open to all pumpkins grown in the Dargle. Phillippa Gordon of the Meander Chronicle will be the judge and there are lots of really nice prizes to be won in various categories – Wrinkliest, most Beautiful, Oddest and of course, the Biggest! We may even invent a few new categories on the day! Get your pumpkins on display early in the Dargle Dealer and shop and eat until prize giving at about 11.30am. Country Life (April) publicised the event and used many photos for OUR market on their market page!

• Wana Farm will have a stall selling happy dairy products, and Nikki Brighton will give a presentation on Dargle Conservancy and our Local Living initiative at the Sustainable Living and Indigenous Plant Fair coming up at the end of April.

• Dargle Ducks, regular stallholders at the Dargle Local market, and Croft Chicken, available at the Dargle Dealer have been nominated by Jacqui Cameron, chef at Hartford House, for the The Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards.  The Awards aim to acknowledge and celebrate outstanding, independent South African producers for putting South Africa on the international food map with their integrity, passion and innovation. These are producers that deliver a consistently high quality product that is SA grown or developed using primary produce from SA. Due care and consideration for both the environment and workforce are essential criteria. The 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards will take place on the 24th of March at the Stellenbosch Slow Market. Good luck to Dean, Serene, Chris and Kandy! Watch the Dargle Local Living blog to see how they do.

• How local can you go? The idea with the Dargle Local Living blog (which is really just like a website, but more interactive) is that we, as a community, will be able to share things easily. For instance, if you have lost your dog, have a surplus of oranges or need help with something, you could post your request as a comment on the DLL blog and everyone who is signed up, will receive your notice. It is really quite easy to register to receive the local news. to read the blog. On the right of the page you will see a FOLLOW button – click this and accept the email Wordpress will send you. Then you will receive stories and news of Dargle heroes, market updates and other interesting things right in your Inbox. Easy peasy. There are many visitors to the site daily, which illustrates that people must find it useful and/or interesting. The most hits in one day was 88! Did that include you? Don’t be left out, hit the FOLLOW button today and let us know what else you’d like included too.

Kevin Barnsley has built a lovely shelter at the end of the D17, so folk waiting for taxis won't get wet in the rain.  Thanks Kevin!

Cape Parrot Count

Those of you lucky enough to live near forests, please diarise the 5 and 6th of May 2012 for the annual Cape Parrot Big Birding Day- it is the 15th year of counting. The importance of counting the parrots is critical to their conservation and this relies on people volunteering to go out and count. Colleen Downs would be most grateful if you could assist. Many of you are stalwarts in helping with the counting and have hardly missed a year. Nikki Brighton is the Coordinator for the Count in the Midlands, so contact her with any questions: 083 473 3074 or
Read the latest Cape Parrot newsletter on our website.
There are many enquiries for accommodation in the area over that weekend, so if you would like to host some keen birders, contact

Are you on the Map?

Katie Robinson is in the process of updating the information on the interesting Dargle map on the veranda of il Postino. Apparently, the maps are very popular with visitors to the valley. If you would like your property to be included, do contact her at 082 052 6072 or Cost is R100 for members, R200 for non-members

Dargle Wildlife

Inadvertently, Robin Fowler's very exciting wildlife sightings for February were omitted from the monthly Wildlife Sightings.  This is what was spotted at Corrie Lynn:
50 - 60 Yellow billed Kites catching a thermal with a few storks joining in - amazing!
7 Blue cranes in a fly past while I was in the veggie garden - fabulous!
+- 100 Black crows desended on a pivot next door - scary!
Our European Swallows have added another two to the tally - still in the nest.
A Crested Barbet sitting on the road in the garden and then flew up onto the gate where I got a really good look at it. I've only heard one once before but this was a first sighting!
A very large Mongoose - dark colouring - attempting to eat my new laying hens in my run around the veggie patch! Chicken survived and recovered thanks to quick action by Tinks! I've moved the chickens to somewhere safer, but my veggie patch is now unguarded!
Duiker abound, as well as all the usual stuff.
Just wondering............. where are all the 118 million swallows going to gather for their return trip to Europe without any Telkom wires to sit on? We think we miss the phone?!

Dargle sightings and those of other conservancies can be found at should you wish to share them with family and friends further afield.

uMngeni River Walk

The Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), whose mission is to champion the health of the uMngeni and uMsunduzi Rivers, is planning an epic walk down the length of the uMngeni River. A small group of environmentalists, will begin walking on 1 May 2012. Starting at uMngeni Vlei – the plateau above Dargle and Fort Nottingham where the river rises - and ending at Blue Lagoon where it rushes into the Indian Ocean. Along the way they will be documenting and recording all impacts on the river and posting daily stories of their adventures and findings on their blog

Thank you to Beverley Country Cottages (Kate Kelly), Tanglewood Country House (Nicky Mann), Eidin Griffin and Malcolm Draper and Kathryn Coulson for generously offering to host the River Walkers as they traverse the Dargle. On hearing of all the hospitable offers, Penny Rees commented “Wow! I am blown away by the generosity. Stunned speechless.”

Penny is coordinator of this event. When she was contacting landowners for permission to walk through their properties, someone in the Dargle mentioned that he had spent 3 weeks walking the Umkomaas river while serving in the SADF Umkomaas Commando in 1977. Penny has lost your contact details, so if it was YOU, please would you contact her!  Should you wish to offer assistance or sponsorship for this project, or require more details, contact Penny on 082 340 7571, 033 330 7524 or

On Friday 4 May, the River Walk team will be staying at Tanglewood. Join them for a delicious Dargle Local Buffet Supper (R80) and hear all about their adventures. RSVP essential Nicky Mann 083 645 5619

World Bank visits Dargle

Last month, Wildlands Conservation Trust gathered a group of local environmental NGO’s to meet their American guests. The group from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) was visiting South Africa to observe the biodiversity stewardship projects they are funding in the Albany-Pondoland-Maputaland Hotspot in action and to meet the people who make this happen.

The Midlands Conservancies Forum was delighted to host the group at The Cairn of Old Kilgobbin in Dargle, knowing that our part of the world is particularly special and certain to impress. The venue, on a working farm beside the mist-belt forest, was ideal for the occasion. Dargle Conservancy took the opportunity to showcase local produce and provided lunch. This ensured that the meal had a very low carbon footprint, appropriate for a gathering of environmentalists. Everything was grown and produced right in the Dargle Valley – besides the Notties beer. On such a hot Summer’s day, a couple of additional kilometres were easily forgiven! Daniel Marnewick and Nick Theron of Birdlife commented that they felt a whole lot better about driving all the way to the Midlands, knowing the low food miles their lunch had produced. Guests enjoyed homemade lemon cordial and refreshing mint syrup on arrival before settling down to lunch. The meal consisted of simply prepared vegetables in season – cucumbers, marrows, tomatoes, brinjals, peppers, beans, garlic and potatoes. Served with local feta and mozzarella cheeses, homemade duck egg mayonnaise, basil pesto, artisan breads, vegan quiche and free range chicken roasted with fresh herbs.
“Delicious” pronounced Patricia Zurita, Executive Director of CEPF. Peter Thompson added “I was blown away by the amazing venue and lunch. Food like that needs to be savoured very slowly and discussed…” The table decorations of succulent Haworthia plants were a conversation point too. Dumile Tshingana of Wildlands, explained to curious diners – “they are called umathithibala in Zulu and planted at entrances to discourage unwelcome men and as a protective charm from lightning.”

A few presentations on Midlands Projects followed. Nikki Brighton introduced the concept of the MCF with glorious photographs of the fauna and flora and scenery of the Midlands (Tanya Smith of EWT was particularly delighted at all the crane photos). Christina Potgieter represented the Botanical Society, illustrating the important areas they plan to protect under the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. Peter Thompson from the Game Rangers Association of SA and Jan Phelan of PAMS talked about the new era in conservation, their training programme and many other ideas.

To escape the afternoon heat, everyone headed for the forest at Kilgobbin Cottage, led by Barend Booysen. This forest walk is one of the most popular on the Midlands Walks calendar. Knysna loeries flashed red overhead, Samango monkeys clambered in the tree tops, a tiny bright green spider was spotted and everyone savoured the shade and damp earth under the cool canopy. Ren Ito of the World Bank, couldn’t believe his luck. “I have only just moved to this post in environmental matters. I used to spend my time at airforce bases in war zones and inspecting nuclear sites. This has been wonderful. I am so glad that I finally came back to the real earth, and very much enjoyed joining you all today.”

We thanked CEPF for spending time getting to know our projects and Patricia Zurita thanked everyone for the work they do with such enthusiasm and passion on behalf of the planet.
Thanks to Carl Bronner, Susi Anderson, Malvina van Bremem, Sharon Barnsley, Karen Koopman, Nikki Brighton, Gilly Robartes, Debbie Hayes, Dawn Glenny and Ross Young for assistance in making this a memorable Dargle event.

You can read about this occasion and other interesting stories from the 12 Midlands Conservancies at the blog address:

Ann Adopts Dassie

Many of us have got to know Ann Burke, who volunteered at the KZN Crane Foundation for the past 18 months. She has left to pursue a job which promises to secure her a work permit to continue to live in South Africa as she has no desire to return to the United States.  Ann has had an enormous impact on conservation in the KZN Midlands during her short stay. Serving on the Lion’s Bush Conservancy Committee, the Spring Grove dam monitoring committee and the Nottingham Road Farmer’s Association. To thank her for her hard work and encourage her to return to the area, Dargle Conservancy presented her with a Dargle Dassie certificate. She was delighted! “I have so enjoyed being part of your interesting programme of talks and movies and delicious local food. Certainly, some of the best meals I have had in SA have been in the Dargle! Also, such a terrific group of people - the Dargle really feels like a community. I wish you all well with your conservation efforts, your conservancy is an example and inspiration to many.”
Ann Burke
Don't forget, you can adopt-a-Dargle-dassie by visiting our website.  Recipients of dassies are always absolutely delighted, why not surprise someone you love with a really thoughtful gift soon?

Show your Support

Subs for 2012 are now due. Still a bargain R250 per year. Invoices will go out shortly, but you are welcome to pay as soon as you like. Put your name as the reference please.

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 082 490 3467 or

Would you like to purchase one of the Dargle Conservancy sign boards to display at the entrance to your property? R100 each - Contact Andrew to order on or call 082 494 0668

Remember for just R100 per year you can have a banner on the Supporters page of our website. Interested? Contact Do to put a link from your own website to Dargle Conservancy and Dargle Local Living – potential visitors will be interested to read these informative sites. Let us advertise reasons to visit your establishment for free! Why not forward our Newsletters and Wildlife Sightings to visitors who have enjoyed their stay?

Do you have a link to the Dargle Conservancy website from your own website?  Certainly, it gives prospective visitors a taste of our world and surely they would not be able to resist booking a few nights with you!  insert this link:

Earth Hour

Earth Hour 2012 is almost upon us. What will you be doing when the lights go out on 31 March? It is not too late to join in. Please follow the link to the website, and see how you could participate.

 Sustainable Living and Indigenous Plant Fair

This is an opportunity to shop for a wide selection of planet-friendly indigenous plants, fruit trees and vegetables and stock up on inspiration for your homestead garden. Alongside, numerous stalls will showcase solutions for sustainable living and offer ideas for getting off the grid. Interesting environmental movies will be screened throughout the weekend, interspersed with speakers on fascinating topics focussed on low-carbon living. A Green Restaurant will provide delicious food to keep eco-conscious energy levels up.

Plenty of parking, lots of free advice and friendly encouragement. Don’t miss this chance to learn more about the simple choices you can make to reduce your footprint on the Earth and contribute to a better life for everyone.
Dates: 27/28/29 April 2012
Time: 9am to 5pm
Venue: The Cattle Arena, Royal Show Grounds, off Hyslop Road, Pietermaritzburg
Contact: Karen 033 343 1739 or 083 235 8628, Andrew 083 293 0249

Leonotis leonorus
Regards from
Andrew Anderson, Barry Downard, Gill Addison, Vaughan Koopman, Clive Shippey, Kate Robinson, Nikki Brighton - Dargle Conservancy committee

For any additional information please click here to contact us.