Autumn 2013 Newsletter

Autumn is simply the best time of year in the Midlands - butterflies everywhere, gorgeous colours, sunny days, star filled night skies and birds galore.  There has also been some exciting news regarding protecting the eco-systems which we all rely on, and which we in the Dargle Conservancy are custodians of.  A warm welcome to our new members: Brian and Marashene Lewis, Sally Cummings, Christie Exall and the Dargle Estate of Singisi Forest Products.

Enjoy some of the action in our valley over the past few months:

Protection for uMngeni Vlei

The RAMSAR Secretariat announced recently that the government of South Africa has designated the uMngeni Vlei Nature Reserve as its 21st Wetland of International Importance. The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.   uMngeni Nature Reserve (958ha) which surrounds the Vlei protects important ecosystems including Drakensberg Foothill Moist Grassland, Eastern Temperate Wetlands and Drakensberg Wetland vegetation and Highland Sourveld grasslands.  These contain endemic and threatened fauna and flora including Merwilla natalensis, Kniphofia brachystachya, Kniphofia breviflora, Oribi antelope, all three crane species, ground hornbill and ground woodpecker, yellow breasted pipit and blue swallow.

About 50% of South Africa’s wetlands have already been destroyed or converted through draining, the building of dams, incorrect burning and overgrazing, invasive alien species, waste disposal, water abstraction, agriculture, urban development and inappropriate land management.  Nowadays, the value of the eco-system goods and services they provide humanity is being increasingly understood.  They store water and release it at a steady rate through the year and they also have the ability to clean polluted water, are havens for wildlife, provide useful materials. They also help protect people and homes from floods by slowing down the flow of water through the landscape.

Fortunately, uMngeni Vlei has not been transformed and is still able to fulfil the role of a well-functioning wetland supplying water to the uMngeni River and, in turn, conserving water resources for all the species which rely on it (including nearly 5 million people).  The formal protection of this vlei is a big step forward.   Vaughan Koopman, wetland ecologist with Mondi Wetland Programe and Dargle resident is delighted at this progress, commenting: “It is heartening when wetlands, specifically important ones like the uMngeni Vlei, are appreciated and looked after. I find working at the coal-face of conservation dispiriting at times, as one tends to see insurmountable problems and not the successes.  When I see local communities actively involved and taking the lead in caring for our local environment, which is now bearing fruit and making a difference, it is really exciting.”

We plan an outing to visit the Vlei on 15 June. Donation R20 to Conservancy funds. Space is limited, book with Vaughan 083 228 7949 or

Umngeni Vlei

Dargle Nature Reserve – Almost there.

Over 1000ha of irreplaceable biodiversity in Dargle is about to be conserved under the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.   The process began 6 or 7 years ago, with the vision of Andrew Anderson (ex-Chair of Dargle Conservancy). Changes in personnel at EKZNW who manage the BSP process in KZN, meant that progress was slow and unfortunately the original 2400ha envisaged dwindled to 1000ha. The Biodiversity Stewardship Programme (BSP) involves formal, legally binding agreements with landowners for a minimum of 30 years.  They maintain ownership of their land, receive guidance and management assistance, and are offered support to diversify their land-based activities while protecting the country's unique biodiversity against the threat of climate change.

Landowners have signed the final agreements, the Board of Ezemvelo has approved the Nature reserve and we wait now for the MEC to sign off before proclamation.  Accolades must go to the Griffins, Robinsons, Bronners, Booysens and Schneidemans for their perseverance and far sighted commitment to conserving this precious biodiversity.

Now we need to work to close the gaps and add more grassland and all the forest.
Gareth Boothway, Midlands Conservancies Forum BSP manager commented “The Nature Reserve is placed with in a highly productive landscape, providing the ideal habitat for a number of iconic species. It is fantastic to see private landowners making this invaluable contribution to conserving KZN’s biodiversity, increasing the green footprint in our country.”


What else has been happening?

Impendle Nature Reserve Outing

13 people enjoyed a fabulous late summer excursion to this treasure right on our doorstep.  Don’t miss the next one planned to late 2013. See all the pictures at:

Satori Lodge Farm Visit

Four years ago, Jeff and Louise Ghersie discovered their piece of paradise. They were looking for a mountain, forest, water and few neighbours.  They found the ideal spot along the Dargle valley and spent two and half years building Satori Lodge so that others could share their idea of heaven - living completely off the grid. As grass is abundant on the property, hay bales were the obvious building material.   Jeff took the small enthusiastic crowd through the process. Louise said “We chose this slower pace of life deliberately. We work hard all day planting veg, checking on the water source, preparing for the next building, but it is satisfying work.”  
Read the whole story at:

Sartori Lodge

Sustainable Living and Indigenous Plant Fair

Dargle was well represented at the SLIP Fair, besides our gorgeous new banner being on display at the KZN Conservancies Stand all weekend.  Gilly promoted her happy dairy products, Eidin and Rosa encouraged all to become seed heroes, Barry helped at the KZNCA stand, Odette sold her soaps, Nikki did a presentation of the Dargle Conservancy which was well attended.
www.facebook/dargle.kzn photo album: Dargle at SLIP

SLIP fair

Cape Parrot Big Birding Day

New member Sally Cummings did a great job of making sure all the important areas in Dargle, Fort Nottingham and Balgowan had someone on the lookout for parrots on 4/5 May. Unfortunately, as often happens, there were none in the Darlge that weekend!  Crystelle Wilson did report seeing 36 in Boston, so they were all just over the hill for the weekend. Since then the flock of about 15 birds has been flying around Dargle and has been spotted in Lidgetton feasting on pecans.  Please share any local Parrot news with Sally on

Super Solar Day

11 guests arrived at Rainbow Homestead to learn about real off grid living. The tour included solar oven which was roasting sesame seeds, a solar dehydrator which efficiently dries fruit, mushrooms, and herbs.
Next was the parabolic solar cooker, cooking the potatoes for the lunch.  Tea was made in the rocket stove or cold herbal tea served chilled from the 12V solar refrigerator. The solar hot water geyser was demonstrated before the group headed under the house to learn how the solar energy system works from the panels to the MPPT regulator, to the batteries, to the inverter (for 220V power) or directly to the 12V LED lights or the 12-19V inverter for the computer.  Shine explained that most conventional houses strive to bring their energy consumption down to 5 kilowatt hours (kwh) a day from an average household energy use of 10-20kwh while the Rainbow home runs off about a half of a kwh a day.

Dargle Local Living

The Dargle Local Market is becoming really well known, listed in many What’s On and foodie guides now! 
Joy Coleman from Durban “Such great things happening in the Dargle, what a wonderful community! I visited the market and did not want to leave!  How refreshing to meet 'real' people doing 'real' things.”

Kyknet visited in May to film us, had lots of fun with Dean’s fires and were delighted to discover that Malvina could speak Afrikaans!
See more pictures on www.facebook/dargle.kzn

Our Pumpkin Competition was fabulous. Thanks to everyone for entering such splendid pumpkins and participating in this fun event and thanks also to our Celebrity Judges Wayne Muller from TWK and Philippa Gordon of Meander Chronicle. Eidin Griffin commented:  “After the success of the Pumpkin Competition... how about a Chook Festival?  A Parade of the Dargle's finest, fattest and most colourful chickens?”

You simply must see all the lovely pictures at

Pumpkin prize winners

Some other not to be missed stories on the Dargle Local Living Blog – Spurwinged Goose Pie, Say No to Monsanto, Low Carbon Classics and Seed Saving Queen.  Do follow the blog – it is really easy – all you have to do is click on the FOLLOW button on the right hand side, follow the instructions and new stories pop right into your inbox.

Annual General Meeting – Report back

Our AGM was lots of fun. 50 people for an AGM without a guest speaker as the draw card, is a great turnout.  Judging from the friendly messages we have received, we believe it was much enjoyed by all.  Delicious home-grown spinach lasagne and roasted pumpkin, fish pie with Sue Hofman's trout and a tiramisu made with Gilly's cream and cheese and Aloe Ridge eggs, all contributed to a good Dargle evening. Josie Rowe-Setz couldn’t make it but sent this message: “I would like to extend my personal thanks to every person who serves on the Dargle Conservancy Committee and makes things happen in the community. I think that this conservancy is a model for conservancies everywhere, and in particular as a result of the sense of community it engenders in its members, as well as the judicious and creative use of local community resources. While I don’t do much, I have huge appreciation for those who do, and even if I cannot be there, I would like you to know that I am very aware of, and very grateful for, the work that you do.”

"Without a doubt! Last night’s AGM was THE BEST I have ever attended! I am not a member of the Dargle Conservancy yet and would like to become one." Christie Exall

"We so enjoyed the presentation.  It was the best AGM we have ever attended.  Your enthusiasm is most infectious and at the same time challenging us to improve the natural beauty of our new family home and surrounds." Brian and Marashene Lewis

"I really enjoyed the report last night. We are privileged to live in such a wonderful place. Thanks for all the hard work." Karen Koopman

For your interest the Report from the Chair on activities over the past year and the Minutes of the Meeting are available on our websitehere.

Publicity and Branding

Fans on Facebook

If you don’t like Dargle yet on Facebook, what are you waiting for? 104 other people do.

Helen Booysen has embraced the forum saying “Change is no longer an issue. We hold on to all our core values but keep abreast of modern technology. So proudly Dargle!”   www.facebook/dargle.kzn

Feature in Wildside Magazine Autumn edition

Some excerpts:
The first settlers in the valley were the Fannin’s who were transported to the area by Dick King in 1847, apparently passing a herd of 94 elephants in Westville before arriving at Maritzdaal, previously owned by Gert Maritz.  The area reminded Thomas Fannin of his home in Ireland and he named the stream and the area after it – ‘Dargle’.    There is a strong sense of community and always something going on. The Lion’s River Club hosts polo matches, yoga classes, touch rugby and ultimate frisbee sessions.  Local’s nights in the bar at il Postino with plenty of pizza, are popular occasions.  The Dargle Conservancy screens regular ‘green’ movies at Tanglewood Country House, where friends and neighbours enjoy a long table supper afterwards – most of the food sourced in the area. The slow pace, sense of belonging and close knit community is something much sought after nowadays.

This edition also includes an excellent article on Birding in the Dargle.  If this does not attract guests to your cottages, what on Earth will?

The Dargle sign at the entrance to Dargle has been freshened up and new member signs are looking good erected on walls and gate posts up and down the valley. Please contact Barry at 082 556 2417 or to arrange to collect your own new sign from the Dargle Store.  They are free of charge to paid up members.

Dargle sign

We are engaged with the Department of Transport to have Wildlife Warning signs erected on the P134 (Dargle Road).  Often, animals are killed along this road by speeding cars.  If we are serious about conservation, we need to drive mindfully and try not to annihilate the last remnants of natural wildlife.   The Conservancy makes a regular monthly contribution to the work of Free-Me in case of accidents, but with caution we should be able to prevent these.

Dargle Wildlife

Exceptional highlights lately have been the Pelican spotted by Sue Hofman, Sandra and Pat Merrick’s record of the life of Cranes on Albury, many Midlands Dwarf Chameleons and Green Snakes.  Our Sightings are enjoyed far and wide. Sarah Ellis of Nottingham Road commented:  "You are such stars to compile all this! Well done, I absolutely love reading the newsletters I receive and am so grateful to all the people who contribute so generously. What a delight to see that there is such vibrant wildlife in your area – leopard, aardvark, ant bears, cranes etc – wow!! Years ago – probably about 13 years ago I think – I definitely saw a leopard cross the road in front of me at dusk, as I was going home towards Fort Nottingham. There have been quite a few sightings of leopard in the area over the last few years."
Please keep a pad on your desk or a notebook next to your bed and jot down whatever you see.  You might think your resident Chorister Robin is ordinary, but others don’t.

Invasive Clearing and Stewardship Opportunity
Through the WWF Water Balance programme, landowners along rivers are being offered the opportunity to have invasive wattle and gum cleared in return for proclaiming part of the property under the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.  Thanks so much to all the landowners who have already contacted Dargle Conservancy or Sue Viljoen in this regard. We are in the process of shortlisting the most suitable properties and there is still opportunity to participate if you haven't already. Submit details to including: Name of property, estimated area and species to be cleared, GPS co-ords and a short description of the biodiversity on your property which should be protected.

Vervet Monkey Research
Lindsay Patterson is conducting reserach into Vervet monkeys. She would really appreciate our help.  Complete the questionnaire at

She is also looking for people keen to keep a record of vervet monkey troops which move through their gardens. Please contact her if you would like to assist. 031 582 0850 or 086 589 2995

Free Herbicide Assistance

We have been offered herbicide assistance through DAEA to clear invasive species.  If you are interested, please submit your request with names of species to be cleared and the area/density to

Eco-Guard have also offered stocks of expired Timbrel which is perfect for cut-stump treatment if the dose is doubled. Are you interested in making use of this? Once again, send your request to

Celebrating a Decade (at least) of Commitment to Conservation in Dargle

Although the original Dargle Conservancy was started in 1985 by Iain Sinclair and the Methleys, the current Conservancy was revived 10 years ago after a period of dormancy. We feel that our 10th anniversary calls for little celebration. To mark this occasion, we plan to celebrate Dargle Icons – those things which epitomise the spirit of Dargle.

Celebrations are set for the weekend of 9, 10 and 11 of August.

  • Dargle Local Long Dinner – Hosted in the 100 year old red barn at Corrie Lynn on Friday evening.  David Johnson, who was the speaker at our inaugural meeting in 2003 has agreed to be guest speaker. Produce will all be local.
  • Inspiring Inhlosane - a late morning hike on Saturday for a picnic and grand views from the top of our very recognisable hill.
  • Dargle Nature Reserve - Sunday walk through four properties from Kilgobbin, through Carlisle and ending with lunch of soup and bread at Lemonwood.

For more information or to offer your assistance with one of the celebratory activities, contact: and mark the date in your calendar now!


For any additional information please click here to contact us.