Newsletter - Spring 2010

New growth, new ideas, new friends, new residents and a new website – it must be Springtime in the Dargle!

During September, river levels were the lowest that many people can remember. Since then the gentle rains have ensured that everything is fresh, bright and very, very green. Before the water levels rise, it is a good time to get into your rivers and streams to clear out logjams and alien vegetation.

The cuckoos are back from their journey north and birds are busily building nests. Bird sightings have been wonderful lately:  On Old Kilgobbin a pair of Blue Cranes were spotted beside the dam, at Crab Apple Chapel two Ground Hoopoes, a pair of Fish Eagles have been seen often at Khululeka, a flock of 30 Crowned Cranes along the Petrusstoom Road, Crested Barbets at River Front Farm, an African Black Duck at Lane’s End, a Knysna Loerie eating Clivia seeds, Paradise Flycatchers and a Bush Blackcap in the garden at Magic Cottage, a Redthroated Wryneck at Oak Tree Cottage, and an Olive Woodpecker at Lemonwood. What have you seen? We would like to include a comprehensive bird-list of all Dargle sightings on our website. Is anyone happy to share their list?

Extra special wildlife moments:  The sound of jackals calling on moonlit nights is one of the joys of living in the Dargle. One evening recently, Gill Addison went out to check on the cows and came across a pack of jackals lying in the grass – they got up calmly and trotted down the path in front of her.  Vaughn Koopman, out for a run, heard his little dog yipping excitedly behind him and turned to discover he was having a conversation with a jackal – who was just as verbal! A Black-footed (Small-spotted) cat was seen at Antbear and Lucinda Bate saw an Aardvark one evening – which is absolutely her most favourite animal in the whole world.

The KZN Midlands is home to 50 pairs of the less than 250 Wattled Cranes left in South Africa and also home to 12 active Conservancies. There can be little doubt then that this area is a hot spot of biodiversity.   Recently, the Dargle Conservancy committee initiated the idea of the Midlands Conservancy Forum where representatives of the different conservancies meet to share ideas, knowledge and discuss common challenges.  Working together will support to those who are facing daunting tasks and offer advice to the newer conservancies, too.   Learning from one another is a vital component of the new forum, as everyone has different experiences to share.  For instance the Karkloof Conservancy held a successful game count (an annual event) in winter, while Boston compiles a comprehensive monthly species list of birds, flowers and mammals spotted in the area. Balgowan Conservancy runs an information kiosk, nursery and recycling centre outside Michaelhouse. Curry’s Post Conservancy has just recently been formed while the Lion’s Bush conservancy has been employing game guards in Fort Nottingham for many years. This diverse range of activities all contribute to raising awareness of the importance of our role as custodians of the land.

The group plans to meet quarterly (first meeting was at Umgeni Valley, the second in Karkloof and the next one will be in Kamberg) and offer an opportunity to any conservation or environmental organisation or environmental service provider to make presentations on conservation or environmental issues to representatives from a range of Conservancies at one occasion.

Completely overhauled and given a fresh new look, our website is crammed with useful and interesting information.  Do have a peep sometime to see what has happened. You can read old newsletters if you have missed them, find out what is flowering this month and make sure you don’t miss any of our upcoming functions. Should you have some information or photographs of our valley and wildlife which you wish to share, please contact Nikki on 033 234 4289 or  We hope to make it a real celebration of all that is wonderful in our world. How about advertising your B&B, restaurant or shop on our “Supporters” page? This costs only R100.00 per year and is a great way to show your support for the Dargle Conservancy – we will include a link to your own website from the banner.

Peter Ardington’s talk about managing and improving grasslands with less use of fire was absolutely fascinating and the turn out for a friendly evening at il Postino was great. 
Three main principles of the High Density Grazing method of grassland management are:

  • Grass needs periodic catastrophic impact. This may occur as burning, mowing or animal impact (trampling and grazing). Peter emphasised animal impact as the preferred impact.
  • The catastrophic impact needs to be applied for a short time, hours rather than days or weeks. This applies always to fire and mowing impact but is rarely found with animal impact which is normally applied for weeks.
  • The grass needs adequate recovery, with enough time, sun and rain to restore root reserves and climb up the steep part of the growth curve.

Peter emphasised the importance of conserving our top soil and showed evidence that this method helps to preserve soils. Don’t miss Dirt! on the 20 October to learn more about soil.

We plan to follow up with a visit to Michaelhouse Oribi Reserve soon to see how they are doing after implementing intensive animal impact on their grasslands for the past 5 years.  Details will follow.

Living Local
Following the series of Sustainability and Transition movies which we have screened this year, many people are inspired by the idea of living more locally and sustainably.  We recognise that it is necessary to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and the industrial food chain and many residents are committed to living as locally as possible. We plan to respond proactively to peak oil and climate change, and begin to build a better, carbon-free and more sustainable future for our community.

We are fortunate that our valley is home to many small producers of vegetables, trout, chicken, honey, cheese, herbs, pork, milk and eggs.  A living local register is in the pipeline on our website which will list all our local food heroes and service suppliers. Where to find the yummiest feta cheese (just along the D17), have your haircut (behind the trading store), stock up on essential oils (on the hill of D666), drop off your bottles for recycling (Dargle Primary School) or buy a cake made with love for a friend’s birthday tea.  Please let Nikki know all your local contacts to include in the register.
234 4289 or

To boost the genetic diversity of the Dassie population we reintroduced onto Dargle farm last year, 20 more were delivered on Friday 24 September.   Have you Adopted-a-Dargle-Dassie yet?  This is a simple way to contribute to local conservation efforts and the fun adoption certificates make easy to post and interesting gifts for family and friends.  Get your festive shopping sorted out on our website now!

Dirt! The Movie – 20 October
This is an insightful and timely film that tells the story of the glorious and unappreciated material beneath our feet (soil). Dirt! The Movie takes a humorous and substantial look into the history and current state of the living organic matter that we come from and will later return to. A good follow on from the Grass talk, which emphasized the importance of keeping our topsoil intact and in good condition. Don’t miss this.
Tangle wood Country House 5.30 for 6pm
Donation to Conservancy: R10
Please let Nicky Mann know if you’ll be staying for supper 033 234 4366 or 083 645 5619

Outing to uMngeni Vlei - 30 October
Meet at Tanglewood Country House at 8.30am to leave by 9am.
Bring snacks, sun protection, walking shoes and binoculars.  We should be back by early afternoon. We will need high clearance vehicles - Please let Vaughan Koopman know if you intend coming so we can ensure there are enough suitable vehicles.
Tel:  Vaughan Koopman 083 228 7949

We have been distressed at careless burning by some landowners this winter and feel the need to address the uncontrolled burning which is damaging our fauna and flora. In some cases the burning has been illegal and we will follow up on these. We have received good support from National Dept of Agriculture. Gill has done a lot of research on burning legislation so contact her if you have any questions or any information to share on bad practices you have witnessed. We have posted a lot of information about responsible burning on our website.  After Peter’s talk, many landowners are giving serious thought to not burning much at all, but there will be some people who find it difficult to change their ways. 

Are you a member of the Fire Protection Association? Do you know that if there is a fire on your property which spreads to another and you are not a member, you will be presumed guilty until proven innocent?  So do not delay, contact Bobby Hoole on 082 901 8795.

Problem Plants
Summer will be here soon, so start planning your Problem Plant Control programme.  Remember Eco-Guard has special offer for Dargle Conservancy members on “Ranger 240 EC” which is useful for controlling American Bramble.  Ecoguard accepts cheques or EFT's. Please speak to Melissa on 033 330 6985.

Working for Water has been clearing wattle along waterways in the Dargle for a while now. Kevin Barnsley was pleased with their work on Constantia and Portmore, saying “They are working to mapped zones and contracts are formulated for their performance level. They remove stems smaller than 100mm by hand and anything bigger they skirt. They return for a follow up treatment in a few months.”  
Ashley Baloyi is the Project Manager: Invasive Alien Species Programme
Contact him on 0798953638

For any additional information please click here to contact us.